Great sadness as this ‘grand old lady’ closes shop

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It was with a great sense of tribute to the late Devorah Nates and the leadership and membership of the Federation of Synagogues Women’s Guilds of SA, but also with great sorrow that a meeting was held for the organisation’s dissolution last Tuesday in Orchards, Johannesburg.
by OWN CORRESPONDENT | Aug 20, 2014

The organisation’s vice president, Loraine Ware, called upon Rebbetzen Aviva Fox, daughter of Nates, to address the disappointingly small crowd of the FSWG’s subscribing members.

Speaking of how she was convinced that the time had come for the organisation to close, because its mandate over its 60 years of existence had been fulfilled, she said that whether women worked in an organisation or on their own, they brought a special appeal to Yiddishkeit and observance.

Carole Heymann, a member of the executive, read a poem she had written, celebrating Nates’ efforts on behalf of the organisation and for the benefit of the community.

Ware said: “With Devorah’s passing, the organisation’s mandate can no longer be fulfilled. During her tenure, we saw the gradual diminishing of the shuls’ ladies guilds: they were no longer required to be the ‘herring and kichel brigade’.

“With the passage of time, most shuls found that the ladies originally responsible for the catering were being replaced by younger women, most of whom could not continue the labour of love of their predecessors, either due to financial reasons - a lot more women these days work - or because their interests and priorities differed.

“Devorah’s dedication was almost unique; many people unconnected to our organisation expressed amazement when they discovered that our organisation which came across to them as a vibrant, huge gathering of loyal dedicated women, consisted, in fact, of a hard-working and inspired president with maybe five or six followers.”   

The Federation, founded some 60 years ago, was led by women of the calibre of the late Elizabeth Rappaport, Blumie Louis, Ray Fine, and Rebbetzen Doreen Bender, to name but a few. It had two mandates: to serve as an umbrella body for shul guilds; and to disseminate literature pertaining to Yiddishkeit. Candle-lighting charts were typed on a typewriter and posted, as were weekly parsha sheets. Women spent hours in the shul kitchens preparing for the shuls’ weekly brochas.

Under the auspices of the organisation, during the last 15 years of its functional life, the Provincial Hospitals Kosher Kitchen became a department of the Federation. Also under the auspices of the organisation was the Kosher Consumers’ Organisation, established by the late Rebbetzen Bender in 1983.

Ware expressed her gratitude to Hannah Sachs, the organisation’s secretary for over 30 years, and Bernice Sassen, honorary secretary and honorary life vice president.


  • Twenty years ago, in 1994, Devorah Nates in her capacity as president of the Federation of Synagogues Women’s Guilds, introduced the first Women’s National Day of Prayer for Peace, which entailed reciting Psalm 27 before lighting the Shabbat candles and pledging a donation to charity. This year, the National Day of Prayer falls on August 29 - next Friday. The members and leadership of the Federation of Synagogues extend an appeal to all women of the community to light their Shabbat candles and recite Psalm 27, in a bid for world peace and in memory of Nates and the Federation of Synagogues.



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