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Jill Katz, a regal presence who touched many lives

  • RebbetzinKatz
Jill Katz, a renowned, respected, and beloved matriarch and rebbetzin, passed away last week at the inspiring age of 91.
by DIANE WOLFSON | Feb 07, 2019

She was held in high esteem as a refined, regal, and elegant lady, who conducted herself with grace. She was very dear to her many friends, and incredibly devoted to her extended family.

Together with her late husband Rabbi Shabsy (Sidney) Katz of blessed memory, she led the large Pretoria Jewish community for close to four decades. In their rabbinical role, they became highly influential figures in the wider Jewish community, and government circles.

After the sudden loss of her husband, Jill continued to involve herself in communal activities. She volunteered for many years for several large research projects, involving herself in working with the archives of various communities in southern Africa. In July 1987, she concluded an 11-year project as editor of the book, The Story of the Pretoria Jewish Community up to 1930, beginning with the first Jews to settle there in 1855. This book is a great tribute to her for the enormous amount of work she did to research and edit it.

Although she held a public position, she quietly touched and affected the lives of many. She was a sage and larger-than-life presence.

She is survived by her children, Chana Zakheim of Jerusalem, Israel; Ruth Chaiton; Rabbi Michael Katz; and Joan Wainer – all of Johannesburg. The light of her life was her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren throughout the world.


  1. 2 Merle Jacobs 22 Feb
    Myself & my partner, Lindsey Kann, of 'The Wandering Jew' Heritage Tours met Jill Katz through her book about the historic Jews of Pretoria when we were requested to conduct a Jewish Heritage Pretoria tour for LIMMUD in 2016. The book was 'a find' and so was Jill!

    Subsequent to the tour, we both acted as a taxi for Jill when she needed a lift to Beyachad on some Tuesdays to do 'research' for the 'SA Country Jews' book project she still worked on passionately... at 90+!

    Jill was unique in her gentle and polite manner & until recently, was sharp and alert, contributing much to general conversation, so we believe that her end came quite suddenly.
    Lindsey & myself regarded having met Jill and getting to know her as a bonus & a blessing and whose company we truly enjoyed. We will remember her as a bright light, a woman of great stature and determination and we will miss her! A lovely lady who we both admired enormously!
  2. 1 Julian Kruger 27 Feb
    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Jill Katz. I remember her fondly. He and Rabbi Katz used to visit us often in the US. I remember spending time in their home in Arcadia St in 1977 when we came back to have my Barmitzvah in South Africa. She was very hospitable and very Gracious. Wishing the entire family Long Life.


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