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The Zionist Luncheon Club’s last hurrah

  • UZLC
More than three quarters of a century after holding its inaugural lunch-and-lecture meeting, the Zionist Luncheon Club (ZLC) of the United Zionist Association (UZA) is coming to an end.
by DAVID SAKS | Jul 19, 2018

With its predominantly elderly membership having declined to just a handful of stalwarts, the decision to close up shop has been on the cards for a long time.

However, the venerable institution will have its last hurrah before leaving the communal scene. One more gathering will be held for present and past members, together with former speakers and other well-wishers, to reflect on what the ZLC has contributed to Jewish communal life in Johannesburg.

It will also pay tribute to those who made it all happen. The final meeting of the club will take place on Friday, 27 July – as usual, starting at 12:45 at Our Parents Home.

The then secretary of the UZA, Joy Freeman, is credited for having introduced these weekly luncheon club meetings with an interesting speaker and getting it off the ground. The club’s first meeting took place in March 1942, in the old Carlton Hotel, with attendees paying an entrance fee of half a crown.

Lunch back then comprised a hard-boiled egg and a cup of coffee. Many at the time seriously doubted that it would be possible to organise future events on a weekly basis, suggesting rather that it take place fortnightly or even monthly.

Remarkably, the practice of holding meetings every Friday afternoon not only took hold, but has been continuously maintained to this day, only being interrupted for Yomtovim.

Once they moved on from the Carlton, meetings were held at the Waverley Hotel, followed by the President Hotel, Connoisseur Hotel, the HOD and finally, Our Parents’ Home in Orchards.

Despite its name, the subjects of the talks organised by the ZLC ranged far beyond issues relating to Zionism and Israel. In fact, the topics did not necessarily even have to have a Jewish angle.

The meetings generally provided a forum in which to report on and discuss matters of interest to the Jewish community.

Over the decades, its guest speakers included many of the stalwarts of Jewish communal life, drawn from both the professional and lay leadership. Among those remembered by Gloria Sherman, secretary of the ZLC over the past 20 years, are Solly Yellin, Eric Samson, Herbie Rosenberg, Bertie Lubner, Marlene Bethlehem, Isaac Reznik and the Honourable Abe Abrahamson. Some of these speakers had addressed the club on multiple occasions. Senior staff members of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies had also spoken frequently in more recent years.

On the imminent closure of the ZLC, Sherman said that while this was sad, diminishing attendances, combined with the declining state of health of several of the club’s leading members, had made it inevitable.

It was encouraging, she added, to reflect on how much the institution had managed to achieve and how it had been able to continue operating despite these challenges.

  • Contact Gloria Sherman on 072 127 9421 for more information or if you wish to attend the ZLC’s valedictory function.

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