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Naomi Rapeport
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Blieden Family Photograph Series

The Blieden Family Collection donated by Naomi Rapeport includes photographs and documents pertaining to generations of the Blieden family who originated from Žagarė (Zhager) Lithuania. Zundel and Nese Blieden had 9 children. Their son Julius (Yehuda) Blieden came to South Africa and several other of their children went to the USA.

Julius Blieden settled in the Transvaal Republic and was a produce and grain merchant in Randfontein. During the Anglo Boer War, he and his family went to the Cape Colony. After the War, he returned to the Transvaal and applied for compensation for losses incurred during the War. Three years later, he sustained a head injury in a cart accident and travelled for surgery to Berlin Germany where he succumbed. His eldest son Pesach Jacob Blieden was a Rand Pioneer. His other two sons, Max Blieden and John Blieden were successful farmers on the East Rand. Julius and Yocheved Blieden had twenty grandchildren. Most remained in South Africa, however numerous of their descendants emigrated from South Africa to Canada, USA, England, Israel and Australia.

Fanny Meyer Photograph Series

The Fanny Meyer Collection donated by Naomi Rapeport includes photographs and documents pertaining to the Blieden and Meyer Families. Fanny Meyer (nee Blieden) was the 6th child of Yehuda Blieden and Yocheved Gittelson of Žagarė (Zhager) Lithuania. Soon after her birth, her father, Julius Blieden emigrated to South Africa. When she was 6 years old, her family were reunited in South Africa. Seven years later, her father died in Germany. She was devastated by his death and kept pressed flowers and ivy leaves brought back by her mother, from his grave site in Germany. These she kept to her dying day. She attended the Fanny Buckland School in Johannesburg, which subsequently became Johannesburg Girls’ School. She married AL Meyer in 1917 and had three children. Fanny accumulated many boxes of family photographs and she kept memorabilia pertaining to important events in her life.

Jack Rapeport Photograph and Document Series

Jack Rapeport was born in Rustenburg and lived there for 40 years. In 1952, he took over the business ‘W Rapeport and Son (Pty) Ltd’, a clothing outfitters and drapers store. He modernized the business, to keep up with international trends and traveled regularly abroad to source merchandise. In 1965 he sold the business to Uniewinkels Beperk. A year later he moved to Durban and with his wife set up ‘Off the Peg’, which specialized in ladies fashion wear. The business was expanded to include a mail order department. In 1973, he sold the business to Scotts Shoes. He and his wife then set up ‘Up and Coming’ a children's clothing chain, which he again sold to Scotts Shoes a few years later. His last business venture, ‘Rag Trade’, catered for women's wear and was sold to ‘Big Blu’. He kept up contact with people from Rustenburg, including the African community of Tlhabane Township. Following Aliyah to Israel he was involved in the establishment of the Haifa lawn bowling club which catered for disabled and blind bowlers.

Julian Meyer Photograph Series

Julian Meyer (1918-1993), a law student at the University of the Witwatersrand, interrupted his studies to join the Union Defence Force at the beginning of the Second World War. He was assigned to the Transvaal Scottish Second Battalion. During the five years of the War he wrote numerous letters to his family in Johannesburg which were kept by his mother, Fanny Meyer.
The correspondence and photographs in this Collection cover the period from his enlistment until his return to South Africa after the War. They cover his training in South Africa, voyage to Egypt, time spent in Egypt and the Western Desert. They continue when he was an Italian Prisoner of War, a German POW and his release and repatriation to England. Due to censorship, he could not give precise details. However, he does allude to important events and happenings. The postal stamps on the addressed envelopes and postcards give an indication of his movements and status. A German prison warder at Stalag IV-A Arbeitskommando 1169 in Dresden, Germany took the photographs of the POWs which they then purchased from him.

Kantor Family Photograph Series

The Kantor family originated from Shavl (Šiauliai) Lithuania. Abram Zelik Kantor was a well to do town dweller and a merchant. One of his sons was Vulf Kantor and a daughter was Musha Reuvid (nee Kantor). Vulf and his wife Faiga Kantor had 8 children, of whom 7 emigrated to South Africa. They included Louisa Rapeport formerly Ettin, Charlotte Kantor, Fredericka Ettin, Abraham Kantor, Maurice Kantor, Gabriel Kantor and Rose Saltman. Family members of Vulf’s sister, Musha Reuvid (nee Kantor) also emigrated to South Africa.

During the Anglo Boer War, the Kantor family members had different allegiances. Abraham Kantor fought with the Boers against the British. Charlotte’s husband, Robert was the manager of Ohlsson’s Breweries and supplied the British (Imperial) Military Railways army with provisions. Gabriel Kantor and Harris Saltman were war refugees and left the Transvaal Republic for the Cape Colony.

Leo Schamroth Photograph and Document Series

The Leo Schamroth Collection includes a number of photographs of Prof Schamroth during his studies and illustrious career, as well as a number of his published works and articles published about him.

