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                                                    R J Menashe

    By Benny Leon

    Gabbai Emeritus R. J. Menashe Attains 90 Years of Age.

    Date: 2000

    Raphael Jacov Menashe this attained his ninetieth birthday.  In this year he also lost Regina, his wife of over fifty years.

     This Gabbai Emeritus, who has served the Sephardi community with dedication, also suffered a set back to his health after a fall in which he broke his left leg, and has left him frail and infirm.

     He was born in Rhodes Island on the 24th October 1910, being the youngest in a large family of four brothers and four sisters.  His father Jaco Menashe ran a general store in the Juderia.  His mother was Ester Tarica.

     When the rabbinical College was established in Rhodes, his father wanted him to become a rabbi, but Raphael had other ideas.  He remembers hios father taking him by the hand to the Silihot services.  These were held during the Ten Days of Penitence, in a private home, beginning at two o’clock in the morning and finishing at sunrise.

     It was here that he learnt the Sephardi tunes currently sung in prayers in the synagogue. 

     He worked for five years in the foreign exchange department in the bank of Isaac Alhadeff.  In 1936 he received a visit from a Jewish gentleman who worked for the British Council in Rhodes.  The man asked him if he was happy there, and the young Raphael replied, “Why shouldn’t I be?”  The man warned him that things were not going well in Europe and that he should leave the island.  He suggested that Raphael should go to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia and that he would facilitate all the immigration formalities.

     In June 1936, he left the island sailing to Genoa, through the Straits of Gibraltar to Cape Town a journey of two weeks.

    From Cape Town, he traveled by train to Bulawayo, where he was met by Boaz Menashe.  In Salisbury the immigration facilities proceeded smoothly.

     He worked for two months for Eli Menashe, who had married his sister Rachel, before opening a trading store in Charter Road.  He had brought enough money with him to buy a Ford motor car, the registration number he remembers very clearly – S40.  It cost him 140 pounds!  A few years later, together with Mr. A. H. Benatar he opened a clothing and suitcase factory, which he sold ten years ago.  (1990).  In 1946, he married Regina Hasson, a survivor of Auschwitz.  She was forced to work in a munitions factory, and as the result of a poor diet her health suffered in later years, and when they had two children they both died before reaching their teens.

     He remembers the first president of the congregation, Mr. B. D. Almeleh, with great respect and affection.  B. D. as he was affectionately known, kept the congregation together by holding Shabbat services in his home, in Fife Avenue.  When B. D. Almeleh passed away in 1979, aged 98,  Raphael Menashe accepted the position of gabbai in an honourary capacity, stating that he did not wish to be paid for his services.  He has held this position until 1994 when he was made Gabbai Emeritus.

     He also remembers a past president and benefactor of the congregation Mr. B. S. Leon, who always befriended members of the Ashkenazi Jews stating “We are all Jews.”   He and Kipps Rosin were great friends.

     At the age of 90, Raphael Menashe still goes to work to his shop in the industrial sites of Southerton


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