Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Adar 5762 - February 27, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Religious Schools in Johannesburg Enjoy Steady Growth
by D. Saks, South Africa

Despite steady losses in the community to emigration, religious Jewish day schools in Johannesburg continue to expand, both numerically and in terms of their facilities.

The opening last month of the new Shaarei Torah primary school in Glenhazel, a suburb with a strong chareidi presence, underlined this vitality. Shaarei Torah has served a substantial section of Johannesburg's Torah-observant community since its founding in 1978 in Yeoville, at the time the heartland of the city's strictly Orthodox Jewish community. Following the abolition of racially segregated areas in the early 1990s, however, there had been a steady influx of blacks into the area, leading to a sharp upsurge in violent crime and a corresponding migration of whites, including most Jews, to the more upmarket northern suburbs.

Shaarei Torah was one of the last Jewish institutions to leave the suburb, which at its height boasted nine synagogues, three Jewish bookshops, three schools and numerous restaurants, bakeries and delicatessens. Its impressive new premises are located on the main Ohr Somayach campus and there has already been a welcome increase in enrollments.

Shaarei Torah is not the only Orthodox day school to have upgraded its premises of late. Last year Yeshiva Maharsha Bais Aharon, situated on the grounds of the thriving Yeshiva Maharsha community less than a kilometer from Ohr Somayach, moved into a substantial new building built to accommodate a growing student body.

The growth and expansion of Johannesburg's religious schools network contrasts with the progressive decline of the three King David schools, which fall within the traditional "National-Traditional" ideological framework that the majority of the Jewish community adhered to for the past fifty years. While still encompassing the majority of Jewish pupils, and regularly leading the field nationally in terms of scholastic results, the King David schools have lost an average of 5 percent of their pupils each year, mainly through emigration. While considerably smaller than the mainstream schools, the nine religious day schools now collectively encompass just under 40 percent of the Jewish pupils within the Jewish day school system.

Cape Town, the second major Jewish population center in South Africa, by contrast continues to be dominated by its National- Traditional day-school network Herzlia. Well over 80 percent of Jewish pupils in the city now attend one or another of these schools. There is only one religious day school in Cape Town, Hebrew Academy, which numbers fewer than a hundred pupils. The recent establishment of Ohr Somayach in the city, and the enthusiastic response it has so far elicited may, however, be a harbinger of things to come.


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