Leo Schamroth was a world authority in the field of electrocardiography. He trained as a specialist physician and in 1973 he was appointed head of the Department of Medicine at Baragwanath Hospital (now called Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital) Soweto, South Africa. This hospital served the black community of Soweto and its environs. When he was made Head of Department, he built up the Department of Medicine against formidable odds and extraordinary, frustrating difficulties, into a thriving academic unit. He remained at Baragwanath Hospital until his premature retirement in 1987.
He worked for the upliftment of the downtrodden. In South Africa, he received the Claude Harris Leon Award of Merit for his internationally recognised contribution to medical research in the field of electrocardiology and for his dedicated work as Professor of Medicine and Chief Physician at Baragwanath Hospital which catered for the oppressed people of Soweto. In 1983 he received the Les Amis du Commerce et la Persévérance Reunis, an international prize for medical research which was awarded to him by the Masonic Lodge of Antwerp Belgium. When this prize was awarded to him, the award committee were unaware that they had given the prize to a native-born son of Antwerp.
He was a world renown lecturer, prolific author and had over 260 peer reviewed articles published in the world literature. It was claimed that his book 'An Introduction to Electrocardiography' was the book most often stolen from medical libraries worldwide. Seven editions were published over the course of his career and they were translated into Spanish, Greek, Italian, Turkish and Japanese.

Meyer Family Photograph Series

The Meyer Family Collection consists of a number of photographs and documents relating to the Meyer family. Leizer Welve Meyer and Roche Ziviah Meyer (nee Gardner) lived in Yanishok (Joniškis) Lithuania. Their four children were Judel Mehr, Sarah Zelda Beinashowitz (nee Meyer), Abraham Leopold (AL) Meyer and Isaac Meyer. Their son Judel, came to South Africa and when the family did not hear from him, they sent his younger brother AL to find him. AL arrived in Cape Town in December 1898 and settled in Pretoria.

At the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, he travelled to Port Elizabeth where he registered as a war refugee. He met up with his older brother who was terminally ill with tuberculosis. During the War AL worked in small towns in the Eastern Cape and learnt to speak English. After the war he returned to the Transvaal. He brought his parents, his sister’s family and his younger brother out to South Africa. He established the business, Meyer Bros, a men and boys outfitters, with his younger brother Isaac.

He married Fanny Blieden in 1917 and they had three children. During the Great Depression, the business could not support two families. In 1931, aged 50, AL joined Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and worked there for 30 years. He was involved in Jewish communal affairs being a founder of the United Hebrew Schools of Johannesburg, serving on the Executive Council of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and was a trustee of Arcadia South African Jewish Orphanage.

His brother-in-law, Abraham Leib Beinashowitz, a wool merchant and clothing manufacturer in Johannesburg, was also involved in Jewish communal affairs, serving as Chairman of the Poswohl Hebrew Congregation, a Committee Member of the Jewish Burial and Helping Hand Society and the Jewish Aged Home.

Opeskin Fleisch Families Photograph and Document Series

The Opeskin-Fleish family arrived in South Africa at the end of the 1920s. They joined a family member, Clement Fairly in Swartruggens, Western Transvaal. They subsequently moved to Berea Johannesburg. The family’s roots can be traced back to Lithuania and Latvia. During the First World War the family moved to Moscow Russia and then to Breslev, Poland (Braslaw Belarus).

Many of Boris Opeskin’s siblings moved from Dvinsk (Daugavpils) to the Latvian capital, Riga. The Opeskin family members who remained in Eastern Europe during the Second World War either died in the Riga Ghetto or fled to Tashkent (Uzbekistan). A similar fate happened to Fleish family members who remained in Šeduva (Shadeve) Lithuania. They died in Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

The Opeskin-Fleish family in South Africa maintained contact with surviving family members. Three of the Opeskin-Fleish family offspring subsequently left South Africa for Australia and Canada. Very few grandchildren remained in South Africa, having emigrated to Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Israel.

Rapeport Children Photograph Series

Following the collapse of the ostrich feather industry, in 1916 the Rapeport family moved to Rustenburg Transvaal from Calitzdorp, Cape Province. They had three sons: William, Martin and Lazarus. Their eldest son, William Rapeport worked for Philip Wulfsohn, a general dealer, and rose to the position of general manager. He married Sylvia Simson of Johannesburg in 1924 and they had three children. In 1933 he founded ‘W Rapeport’, a clothing outfitters and drapers store which became ‘W Rapeport and Son (Pty) Ltd’. William played an active role in the town and served as a town councilor. He was elected mayor of Rustenburg in 1946-1947 and was the only Jew ever to serve in this position. During his tenure, he and his wife were introduced to the British Royal Family during their visit to the Union of South Africa. Martin Rapeport married Hannah Socher of Rustenburg. Her parents’ home was known as a home away from home for young Jewish immigrants. Martin and his wife moved to Johannesburg in the 1930s. Lazarus Rapeport was born ‘deaf and dumb’. Although he did not have any formal schooling, he was able to communicate with people, using hand signs and mannerisms. He was a great raconteur and entertained people with his imitations of popular personalities and political figures.

Rapeport Family Photograph and Document Series

The Rapeport Family Collection donated by Naomi Rapeport consists of a number of photographs and documents from the Rapeport Family. The Rapeport family roots can be traced to Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, Cape Colony.

In the 1880s two Russian immigrants, Louis Rapeport and Lazarus Rappeport resided in Calitzdorp. Louis Rapeport was a hawker and Lazarus Rappeport, whose surname was at times spelt as Rapeport, was a speculator and commission agent. Louis Rapeport initially married the widow Jetta Fleischer (nee Sebasewitz). Following Jetta’s death, he then married the widow Louisa Ettin (nee Kantor). They had three sons. Lazarus Rappeport was married to Rosa Kabaker and they had three children.

In 1909 Rosa and her children emigrated to Chicago, USA. The family never saw Lazarus Rappeport again. The children in the USA were convinced that Louis and Lazarus were one and the same person. However, Louis Rapeport is buried in Pretoria and Lazarus Rappeport is buried in Cradock. Their exact relationship is unknown as their tombstones have different Hebrew names for their respective fathers. It is notable that one of Louis Rapeport’s sons was named Lazarus.

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