Community stalwart Gerald Kleinman passes on

  • SuzanneGeraldKleinman
The Jewish community is deeply saddened by the loss of Gerald Kleinman, who, even as an octogenarian, worked regularly in his office at the Cape Town Jewish Community Centre, which he still maintained till the time of his passing, aged 92, earlier this week.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Nov 16, 2016

Up until a few months before his death, Kleinman, the oldest Jewish communal professional in South Africa, took his daily constitutional at 06:00 on the Sea Point beachfront and then put in a good few hours work in the office.

The epitome of a distinguished gentleman, with a head of thick hair - only slightly greying in his latter years, he had the energy of a man half his age.

He was friend, adviser and confidante to Jewish communal professionals, with the unusual criterion of having the ear of the lay leadership.

Kleinman, an honorary life vice-president of the Cape Jewish Board of Deputies, saw both sides of organisational Jewish life, including as a past chairman of the Board, chairman of Weizmann Primary School, chairman and vice-president of the UCF to executive director of IUA-UCF-Welfare, director of the United Jewish Campaign, top donors convener of the IUA-UCF-Welfare and latterly concentrated on wills and bequests.

Despite the usual amount of infighting within Jewish organisations, Kleinman was peacemaker in several internecine battles!

Kleinman entered his profession by default. Formerly a businessman in the shoe industry -

he “stupidly” went to an AGM of Weizmann School (now Herzlia Weizmann) and became a vociferous critic.

“How do you silence, someone like that? You put them on the committee and give them a job to do, which is exactly what happened. I said okay, as long as it didn’t involve fundraising and ended up as treasurer,” he said in a recent interview.

“I then became chairman, after they confessed they didn’t have anyone else, though they expressed doubts about my ability to do the job. I had to prove them wrong!”

From then onwards, his communal involvement, especially fundraising, snowballed and he found himself chairman of the UCF, before it merged with the IUA.

He was chairman of the Cape Committee of the SAJBD from 1973 to 1975, chairman of the Country Communities committee, chairman of the Religious Instruction Committee, a member of the Western Province Jewish Priorities Board, a trustee of the Hebrew Teachers’ Pension Fund, a member of the Herzlia executive, as well as presiding over the Wellington Rotary Club.

Kleinman was a director of M Kleinman and Company, a director of Panther Shoe Company Ltd, managing director of S Rossiter and Company (Pty) Ltd and a council member of the SA Footwear Manufacturers’ Federation.

He commuted for 14 years, sometimes twice daily, from his shoe factory in Wellington (about a 45-minute drive from Cape Town) to attend meetings.

When China created problems for the local shoe industry, Kleinman changed career course and became a Jewish professional, starting with linking the separate IUA and UCF campaigns as executive director in 1986. Welfare joined it in 1993.

He remained active in Rotary as president of the Signal Hill Rotary Club and was a recipient of the prestigious Paul Harris Award and Paul Harris Saphire award, the Keren Hayesod Kreutner award and the Eric Samson/Mendel Kaplan award from the BOD. He was also recipient of the annual Eliot Osrin Award (in the category of community leadership) from Jewish Care (Cape).

Kleinman was instrumental in many major decisions of the Cape Town community, including the move to create the CTJCC in the Gardens.

He was married to Rene for many years and leaves his children, Jeffrey, Moritz, Simone Scherzer and Marilyn Dubovsky, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was buried at Pinelands Jewish Cemetery on Tuesday.

1 Comment

  1. 1 bonnie hyken 18 Nov
    Gerald was a model for us all as a family patriarch, and hard working man, who dedicated himself to his community and his family. He will be sorely missed.


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