516pp., illus., map, paperback, Cape Town, 2019
Progressive Jews, also known as Liberal or Reform Jews, were the first in South Africa to hold batmitzvahs, to include women in executive positions on synagogue management committees and to launch large-scale outreach programmes in the townships. They pioneered interfaith initiatives, were the first to open their doors to ‘Jews of colour’ and some of their rabbis spoke out strongly against apartheid. This history also explores the ideological disputes, personality conflicts and lost opportunities that derailed the movement, as well as its fraught relationship with Orthodoxy.
Irwin Manoim is a researcher attached to the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town. He was joint founder and editor of the Weekly Mail (now the Mail & Guardian).