Mendel Kaplan: A Legacy

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Mendel Kaplan

Mendel Kaplan was a man both forthright and generous and he was known by many as a giant in the Jewish world. He was a billionaire philanthropist who leaves a huge legacy in South Africa where he was born in 1936 and where his Kaplan Centre is an educational landmark and his South African Jewish Museum showcases the community that he loved so well.

His impact doesn’t end there, but continues in Israel where he put his contributions to work in so many varied and constructive ways as with the Jewish Agency and Keren Hayesod. He also touched the land of his forefathers, Lithuania, and the remaining Jewish community there.

The standard he set for so many projects and efforts is remarkable and it is documented, in part, in the many books he wrote in concert with Marian Robertson which provides a vision of the past and prologue to the future. He leaves us with a glimpse of him that is both indelible and past reproach.

In addition to these things, he contributed to many genealogy-related projects which have preserved the heritage of the South Africa Jewish community which was primarily of Litvak origins.

Details of his many contributions can be found in the article about him in Thursday, November 19, 2009, edition of the Jerusalem Post by clicking here.

Baruch Dayan Emes.


  1. A shining light has been extinguished from our lives . I had the honour and privelege to have been associated with Mendel and his family for the last 15 years . I travelled with him to the family shtetl,s of Riteve and Shadova and was always invited to Friday nights at his home in South Africa whenever we were in Joburg or Cape Town. Oren Kaplan said at his funeral "He was absolutely in love with life and because he loved life ,life loved him". I learnt the meaning of Tzedakah from him. His love for his family and the Jewish People was paramount in his life. His memory will be with us for the rest of our lives

  2. Dear David:

    Thank you so much for your comments on Mendel Kaplan. Many people are expressing a sense of loss now that he is gone and remembering his zest for life as well as the many contributions he made to their well-being.

    You might like to look at my piece on the Blog which is about rugby, a favorite of Mendel's.

    All the best and keep reading the Blog!

    Ann Rabinowitz


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