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Jewish matriarch honoured 100 years after her death



Honour thy father and thy mother is one of the ten commandments, yet what a special neshoma it must take for a non-Jewish man to honour his late Jewish grandmother 100 years after her passing.

A few years ago, Eugene Couzyn flew Rabbis Suchard and Klein with a new Torah donated by David Nathan and Howard Shankman from Grand Central Airport to Sandton Shul in Morningside. One of the letters in this Torah was dedicated to Couzyn’s late father, who was Jewish. This had an enormous impact on him.

In spite of three Jewish grandparents – just missing the one which would have made him Jewish as well – and a Jewish father, Couzyn was brought up without any knowledge of his Jewish heritage.

His paternal grandparents emigrated to South Africa from Holland in 1894/5 and although both were Jewish by birth, they didn’t practice Judaism in this country. “I don’t know the reason for this, but I was brought up without any knowledge of my heritage” he says. It was only in his 20s that he learned from cousins that, in fact, his father and his father’s five siblings were Jewish.

Growing up in Waverley, Johannesburg, as a youngster, Couzyn had always had an affinity towards his Jewish friends without any knowledge of his heritage.

“I learned from one of my cousins – we were 16 in total – that our grandfather had forbidden our grandmother to practise as a Jew and that on her deathbed in 1924, my grandmother had requested that her third son, Paul, bury her in the Jewish cemetery in Pretoria where they lived. He did this, but the grave was unmarked.”

In 2015, Couzyn set out to trace his grandmother’s grave, and through the Pretoria Chevrah Kadisha, was able to obtain an extract from the burial records confirming that she had, indeed, been buried in the Jewish section of the Rebecca Street Cemetery on 16 April 1924, and that the grave number was 278. Together with his sister and a cousin, they were able to locate the grave and proceeded to commission a gravestone.

The process was hampered by the difficulty of establishing his late grandmother’s Hebrew name, and it was only after the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided that Jewish genealogist Dr Naomi Rapeport was able to discover it.

Rabbis Uzvolk and Fox assisted with the requisite Hebrew transcripts, and the gravestone was completed.

The unveiling of the tombstone of the late Suze De Levita Couzyn was finally held at Rebecca Street Cemetery in Pretoria on 28 February 2024, marking the centenary of her passing on 16 April 1924.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Dafna

    Feb 29, 2024 at 3:46 pm

    What a wonder honour for Suze, a life remembered, and a death not forgotten. Your Neshamah is now at peace.

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