It's A Long Way From Kansas


August 12, 2002

As in summers past, 10,000 Jewish tourists will be visiting Plettenburg Bay during South Africa’s summer months of December and January. With a new Chabad-Lubavitch couple installed here as of last December, this world-class tourist destination five hours west of Cape Town, becomes yet more attractive to Jewish visitors.

Rabbi Zev Wineberg, born and bred in Kansas City, Kansas, where his parents serve as Chabad representatives, arrived in this breathtakingly beautiful resort town with his wife, Gabi, and one-year old daughter, to establish the Greater Plettenberg Bay Jewish Community- Chabad of Plettenberg Bay, serving tourists, locals and the residents of surrounding towns.

“It’s a long way from Kansas,” he admits, recalling the flat prairie landscape of his childhood in contrast to the awesome peaks and windswept beaches of his new hometown.

The Winebergs were living in Johannesburg, Gabi’s native city, when a friend invited them to visit his summer home in Plettenberg Bay. “We fell in love with the place,” says Gabi, “and we immediately recognized the need for a Chabad presence here.”

Despite the large numbers of Jewish tourists, no formal community association existed, there was no synagogue, and nothing was available in the way of kosher food.

The community—some 150 Jewish families live in Plettenberg Bay year-round, expressed delight at this development. Hundreds of people attended Chabad’s first major activity, a public menorah lighting in the center of town. Shabbat services, currently conducted in the Beacon Aisle Hotel, the area’s largest, drew crowds of over 700 in the summer months when the couple first arrived.

“Jews here are typically South African in their strong sense of Jewish identity and tradition,” says Rabbi Wineberg. Friday night services in the South African Jewish custom are as sacrosanct as the High Holidays, and synagogue attendance is a must. Jewish tourists, known as “holidaymakers” in the local jargon, are thrilled with the opportunity to join a traditional service while on vacation.

Chabad has also introduced well-received adult education classes for men and women, holiday awareness programs, a community Pesach seder for over 150 people, and an afternoon Hebrew school with current enrollment of 26 children.

Working in cooperation with enterprising locals and a businessman who vacations there regularly, Chabad is overseeing plans for the establishment of a kosher restaurant, ice-cream parlor, and a bed-and-breakfast. And with the recent addition of kosher sections in the groceries and seafood stores, “keeping kosher in Plettenburg Bay will soon be as easy as in any major city,” promises Rabbi Wineberg.

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