Lessem Clan

 Father was originally wealthy in Russia – factory flux – when warned that government would take over – family decided that children must leave. Joe’s story – was introduced to Ray in Muizenberg Jack Lessem came in 1928/50. Family had relatives – Sher – in Livingstone. In Lithuania conditions were hard. Livingston needed more people. Jack was 16 at the time. Came alone. London had a “Jewish Shelter” to help immigrants and people in transit – Jack used to send money home. Jack met at boat (language problem) – Trip – train to Libanon on Baltic – ship to London. 

In Cape Town fetched by S.A. family. Train to Livingstone – worked in mineral factory and shop. A few years later Abe was called for to Livingstone (aged 18). He was a book-keeper. But didn’t stay long. 

“When Weizman came to  Falls he met him and as a result went to Palestine and worked in a Bank in Haifa (Weizman helped him). The whole family had planned to come to Livingstone. Father came first and as there was no shocket or Rabbi – so seniors who was a Rabbi, he took up Shchita before arriving. Opened a little clothing shop for him which was closed on Saturday and volunteer his services to keep community Kosher – also conducted services there. Then in 1954 the whole family came, children were young (Miriam will write her own story). Riva attended school. Ray and Diana had private lesson – English. Abe was requested to return to help father. All the family eventually came to Salisbury in 1957. Abe returned to Salisbury as Hebrew teacher as he wouldn’t be allowed to come otherwise. When permanent residence obtained – went to work for Julius Frankel. Diana was called by Abe to come to teach Hebrew in Salisbury. Livingstone no place for Jewish young girls. Diana was to stay with an aunt Mrs. Emma Levian (mothers sister). Diana

teaching Hebrew and studied English, book-keeping, shorthand and typing. (Hated teaching) – Konviser came to Salisbury at the time, sent her to teach scripture in school. Was not qualified. Sally Alhadeff asked questions in class. Di didn’t know answers – started to cry. (Prince Edward School). Wanted to leave school but suddenly notice to quit forthwith. By that time Di worked two hours a day for Hymie Const who instructed her to demand a month notice otherwise bring congregation to court – got paid.
Hebrew School 1937 – Venue – Guild Hall – 2 classes, beginners and one advance – 5 lessons a week (ask Yvone Forman – one of her
pupils) – Made Di cry – she was naughty. Pulled Di’s hair. Di taught about 9 months.

Di left teaching – joined Hymie Const for Stg 2.10 per month. Soon got a rise. Well treated. Di took up dancing, played tennis at Jewish Guild in Belvedere – an active organization (ask Lionel Harris). Di was left in charge of office a year later when Hymie went on holiday. Di called to do a liquidation at a certain firm. Did it so well that received a clock as gift from Hymie on his return. Worked for Hymie in 1959 when father bought shop in Turk Mine 15 miles from Bulawayo. Di went to live in Bulawayo. Whole family moved to Turk Mine – girls stayed in Bulawayo to study and work. Ray was a tennis player and hockey in Bulawayo. Ray didn’t
work – helped mother at home, stayed in Bulawayo one year, sold Turk Mine returned to Salisbury. Di and Riva worked in offices.

Di mixed with non Jews as worked with them. Used to entertain Jewish soldiers in House and in Guild Hall – dances etc. – voluntary canteen. Riva- picked as youth beauty queen in Salisbury by Zionist Youth. Had a nice life here.

Ray – Bulawayo – single championship in tennis in 1942. Alex Glut for goalie in hockey – spent life in sport because a good bowler. Alex Park did not re-admit Di as member in 1941 (anti Semitic).  Abe got married after Miriam, then Jack, then Les, Ray and Riva

had a double wedding in 1946 in Salisbury. Ray met Joe in Muizenberg (he lived in Verineechin) – Riva met Sidney in Johannesburg. Riva lived in South Africa for a few years then came up to Salisbury (Riva missed family). Dina married 1948 in Salisbury. (Issi’s story) (Most people who came here came to make money and help families overseas).

* Father was originally wealthy in Russia – factory flux – when warned that government would take over – family decided that children must leave.

Joe’s story – was introduced to Ray in Muizenberg at a Communal work – Issi served in Latvia army for one year. Issy – from Latvia 1939 – war broke out while on board ship. Issy finished law in Riza – difficult for Jews to be accepted into profession. Had relations in South Africa who suggested he should come there – but South Africa did not accept Issy easily. Had an uncle in Enkeldorn (mother’s brother) Ephraim Blank (Dolly’s husband) guaranteed – from South Hampton to Beira. On ship – (incident – painted ship grey for security, no lights etc.) All other members of family perished by Nazi’s.

(Trap set by German officer). Beira – Umtali met Blank – first year learned English – then took over running of office. Then left Enkeldoorn 1941 – worked for Bloom-Braude as accountant. Then ran the business while Bloom sons were in army. Issi bought Lycos Bazaar in partnership with Koblenz Senior. Later opened United Company with partner – also ran country stores also an outfitting shop in travel. got stuck with van in rivers. Oxen used to pull vehicles out of rivers (crossing rivers).

When first came – Afrikaaners tried to entertain Issi, organized a hunting expedition – at night with a torch strapped to forehead – switch on, catch eyes, aim between eyes. Suddenly 2 big eyes – aiming – pulled trigger halfway to shoot – suddenly heard a cow mooing – this sort of hunting was prohibited – could get into serious trouble. Considered a foreigner for five years – in Enkeldoorn volunteered to forces – accepted as a guard but Issy did not accept.

Then sold linen company and went into Electric Bus. – Electrosales – then F. Neill and Sons (Pvt) Ltd. in Salisbury and Bulawayo – butcher’s requisites, spice, weighing equipment. Then sold business and went on Aliya 1978.