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The Chev was born on September 2, 1888 in a bar in old Johannesburg that belonged to Barnet Weinstein. The organisation will be 126 years old soon and as milestones are always an opportune time for retrospection, I have decided to summarise its development, and explain its future focus, in terms of the following three themed timelines:
by MICHAEL SIEFF | Jul 23, 2014

Origins: 1888 - 1999 


The Chev was destined from the start to be unlike any other organisation in the world. It was unprecedented for an organisation to be established which had, as its objectives, two of Judaism’s greatest mitzvoth:

  • Gemilut Chesed - providing welfare assistance for the living
  • Chesed shel Emet - taking care of the dead


For the first 111 years, the Chev functioned at this level, responding to the community’s changing needs as the history of Johannesburg unfolded.


Saving the community: 1999 - 2009


The next 10 years were a time of tremendous expansion and growth. As community organisations found themselves facing financial and management crises, they turned to the respected leadership of the Chev for help and were incorporated under its banner: Jewish Community Services in 1999; Sandringham Gardens in 2000; Our Parents Home in 2001; Arcadia in 2002; Selwyn Segal in 2005; Kadimah Occupational Centre in 2008. 

Change and innovation dominated the mood and in addition to the multitude of services added to its portfolio by the incorporation of these organisations, the Chev also embarked on a number of much-needed new projects for the community: mental healthcare; employment/protected employment; emergency services; etc. Over those 10 years our annual budget grew tenfold, from R20m to R200m.


Sustainability: 2009 à


It is not surprising therefore that the current period - following such a relatively brief but intense period of growth and development - is a time of alignment and consolidation of our services, properties and personnel. It is unthinkable that our community should be unable to rely on the vast range of services the Chevrah Kadisha provides. Sustainability must now be our priority.  

Over the past 126 years the essential culture and mandate of the organisation has not changed, only the scope and weight of its responsibilities.

Since inception the Chev’s unique role in the community has been one of compassionate leadership - fatherly, protective and unifying. For Jews in need of help, this was always the address. Our challenge is to navigate the processes involved in streamlining and surviving while maintaining the compassion and chesed that has been the Chev’s trademark from the start. 


May our partnership continue to thrive!

[email protected]


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