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The life and times of Rabbi Bernard Casper

  • Casper
This year marks the 27th yarzheit of Rabbi Bernard Moses Casper z.tl on the 10th of Tevet (Fast of Tevet) 5776, which corresponds to December 22.
by ISAAC REZNIK | Dec 09, 2015

When the late Rabbi Dr Louis Isaac Rabinowitz retired from his position as Chief Rabbi, it took some two years before his successor, Rabbi Casper arrived to assume office.

Inducted one week before Rosh Hashanah in 1963, Rabbi Casper was an imposing figure - tall, very dignified and very different from his predecessor, not only physically, but in his whole demeanour and conduct.

There are several factors that distinguished Rabbi Casper’s rabbinate in South Africa, which lasted 25 years and culminated in his appointment as Chief Rabbi of South Africa, the first time such a position was brought into being.

Previously there were two chief rabbis - one for the Cape and the other for the rest of the Republic of South Africa.

Rabbi Casper was a very quiet-spoken man, eloquent, certainly not brash or impetuous, very composed and very dignified.

During his term of office there were no big confrontational occasions; he certainly did not foster or promote them. His policy was clear: he would go to war when he felt that there was a distinct possibility of winning.

One of his significant achievements was the concordat he managed to arrive at with the then Chief Minister of the Reform Movement, with recognition that despite the existence of an unbridgeable gap between Orthodoxy and Reform on a religious level, on a communal level, there would be mutual understanding and respect and both sides would be represented at national and communal occasions.

Rabbi Casper retired after 25 years of loyal and devoted service to return to his beloved Jerusalem, where sadly he passed away after about 18 months, in 1988.

May his memory be for a blessing.

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