Fanny Gordon

Fanny Gordon; Father – Phillip Israel Jacobson

Mother ~ Rachel Cecilia (Plitt)

Father came in 1897 – married in Cape Town in 1903. Her brothers refused to let her come out to this wild so he used to come down every 6 months to see her in the Freestate where she lived with her brothers. Father arrived via Maffeking and rode on a bicycle to Salisbury (Fort something). In 1912 mother brought us all up. I was 5, Lea 8 and Adam was born here. Father was a carpenter who used to go out to Shamva and Mt. Darwin and other places by bicycle taking his excellent tools with him and his African assistant.

He used to tell us the tales of one night even sleeping on a tree because of a lion prowling in the area. Snakes were just like a spider – so many of them. It was a hard life, no lights, no indoor sanitation. We lived with a family called Rubenetain (relatives of the Grahams) who let us rooms at the back of their home somewhere in Salisbury Street. From there we moved to Luck Street, then Victoria Street – in the meantime we built a house in Rhodes Avenue and Salisbury Street where we lived until we moved to the Birchenough Street house about 30 years ago. If we needed water, mother used to go to market square with a bucket, collect water. Life was hard, we had a cold box for food. Had a Rev. Reubens, he was the teacher, the shocket, the Rav, the lot. Used to buy only Kosher meat probably twice a week. Also bought live chickens from Africans and had them slaughtered by the shocket. Fruits and vegetables were scarce, eventually tomatoes sold by Africans in basket to doors. Ate fruits Mahabohob – big – with big pip and hard core soft centre, tastes like a potatoe – Mjongejonje – round – lots of pips very sweet.

No greens. As toilets were outside, most people had potties. Municipality cleaned the outside toilets every night (same “bucket affair – hut, seat, bucket that could “be removed from “back of hut). Wood stove with geizer to heat water. Bread home baked every 2 days. Ingredients brought from South Africa and Beira. We always had chalat and chicken for Shabbat and used to make our own wine from grapes imported from South Africa. Mother, who was a religious woman always used to say that G-d was looking after us, as every Shabbos and Yomtov we managed to find the necessary.

Always kept Kosher. We went Girls High School. Harry, the oldest brother and Adam went boys school. Leah was an excellent pupil but not I. Other Jewish girls at the time. Tilly Rotstein was already a senior – but I remember her working already. Jenny Robinson was with Lea. There was Hilda Pichanik who eventually married Burke from Gatooma. The Pichanicks lived across from us and their house faced Rotten Row. There was also Celia Harris. We went to Cheder in the Guild Hall. Taught by Rev. Levy, Rev. Rosin, then Konviser. Learned to read. Three times a week, mostly on Sunday but the most we learned was from my mother. Lea learned Hebrew privately and wrote Hebrew for Matric. Pity she couldn’t go to University as my father died early at the age of 52. According to documents 57. There were about 10 children in the class, boys and girls together of all ages. Shul – every Saturday morning – father went to all services. Twice a year we got new dresses and new shoes – in spite of us being quite poor. We grew a bit, father joined the public works Dept. of Government. He died in 1927. That night Lea and I were having a musical evening, Lea played violin,
I played the piano. Father went to sleep that night and never got up. He was always full of Malaria and black water fever from the days of his country work (he used to build trading shops etc.) He looked after his tools like they were jewels.


 He died with 2 shillings in his pocket. He was never insured and never left a will. But our house was fully paid. My mother kept the 2s till 1952 when Lea and I went on the last Zionist Youth tour to Palestine with 6 other young people from South Africa. I took these 2s and I put them into the charity box of Rachel Tomb. I took a job after father died. Lea married in 1928. Earned £6.00 a month. Learn while you earn – got a job for garage and then for H.S. Secil, then moved to work for government till long after I got married, and because of the war, gov eminent needed my services and I continued until Fhillip was born. But having married an alien, I became an alien and my job became temporary staff and salary (F.ichael came 1958 – married 1941). H.M. Gallante offered a Job to Michael when he was not allowed to stay in South Africa and he came up to work at Crown Clothing – as supervisor at African boys.

