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History of the Shul

In June 1941, Joshua and Bessie Lichter and family and Mr Nathan Sacks (who was Bessie Lichter's father) made their home at 31 Kinfauns Street Sydenham. The nearest Shul was the Norwood Shul and the family soon realized that there was a need for a Shul in this area.

The beginning was a small one and at times very frustrating. Mr Sack brought his Torah, which was on loan at the Chassidic Shul in Doornfontein to the house and every Saturday morning, he would go to the corner and ask passers-by, Ir zait a yid? (are you Jewish?) If the answer was affirmative, he invited them to his home where the dining room was set aside as a Shul. Slowly more and more people started coming and after the service they were treated to a wonderful brocha spread prepared by Mrs Lichter. As Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur drew near, Mr & Mrs Lichter found an empty shop in Durham Street, Raedene and it was decided to hold the Holy Day services there. The seats were lent by the Zionist Federation and in return they received the money collected from the sale of seats. The price was 10/6 per seat. The service was conducted by Mr Lichter's nephew, Abe Lichter.

This was the beginning and Shabbat services then continued until Erev Purim 1943. By this time there was a nucleus of regular attendees and a meeting was called to form a committee to plan for the establishment of a congregation.
In the interim, Mr Lichter bought the stands in Main Street for the sum of 3000 pounds. They included a thatched roof house which was later to become the Nursery school. A committee was formed with Mr Israel Katz as Chairman and Mr Joshua Lichter as Vice-Chairman. Nathan Sack was Trustee and Abe Kam the Honorary Secretary, a position he filled ably for many years without remuneration. The task of collecting funds began. Mr Lichter with Mr Damelin as partner worked with great determination to collect from our fellow Jews.

The donations from the area however were not very generous. Most of the money raised came from our co-religionists in business, for example, Crystal Confectionery and several wholesalers in the city.

The stand in Main Street was transferred to the congregation and the building of the hall began. This task had to be completed in six weeks in time for Rosh Hashanah 1943. The effort expended was superhuman.

Donations of fittings and sundry began coming in and a member of the committee, Mr S Druckman, who was a furniture manufacturer undertook to make the pews and these were put in place just a few hours before the services began.

Rabbi Osher Altshuler came from East London's congregation and was engaged as the first Rabbi, Chazan, and Teacher of the Congregation. A joyful procession carried the Torah from the Lichter's house in Kinfauns Street to its new home in the Sydenham Shul.

On the 12th December 1943, Sarah Lichter married Henry Kaganas. The chuppah was set up in front of the Aron Kodesh, with all the guests as spectators. After the ceremony, the Chuppah was removed and the guests proceeded to enjoy the reception in the same hall. This was to be the first of many hundreds of wedding celebrated in the new Sydenham Highlands North congregation.

Mr & Mrs Lichter continued to work for the congregation until age and ill health forced them to give up. However, their life's dream was fulfilled as they saw the building of the magnificent new shul and the growth of the Nursery School and Talmud torah.

On Sunday 4th December 1955, the beautiful new synagogue was opened. Present were dignatories including the late Chief Rabbi LI Rabinowitz and the Minister of the Interior, Dr T Donges.
24 February 2013 was Sydenham's 70th Anniversary and was celebrated by Platinum Purim where Harold Novick was honoured for his 40 years of service and dedication.
Wed, 19 June 2024 13 Sivan 5784