The Jewish Year Book, An Annual Record of Matters Jewish (9th September, 1907 – 31 December, 1908) A Resource for Jewry of the British Empire Including South Africa

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

As one of the American coordinators for the Southern Africa SIG, I am always looking for new resources, especially ones that can be converted into databases.  In the past, I had utilized the South African Jewish Year Books and their “Who’s Who” listings to establish a resource based on those Year Books.  This is found on JewishGen at:

The earliest South African Jewish Year Book was the one published in 1929.  However, Jews were prominent in South Africa long before that and I had hoped to find other resources to establish that in the form of Who’s Who listings.  So it was that, by accident, whilst looking for information on the Pretoria Hebrew Congregation, I happened upon a major find in this regard. 

The resource is the “The Jewish Year Book, An Annual Record of Matters Jewish (9th September, 1907 – 31st December, 1908)”, edited by Rev. Isidore Harris, M.A., published 1907, London, England.  It was the twelfth edition of the Year Book which had been published annually since 1896.  It is located with the assistance of that great resource Google Books at this site
As is the case with many other such Year Books, it has descriptions of the following:
  • Communal Institutions – Metropolitan (London)
  • Communal Institutions – Provincial (the rest of Great Britain)
  • Communal Institutions – Colonial (European Possessions, Australasia, Canada, Africa, West Indies, India, and China and Arabia)
  • General and Communal Jewish Statistics
  • Jewish Peerage and Baronetage, Knightage, M.P.’s, Jews in the military, world     celebrities, etc.
  • Who’s Who in British Jewry
Many other matters are covered and all are to be found in the searchable text of this resource.
In regard to South African references, most of the entries did not include such critical information such as the names of parents, spouses or number of children or marriage dates, as did the South African Jewish Year Books.  However, there were many entries in the 1907 book that did not appear in the 1929 edition of the South African Jewish Year Book and therefore filled in many holes in the documentation of the community.  I noted one such entry for Hyman Liberman who died in 1923 and for that reason was not in the 1929 Year Book.  The entry gives a rather detailed glance at his particulars:

Liberman Hyman.  Mayor of Cape Town. (Elected 1904, re-elected 1905.)  Born 1853.  Senior partner in the firm of Liberman & Buirski, produce merchants, Cape Town, and Robertson Swellendam.  Returned twice at head of poll as Member of the City Council.  Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Corporation until his election as Mayor.  First Jew appointed to the latter position in the Metropolis of the Colony.  Justice of the Peace for the district of the Cape.  Council of University of Cape of Good Hope.  President, Cape Town Hebrew Congregation.  Commissioner, Table Bay Harbour Board.  Board of Management and Finance committee of the Somerset Hospital.  Vice-President, Hebew Public Schools.  Address - - “Rosecourt,” Breda-street, and City Club, Cape Town.
One of the individuals who I have written about in the past is Morris Alexander who was also not listed in the 1929 South African Jewish Year Book.  His entry listed his birthplace and birthdate which was quite helpful:
Alexander, Morris, Councillor, M.A., LL.B., J.P.  Advocate, Cape Town.  Born at Zinn, Germany, December 4th, 1877.  Educated in South Africa and at Cambridge University.  Admitted to practice as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Cape Colony in 1900.  Lecturer in Law at the Cape Town Diocesan College.  Has laboured to promote the naturalization of Jewish aliens.  Has occupied various offices in connection with the New Cape Town Congregation, the Jewish Philanthropic Society, the Roumanian committee, the Kishineff Relief Fund, etc.  Elected on the City Council, 1905.  Address. – Cambridge House, 7, Hastings-street, Cape Town.
Another section in the Year Book contained a listing of the South African Jewish officers in the British Army.  This listing is one that is not easily gotten otherwise.
Colonel D. Harris, V.D., C.M.G.               Kimberley Regiment
Captain H.M. Landsberg                          Umvoti Mounted Rifles
Lieutenant F.O. Stiebel                    Natal Mounted Rifles (Reserve)
Captain S. Salaman                    Kimberley Regiment
Captain F.H. Solomon                    Capetown Highlanders
Lieutenant R.N. Woolf                    Western Province Mtd. Rifles
Surgeon-Captain H. Goodman, M.A., M.B., Ch.B.    Rand Rifles
Captain F.C. Baumann                    Johannesburg Mounted Rifles
Lieutenant W.A. Rosenburg                Bechuanaland Rifles
Lieutenant A.H. Friedlander                S. African Light Horse
Given this information, researchers can then investigate their ancestors’ military record.  In addition, one can look further in the Year Book for other listings of these individuals.  One, in particular, Colonel D. Harris, V.D., C.M.G., is listed again as follows:
Harris, Colonel David, C.M.G., V.D., M.L.A.  Public Worker, South Africa.  Born 1852, in the City of London.  Educated at the Jews’ Free School and Coxfords’ School, Gt. Prescot-street, London.  Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Cape of Good Hope.  Lieut.-Colonel in the Cape Colonial Forces, Volunteer Officers’ Decoration.  Served in the Gaika Galecka Campaign, 1877-8, Medal; served Griqua Campaign, 1878, clasp.  Mentioned in dispatches for “highly distinguished conduct and gallantry.”  Commanded the force that quelled the rebellion in Bechuanaland, 1896-7.  Received the thanks of the Government.  Organized and commanded Kimberley Town Guard, numbering 2,700 of all ranks, during siege; received the thanks of his Excellency the Governer; and mentioned in dispatched.  C.M.G.  Committee of the Griqualand West Jewish Congregation; formerly Treasurer and President.  Member of all the Jewish instititutions of Kimberley.  Board of Management, Kimberley Public Undenominational Schools.  Committee, Kimberley School of Mines.  Committee, Kimberley Public Gardens.  Address. – Kimberley, SA.
Another research which is possible in the Year Book is searching for specific towns in South Africa such as Port Elizabeth.  There one finds an entry as follows which not only gives quite a bit of data on a prominent citizen of the town, but the types of institutions which existed in 1907 and to which Jews could belong:
Cotton, Ephraim H.  Communal Worker.  Born at Birmingham.  Educated, Jews’ College.  President of the Port Elizabeth Hebrew Congregation.  Founder of the Port Elizabeth Jewish Ladies’ Association.  Life Member and Vice-Patron of the Port Elizabeth Town Guard Rifle Club.  Address – Main-street, Port Elizabeth.
A rather fascinating tidbit in another entry was the following which mentions the individual’s imprisonment by the Boers during the Second Boer War:
Rev. Mark L. Harris, Minister, Doornfontein Congregation.  Founder of first South Africa Chevra Kadisha at Kimberley, of Jewish Schools, Johannesburg, and of the Doornfontein Synagogue.  Taken prisoner by the Boers, August, 1900.  Educated at Jews' Free School, and has served in various English and South African congregations.  Address.-113, Sivewright-avenue, New Doornfontein.
Rev. Mark Louis Harris was a well-known early clergyman in Johannesburg as well as Kimberley and Doornfontein who passed away in 1932.
Another insightful entry was for Port Elizabeth, Cape Colony, Jewish population 960 in 1907:
The Port Elizabeth Hebrew Congregation is one of the oldest established communities in South Africa.  Some of its past and present members have filled very honourable public positions in the port, and the late Hyam Henry Solomon, Philip Barnett, A.M. Jackson, Henry Godfrey, Frederick Marcus and S. Rudolf were among the early settlers.  The congregation was founded in the year 1862, and a synagogue was acquired on the summit of the Whites Road Hill.  This place of worship was, however, converted later into a grammar school, and finally has been acquired by the German residents of the town, who have turned it into a Lutheran Church.  Prior to 1862 some of the oldest Jewish residents held regular services in the Queen Street.  The present handsome synagogue, which stands in one of the most prominent and best parts of the town in the Western Road, was consecrated by the Rev. Samuel Rapaport on September 2nd, 1877.  The reverend gentleman was the first regular minister, and he occupied the position for many years.
Given the depth and breadth of the data in this Year Book, it is well worth looking at.  It is one of the benefits of the Internet that books such as these that would be ordinarily unavailable to researchers all over the world are now accessible with the flick of the on switch on your computer.   Take advantage of this and other Google Book items to locate new, interesting and sometimes arcane information about your ancestors.

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