Originally he went to Kovna ‘Varsity to study medicine, but his father insisted that he should leave Europe and go to South Africa because of the rise of the Nazies, where he was to try to earn money and send for his parents. Two brothers in South Africa. When we got married we opened up our own clothing factory, by which time he had learned quite a lot – made (Kapedulas) khaki uniforms for labourers. We were always interested in Zionism. Before there was anything like a blue box, my mother had a charity box into which donations were put every Friday and festivals – mostly it was for the I’isKin orphanage in Jerusalem and the Meshulachin used to come
to collect every so often. We also had a very open house and offered meals to whoever came. We lived on what I earned. When sanitation

became compulsory, the Joelson “boys who were plumbers, took private work. We couldn’t afford it and the municipality installed the necessary for us for which we paid in installments. It took us 5 years to pay it off. It was added to our electricity account. When we lived in Pioneer Street we had paraffin lamps. After we moved to Victoria Street we had lights probably in 1914 (our second home).

We had a Jewish guild society as soon as the Shul and Guild Hall was built. They had a youngish group – plays, concert, etc. Zionist acitivities started after Vera Weizman came. I went to hear her. Lea also went and became the first secretary and remained on this committee until she died in ———-. she was chairlady, President, Life President. She never gave up once. This was her VaSy* and* ^l^dar lae’well. Lea married in 1928. Conrad came up on holiday from Beira where he was working in the offices of a large shipping company. He held a high position. The late Abe Robinson (Jenny’s husband) introduced them. Lea was always friendly with Jenny – they were inseparable. Conrad went back to Beira and returned to Salisbury to settle. Even in Beira Conrad used to entertain all the important Jewish personalities that came from England and Israel. He once changed his whole kitchen because he was to entertain an important Jewish lady who would eat only in a Kosher home. (Mrs. Kirsch caused it). Conrad was born in Lithuanea, came to Johannesburg as a small child then moved to Beira. When he came to Salisbury, got married went on honeymoon to Europe for six months where she bought quite a collection of beautiful marble statuettes, Venetian glass, etc. They opened a wholesale. But then during the depression went mechula. Lea sold all -these beautiful things. From then Lea said – no more expensive things and “bought only African made furniture for her flat. Zionist work – there wasn’t one famous person that came to this country that they didn’t entertain and take on tours by them. Mostly they used to go to see the Mazoe citrue estates as Israel was growing citrus. Baratz from Degania – founder of Degania. We all went out to Mazoe with him. It is indeed amazing that this tiny place of Rhodesia had all these famous people coming here. (through South Africa). When Lea was president they brought quite a number of well known musicians from Israel for fund raising campaigns. Adier, Israeli singers,
once a year. The response of the Jewish population was very good.

The meetings used to take place in the Sephardi Hall in Jameson Avenue. A very big hall. Lea went to Palestine for holiday in 1950. Our Zionist Youth tour in 1952 – Cape Town East coast by boat to Mediterranean – Port Said to Ankara, then by ferry and back, return trip to Beira. Travelled tourist class. One of the girls was a good singer and they sang on board ship and 1st class passengers used to stand and peer in through the windows. Sing song every night. Toured Israel. Kantara to Jaffa by boat. Visited
many Kibbutzim – Degania, The Hula Valley which was just a swamp with grass of four feet high. The workers used to live in those round water tanks. Palestine left a wonderful impression upon us. Stopped a man in Jerusalem for instructions to get to the bank – said if you come to Palestine you must learn the language. Beratz taught us “Around der Fire” for sing songs on the Kibbutz. They all asked us to stay. But I could not as I had left my mother at home. Have been in Israel 5 times since on tours (after the war) – even had a photo taken with Ben Gurion. During the war Conrad and Lea decided to go to Israel to settle. They sold everything here and left. Unfortunately he met the wrong people, didn’t understand the language and they took him for a ride and he lost everything. My mother at the time was already very ill – so they decided to come back.

 Lost a fortune there. He bought stands and sold hut kept 2, one for Lea and one for me. We have paid taxes all the years hut it’s of no value to us as it is agricultural
land and we can do nothing with it. Many Israelis came and sold land to Rhodesians, some on roads, some in the sea, but everybody bought at the time – quite a disappointment as people thought they were securing their future. Conrad did so much for the Jewish community here but one won’t find his name anywhere. He was the founder of the Hebrew Nursery School. He interviewed Lea Mailowitz, first Hebrew Nursery teacher from Johannesburg. The first Hebrew School was the Salman Margolis Nursery School in Second Street. Margolis gave £5000 for it. But Conrad’s name was never mentioned – 19—Conrad used to give money from bis own pocket for prizes at the school as he was very keen on Jewish Hebrew education. Charlotte (Kaplan) Shulman invariably won. He presented books and did a great deal for Jewish education. He was Chairman of the Board for a few years and President of the Hebrew Congregation and when he resigned congregation owed no money. Here too, he never got any recognition for his work. After my mother died we asked what we could donate to the Shul in her name and Late Rev. Konvi-ser suggested a Ner Tamid. 


