Sad end to Durban’s Great Synagogue

  • MargotValedictoryservice
Tinged with nostalgia and sadness, last Sunday members of the Great Synagogue in Silverton Road in Durban, attended a special valedictory service on the shul’s closing. Addressing the gathering, spiritual leader Rabbi Pinchas Zekry, spoke of the mixed feelings accompanying the closing down of this magnificent shul.
by MARGOT COHEN | Feb 02, 2017

The Great Synagogue was consecrated as the main place of worship of the Durban Jewish community on December 10, 1961. This (then) new venue was successor to the St Andrew’s Street Synagogue established in 1903. 

But, alas, demographic shifts prompted the momentous decision to sell the synagogue.

The Durban Jewish community of about 6 000 in its heyday, has shrunk to some 2 000 souls today.

On the “mixed feelings” accompanying the closing down of the shul, Rabbi Zekry said: “We should positively approach the new beginnings.”

Already there is a fully functional new shul, Jewish day school and community centre in Umhlanga on the North Coast.

Rabbi Zekry invited Dr Jonathan Beare to open the Ark and he paid tribute to Beare’s “magnanimous contribution and vision” which has given new life to the future of the congregation of Durban.

The service continued with Hakafot. Sifrei Torah were carried by the guests of honour, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein and Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, followed by officials, benefactors, life members and office-bearers of the shul council.

Tribute was also paid to the chairman Maurice Sacher for his outstanding devotion to the shul over many years.  Memorial hazkarot were recited for the departed members of the first officials and council of the Great Synagogue as well as departed benefactors and honorary life members.

The service was lent lustre by Cantor Yaron Kalmonowitz and the choir under the baton of choir master Mike Gitelson and the musical accompaniment of Cecile Levin. 

The children’s choir of Akiva College sang for the congregants.


Worshippers now look forward to the opening of a new Shul on the Berea which will shortly take place in close proximity to the existing one.  A beautiful centre of worship has been planned to perpetuate the illustrious history of the DUHC.


1 Comment

  1. 1 Hello 31 Mar
    Appalling. Why can it not be used as a Durban Jewish Museum instead of being sold? That way no one needs to walk there for Shabbat. People can learn about Durban's Jewish history and the synagogue can be used for important occasions like weddings, some weekday prayers etc as has been done all over the world when demographic shifts necessitate it. A Jewish Museum is a much better alternative to this fabulous building sharing the fate of the Johannesburg Great Synagogue in Wolmarans St, which was abandoned by many of its congregants to rot as a house of heathen worship. The Durban Shul should be saved, as has been done in places around the world such as Liverpool (Princes Rd), Manchester (Crumpsall and Spanish and Portuguese) and New York (Ellridge St), where the community overcame shifting demographics and preserved their house of the L-RD.


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