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A life of generosity and community – RIP Isaac Reznik

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ROBYN SASSEN

His was a life filled with the value that giving brings. Never having had wealth or children of his own, Reznik invested love in many directions. He was a good friend, a careful listener, and an incisive facilitator who could make other people’s dreams come true. Over the years, he wrote hundreds of beautiful obituaries for community members, and was punctilious in remembering yahrtzeits (memorial anniversaries).

Reznik was like a father to many. He raised his four nephews and a niece from the 1980s when his sister became too ill to take care of them, and later passed away. Julia, the child of his domestic help, was seven when her mom died. Reznik became Julia’s guardian, and raised and educated her.

An amateur photographer, Reznik loved cooking, and started the first gym in Johannesburg’s northeast suburb of Cyrildene in 1969, where he pooled the talents of local judo and karate experts, espousing the value of yoga.

From 1978, he was the owner of Goldberg’s Jewish Book Shop, which had branches all over the country and established a bookshop model for Wits Medical School. The seeds of what is today Sukkah Mart were sown by Reznik in the 1980s when he imported kosher lulavs and etrogs.

Schooled at Athlone Boys’ High, Reznik, the son of a butcher, was born on 14 October 1936 in the downtown Johannesburg suburb of Fairview. After matriculating, his interest in politics was ignited. At 18, he was the youngest member of the central committee of the United Party. He studied pharmacy at Johannesburg Technical College, but worked in the Melrose Cheese Factory.

After 10 years in the Jeppestown Hebrew Congregation, where he served as treasurer, Reznik, his siblings and parents moved to Cyrildene in the 1960s, and lived in two neighbouring houses. He became a committed congregant of Cyrildene Shul under Rabbi Dennis Isaacs, and they had a deep association, sincere enough to be critical. In 1991, Reznik was elected gabbai at Cyrildene Shul. He had friendships with South African Jewry’s great rabbonim including Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz, Rabbi Yirmiyahu Alloy, Rabbi BM Casper, Rabbi Cyril Harris, and Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein.

In the 1970s, Reznik was managing editor of the Zionist Record. Over the years, he helped many people publish their own books. He was for several years, the editor of Jewish Tradition, a quarterly Union of Synagogues publication. For 36 years, he was committed to the UOS where he was director between 1986 and 1990. During this time, he was also involved with the Zionist Federation and the Federation of Synagogues. Furthermore, his spare time was occupied with cemetery assistance and attending to Jewish prisoners as a chaplain. He was a staunch supporter of Israel.

Reznik was never shy to speak his mind, but respected leadership implicitly. He was like a bridge to the community’s past; he touched many lives; he had place in his heart for everyone.

For five years, he presented two weekly radio programmes on ChaiFM: Talk of the Town and Art of the Cantor, the latter focused on chazonnus (cantorial singers). Both were popular. When he left ChaiFM, he started an online streaming service, 20Chai, assisted by his nephew Adrian Jacobson.

Reznik leaves his twin brother, Maish, and sister-in-law, Lorraine, nephews, nieces, adopted daughter Julia, and their families.

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