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Tributes

Farewell to a supportive dad

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My father, Hymie Bloom, passed away on Sunday evening, 27 March, at the age of 93.

He was born in Wales in 1928, the youngest of 10 children, and grew up in Portsmouth, England, during the depression years and World War II. Their house was bombed, and his formal education was severely disrupted.

He was bullied by antisemites at school, and also experienced Jew-hatred when he served as a flight mechanic in the British Royal Air Force. A colleague didn’t know he was Jewish and said to him that he wanted to go to Palestine to kill Jews.

In South Africa, he married my mother, Tzippa, 65 years ago and had three children.

My parents were surprised by my involvement in politics, starting as a student when I canvassed for the Progressive Federal Party, but they were always supportive. My father exhausted himself putting up posters for my first election in 1988 when I lost a Johannesburg council seat by a mere 28 votes.

He always tried to be active and positive. In his mid-40s, he taught himself Hebrew by learning with me when I did my Barmitzvah. He went for singing lessons and appeared in various opera productions. For many years, he was a member of the Johannesburg Jewish Male Choir, and sang in shuls all over Johannesburg. With his dignified white hair, he was a familiar figure in the choir with my beloved late brother, Ivor.

Although not formally religious, he built a home sukkah when we lived in Doornfontein in the 1960s when hardly anyone else did so.

He always put family first, and was so proud of his eight grandchildren, five of whom live with my sister, Caryn, in Israel.

During the shiva mourning period, I was heartened by the messages of the lives he touched with his cheeriness and willingness to help others. I’m reminded of Ethics of the Fathers (1.15) where Shammai says, “Greet every person with a pleasant countenance.”

Hymie’s health deteriorated in the past two months, and he passed away peacefully at home.

  • Jack Bloom is the Gauteng Democratic Alliance Health MEC.

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