Jewish merchants in Holland were associated with the Dutch East India company, which established the first white settlement at the Cape in 1652. The first identifiable Jewish settlement came with British rule in the early 1800's. By the end of the 1860's, the Jews in the Cape numbered a few hundred families. With the economic opportunities arising from the opening up of the diamond fields in 1869 and the gold fields in 1886, there was an influx of Jewish immigration from Europe. The following table from the Encyclopedia Judaica details the Jewish population during the 20th century up to 1960.
Total # of Jews
% of White Population
In 1997, the Jewish population was estimated at about 106,000, notwithstanding the fact that between 1970 and 1992 almost 40,000 Jews emigrated from South Africa. During this period, there was immigration (about 10,000 Israelis) and some re-immigration. The largest Jewish communities are in Johannesburg (about 59,000) and Cape Town (about 21,000).
Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition, Keter Publishing
Copyright © 1998-99 Edward Victor