Jews of Mauritius remembered May 2001
Sixty-seven new tombstones in the St. Martin's Jewish Cemetery, Mauritius, where 127 Jews detained on the island during World War II are buried, were unveiled during an African Jewish Congress mission in the first week of May. A group of ten South Africans, including AJC chairman Mervyn Smith and Spiritual Leader Moshe Silberhaft, took part in the mission. Also taking part were the son, daughter and daughter-in-law of the late Hella Ripinsky, the only former Mauritius detainee who, so far as is known, settled in South Africa after the war. The trip was a follow-up to the widely publicized mission of April 1999, in which a reunion of 50 former detainees took place and an initial 19 new tombstones were unveiled.
‘Travelling Rabbi’ arranges dream island wedding for Cape Town couple. December 2004.
The “Travelling Rabbi” Moshe Silberhaft proved he was also the “Romantic Rabbi” when he organized a strictly Orthodox wedding for Cape Town couple Dana Zaroozny and Jerome Jacobson on the idyllic island of Mauritius on December 7.
Launching of Jewish Community of Mauritius. May 2005
The Jewish community of Mauritius was officially launched at the opening of the Amicale Maurice Israel Center in Curepipe on 23 May. Local dignitaries, members of the local Jewish community and various well-wishers were in attendance at the historic event. Also present was a sizable delegation from South Africa headed by Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader to the African Jewish Congress.
Sada Siven Teeroovengadum, the Mayor of Curepipe, and H. E. Yoram Elron from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem conducted the official opening, with the mezuzot being affixed by Rabbi Silberhaft. Speaking on behalf of Mervyn Smith, President of the African Jewish Congress, Rabbi Silberhaft congratulated all those involved in making the new community center a reality.
The AMI Centre came into being as a combined venture of the Israel-Mauritius friendship club the Amicale Maurice Israel, the local Jewish community and overseas donors with a connection with the country and its Jewish past. The center includes a small synagogue, a first for Mauritius, a communal hall seating 200 people and an office. It was built on land specially provided for the purpose by the Government of Mauritius.
A number of commemorative plaques were unveiled during the opening ceremony. Amongst those commemorated were Geoff Geffroy, Hella Borochowitz and Bryan Slome. Borochowitz, nee Ryinsky, was one of the Jews detained on the island by the British during World War II.
First Jewish Community of Mauritius established – January 2006
Nine months after the opening of its first Jewish community center, the fledgling Jewish community of Mauritius took another important step forward on 11 January when its members met to adopt a constitution and appoint a committee. Officially named the Island Hebrew Congregation, the new organization is the first formally constituted Jewish communal body comprising Jewish residents and citizens in the history of the island.
Until fairly recently, there were virtually no long-term Jewish residents on Mauritius. Israel-related activities have up until now been conducted primarily by the Amicale Maurice Israel (Mauritian Friendship Club of Israel), established by local Tamils who had been to Israel on various agricultural and other training courses.
The meeting took place in Curepipe, at the Amicale Maurice Israel Center. The centre, on whose premises are located a small shul, communal hall and offices, was opened on 23 May 2005. Former Australian Owen Griffith was appointed as the committee's first chairman. Also appointed were a vice-chairman, treasurer, fundraiser and secretary. The meeting was presided over by Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader to the African Jewish Congress.
In the course of his visit, Rabbi Silberhaft also inspected the St. Martin's Jewish Cemetery, in whose restoration and maintenance he has been centrally involved for a number of years. 127 Jewish refugees from Nazism who were interned on the island by the British are buried in the historic cemetery, which was handed over by Deed of Grant to the SAJBD in 1946 and has been maintained by it ever since with the assistance of members of the Amicale.
New documentary to explore story of Mauritian Jewry – January 2007
The Mauritian Shekel
Yom Kippur services in Mauritius – 2007
First Sukkot in Mauritius, hosted by Jacques Bensadoun -2007
Yom Kippur – 2008
The very sad event of Baby Curpen’s passing – November 2009
Israel and Southern African Jewry lost a dedicated and loyal friend with the tragic death of Soopaya ‘Baby’ Curpen in Mauritius. Curpen drowned following a suspected heart attack when swimming at Flic 'n Flac Beach.
He was 75.
For the nascent Jewish community of Mauritius as well as the local Israel friendship society that he founded, the Amicale Maurice Israel (AMI), Curpen’s unexpected passing came as a heavy blow. In addition to being the long-serving Hon. Consul of Israel and AMI President, he was a ceaseless source of encouragement and assistance in fostering Jewish communal life and activities.
Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, Spiritual Leader and CEO to the African Jewish Congress, was unable to attend the funeral, instead sending a written eulogy that was read out by Owen Griffith, Chairman of the Island Hebrew Congregation. This emphasized Curpen’s enthusiastic championing over many years of Mauritius-Israel ties, often under very difficult circumstances.
“More than anyone else, Baby Curpen pioneered enduring ties of friendship between Israel and Mauritius. As the founder and long serving president of the Amicale Maurice Israel, he ensured that a continual process of cultural, intellectual and political exchanges took place” Rabbi Silberhaft wrote. He further commented that it was to a great extent through the efforts of Curpen, a non-Jew, that it had been possible for Jewish communal life to take root on Mauritius.
Soopaya 'Baby' Curpen
African Jewish Congress – Solidarity mission to Mauritius – 2011
At a special ceremony the Maurice Amicale Center, which serves as the headquarters of Mauritian Jewry, was renamed the Baby Curpen Center in honour of the late Soopaya ‘Baby’ Curpen, a stalwart non-Jewish campaigner for Zionist and Jewish causes on the island. Amongst those in attendance were his widow and the Lord Mayor of Curepipe.
This was followed by the official opening of the Center's expanded new synagogue. A joyous Hachnasat Sefer Torah ceremony marked the introduction of a new Sefer Torah, donated by Geffroy, to the congregation. Also presented was the Aron Kodesh from the old small shul of the Emmarentia synagogue. Other fixtures once used by congregations in South Africa include the bimah and pulpit from the former Grahamstown and Bethlehem Hebrew Congregations respectively.
During the visit, Smith and Rabbi Silberhaft, along with Griffith, met first with Mauritian President Anerood Jugnauth and thereafter Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam. Issues relating to the local Jewish community and its relationship with the greater Jewish world were discussed. Rabbi Silberhaft also visited the island’s sole Jewish prisoner in Beau Bassin Prison.
Enter the Sefer Torah
Ann Harris, Rabbi Silberhaft and Owen Griffith
Owen Griffith, Mervyn Smith and Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft
with Anerood Jugnauth, President Republic of Mauritius
Launching of Jewish Museum, St Martin Cemetery, Mauritius – 2014
Bar Mitzva 2015