Alexander Levin – Herzlia’s first Principal

Alexander Levin – Herzlia’s first Principal

Hardly anyone in Cape Town today remembers Alexander Levin, but he was a towering figure in the Jewish community both physically and intellectually, the founding principal of Herzlia School – the first Jewish day school in South Africa – and a pioneer in Jewish education in this country.

Born in a Lithuanian shtetl in 1882, Levin was part of the vibrant Jewish world destroyed in the Holocaust. He was active in the early political Zionist movement that revitalised Jewish life and identity.

After early religious studies in a yeshiva, he became a teacher, specialising in modern Hebrew. Like many others of his generation and background, he became a man of enormous secular and religious learning and insight.

He also experienced first-hand the severe discrimination against the Jews in a time of pogroms and upheavals in the Russian empire. He witnessed the start of the 1917 Russian revolution, quite literally across the road from him as he was walking down the streets of St Petersburg in March of that year.

Looking for a life of greater freedom, he chose to emigrate. After waiting too long to accept a post offered to him by an American university, he was eventually offered an opportunity in this country.  

Arriving in South Africa in 1928, he immediately became a pioneer in Jewish education in Cape Town, going on in 1940 to become the founding headmaster of Herzlia School, eight years after he originally proposed the idea. 

He wrote his memoirs in Hebrew, his language of choice, in the early 1950s. This valuable contribution to Africana and Jewish history in South Africa has now been translated in English, in what Professor Adam Mendelsohn, director of the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town describes as ”fascinating detail and lively prose”.

Education – My Life: Memoirs of a Hebrewfor overseas postage and handling.  Teacher, by Alexander Levin, translated by Michael Belling, Jewish Publications SA, Kaplan Centre, University of Cape Town, 310 pages, R299, plus R100 postage and handling.

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Tax benefits

Tax Benefits of Donating to The Herzlia Foundation Trust

United Herzlia Schools is the sole beneficiary of The Herzlia Foundation Trust PBO No. 930038539

South Africa Donors are eligible for a Section 18 A tax certificate in respect of donation to the Foundation (depending on the terms of the donation within our discretion). Please contact hft@herzlia.com if you require assistance.

United Kingdom Donors can apply for a GiftAid form if they donate through EuroChai SA. Please contact Ralph Frank rjf156@yahoo.com if you require further assistance.

United States of America Donors can receive tax benefit if they donate via the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. Please ensure designation of funds is “Friends of Herzlia”.

Canada Donors can receive tax benefits if they donate through UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Please ensure allocation of funds is written “The Herzlia Foundation Trust” on your donation & tribute form. Please contact Eyal Golan eygolan@ujafed.org if you require further assistance.

Australia Donors can receive tax benefits if they donate through Chai Charitable Foundation.