I went to Johannesburg, chose one and brought it back. It was hung in the old Shul. When they built the new Shul they needed this lamp and couldn’t find it. Mr. Baeck approached me and asked’if I would be prepared to donate another one which I agreed to do. But in the meantime, the original one was found. When the new Shul was consecrated, Emmy Kaplan was seven. The honour to put on the lights, being the oldest member of the congregation. Then different members were called up to walk around with the Tora – but my husband, who gave money, was just ignored. I walked out of the Shul with tears pouring down my face and went and helped with the tea. Afterwards we got a letter of apology but it was by then too late. When they laid the foundation to the new Shul, Conrad, who did so much for the Shul and was not alive anymore. Committee did not find it necessary to invite Leah to sit with the dignitaries.

All these little things added to our bitterness. For years they had the chair of which I was a member, I sang solo, and when they opened the hall, they had a sundowner and a dance. Everybody was invited except for the three of us. The choir master – Eric Brod and Hymie Cohen. We gave time and talent, even when we were sick we got up to sing for the choir when necessary. Conrad interviewed A. Hatchuel and engaged her as Headmistress of the Hebrew School in 1955 for 1956 while he was Chairman, and indeed an excellent chairman and person he was, most encouraging and helpful in every aspect. When they put the plaques in the new Shul I approached the Chairman, Benny Sacks with an offer to pay for a plaque with his name but it was accepted and never done. Conrad had his way which rubbed people a bit wrongly, expecting from them more than they gave when he knew that they could. Of course they didn’t like it. All the papers and books existing during his chairmanship have been destroyed. Hence there is no record of his activities. Israel was his and my sister’s baby. They both did and donated as much as they could. Conrad was an enthusiastic Zionist from Beira days. Increased his Zionist activities when he moved to Salisbury

Was Chairman and was often pushed “back to be Chairman. Leah was life President of WIZO and a good speaker who knew her subject well. He was well read but not a public speaker – a philosopherin his own right. Mother died in 1952 and always lived with me. My brother Adam Leslie – the baby was the baby of the family. Worked for the Herald for a while then left to Johannesburg. Did art went to London. Was a satirist – acted in his own plays.

Wrote a number of songs which were printed. Together with a friend, Eve, they wrote a musical and called it Adam & Eve (Eve the musician). , Married Jady Gluckman – worked together. Brought up to Salisbury – 2 is company – did a lot of theatre work in Johannesburg where he opened a theatre and became very well known. Died young. At the moment one room in a theatre being built in Johannesburg to be named Adam Leslie, A very likable person with a
wonderful name in South Africa.

Michael has always been interested in Zionism (Lithuania/S/A). When was able to bring his family from Europe it was too late. At Yad Vashem on a tour, the tour master asked Michael to go down to say Kadish. Everybody wanted to know why him. The tour master, whose name was also Gordon said – “I know what I am doing.” Michael could hardly say Kaddish with a lump in his throat. Michael has a brother in Jerusalem – Rabbi Meir Gordon – retired. Also a brother in London. Phillip – son, Hadassah – academically minded today the Director of Hematology Department of Alberta University in Canada – a professor – outstanding name. Will do everything for everyone. Studied at Groote-Schuur, did housemanship in Salisbury. Married – studied in Birmingham MRCP. Tessa wife doctor in Physiology and works in Alberta. He takes interest in Jewish affairs and offers his services to children’s Jewish camps.

Hadassah married to Edwin Levin Radiologist in Cape Town – have three children – eldest 16 – None have done Zionist work except donations. As children “belonged to Habonim. Both were madrichim. Hadassah was the only white girl who to her Shtilim to an African school in Domboshawa. The headmaster couldn’t get over it as they were the only group that showed any interest in them.

My mother was very orthodox and kind hearted. Jewish festivals she used to leave the house at 7.50 a.m. – sat in last row with 2 ladies on either side of her – Mrs. Rotstein and Mrs. Katy Cohen (Esther and Lilly’s mother). Neither could read Hebrew. My mother used to read prayers out loud and both ladies used to repeat after her, This went on every Yomtov for years. As my mother kept a Kosher home everybody who came to Salisbury to lecture or whatever, would come to us for meals. Rabbi Schwartz who stayed with Mrs. Passov – came to us for meals. Mr. Shane too, ate with us (from Israel).
My father always brought strangers from Shul for Friday night meals. Benevolent society – automatic with congregation membership. Lent
money and donations to the needy.