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       Freddy and Rena Reiff 
    A dedication to their contribution to the Jewish Community in Zimbabwe

    Posted May 2012 



    Our parents, Rena and Freddy Reiff, are approaching their 65th wedding anniversary on July 1st 2012, and Freddy has recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Given these milestones, we have been anxious for them to put pen to paper to record the highlights of their lives, particularly with respect to the many Jewish communal activities in Bulawayo in which they were involved. Our parents are the epitome of “tikkun olam” – deeply rooted in Jewish life, they worked tirelessly to ensure that the vibrant Jewish community that existed in Bulawayo at that time was indeed a “better place”. Yet they have always been quiet, humble, and generous, and have never sought accolades for the important activities that they were involved in.

    Rena was born in Bulawayo in 1926 to Morris and Leah Abrahamson. Morris (previously Kacperowski) had arrived in Southern Rhodesia in 1912 from Szczuczyn, Poland. Leah (Bejrachowicz) had emigrated from Bialystok and they married in 1921 soon after her arrival. Freddy was born in South Africa in 1922 and came to Plumtree with his parents, Esther and David Mendel Reiff, in 1937. Freddy served in the Southern Rhodesia Armed Forces, before settling in Bulawayo at the end of World War II. Rena and Freddy married in 1947.

    Both individually and together, Rena and Freddy served the Jewish community and its many institutions in a variety of leadership capacities. In her youth, Rena was actively involved in Zionist affairs, serving on committees for organizations that included the Zionist Youth Council, Young WIZO, and Habonim. In later years, she served as Treasurer and then Chairman of the Jewish Women’s Communal League, Treasurer of the Bulawayo Women’s Zionist Society, Honorary Treasurer and Co-Chair of the Women’s Zionist Council of Zimbabwe, Honorary Treasurer of Parkview Sports Club, and of the Bulawayo Jewish Guild. We have memories of her sitting up late at night taking care of the “books” of these numerous organizations. She was also a member of the Bulawayo Shul Choir for 16 years, until the mixed gender choir was dissolved.


    Perhaps her most significant contribution was her work for Savyon Lodge (Central African Home for the Jewish Aged) from the time of its inception. Rena served as treasurer from 1963-1993, and she was responsible for overseeing the running of the home while Chair of the House Committee from 1982-1993. Freddy’s official involvement in Savyon Lodge spanned 12 years as President, and later he was elected Honorary Life President. (Interestingly, Rena’s uncle, Leizer Abrahamson, was a resident of Savyon Lodge for almost 30 years, until he passed away in 2007 at the age of 108). 


    Meanwhile, Freddy was involved in all aspects of Jewish Life, including religious, educational, social and recreational sectors. He served as Secretary of the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation for 27 years and was a trustee of the Chevra Kadisha. During the late 1950’s and through the 1960’s, he was chairman of the Hebrew English Nursery School PTA and the Carmel Day School PTA, as well as serving on Carmel’s Board of Governors. Other positions included Chairman of the Bulawayo Jewish Guild and the Bulawayo Branch of Magen David Adom. 


    In relation to sports, Freddy was a keen tennis player. He was on the Executive Board of Parkview Tennis Club from 1948, and as Chairman (1954-1956), he was instrumental in purchasing the lease for the land to further develop the club. Later, as Chair of Parkview Sports Club (1961-1962), the club expanded to include swimming, bowling and squash. 
    Freddy was also President (1976-1977) and Chairman (1978-1979) of the combined Parkview Weizmann Sports Club. He also served as a member of the Matabeleland Lawn Tennis Board.

    Freddy was also President (1976-1977) and Chairman (1978-1979) of the combined Parkview Weizmann Sports Club. He also served as a member of the Matabeleland Lawn Tennis Board.
    Together with his brother-in-law, Abe Abrahamson, Freddy ran the family business, Matabeleland Clothing Company, for over 50 years. He served on the National Co-ordinating Council of the Clothing Industry, was vice chairman of the Matabeleland Clothing Manufacturer’s Association, and was later appointed as a Trustee of the National Council’s Pension Fund.
    Our parents travelled abroad on numerous occasions. The most significant trip was to Israel in October 1987, to dedicate a Forest in the ‘Galil South Africa’ in memory of Rena’s parents, and in 1990, they travelled to Poland to join a group on ‘The March of the Living’.


    Rena and Freddy now live in Toronto, where they are close to their three children, David, Leora and Hylton. David and Gail Reiff have two children, Gavin (married to Mara) and Craig (married to Joelle), all in Toronto. Leora and Marc Cherney are in Chicago and they have three children, Michael, Alan and Elyssa. Hylton also lives in Toronto, while his son, Aaron (married to Laura) lives in London. Rena has continued her passion for singing and is a member of a senior Jewish choir that regularly entertains at retirement and nursing homes around Toronto.


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