Rabbi Engel was born in
Satu-Mare, Rumania in 1917, son of Shmuel
Haim and Rachel Engel. He Studied in the famous Yeshivot of Nitra
and Pressburq (Bratislava), in
Czechoslovakia, where he received
Smicha in 1937. During WW2 he was put into the Hungarian labour Camp,
transferred to Russia and attached to the German O.T. and Wermacht. He was
liberated by the Russian Army in 1945. In the same year he joined the Haganah
in Prague. Made Aliyah with his family In 1948; took part in the War of
Independence and in 1949 joined the Permanent forces as a Chaplain and
Administrative Officer at Tel Hashomer until 1956 when he accepted a call from
South Africa to come and provide spiritual services to a small country
community. Between 1956-1970 he served the Hebrew congregations of Standerton,
Welkom and Witbank as Rabbi, teacher and Shochet. In 1970 Rabbi Engel was
appointed as National Rabbi of Country communities. In this role he traveled
the length and breadth of South Africa and South West Africa in an attempt to reach every
isolated Jew or Jewish community and managed to provide them with a vast
spectrum of spiritual & educational services. His 2 Major contributions were the
(1) provision of Jewish educational audio-visual material including a magazine
for children which he edited. And (2) the location and mapping out of all Jewish
Cemeteries; registration of every person buried therein, ensuring that each
grave had a tombstone and arranging for proper maintenance.
Despite his intention to retire in 1982, Rabbi
Engel, nevertheless, accepted the calls of the Potchefstroom & Klerksdorp
communities where he officiated until 1993. Altogether, he devoted himself to
the S. African Jewish Community for 37 years. Wherever, he lived, his home was
open to all, where true
especially in the
communities wherein there existed a military unit, with Jewish soldiers - they
were all befriended & entertained at the Rabbi's house. Rabbi Engel was a very
friendly, kind and caring person with outstanding abilities to listen, empathize
and give appropriate advice. A man of deep faith he was mentor and guide not
only to his congregants but also to his family in whose lives he was totally
involved - despite the great geographic distance.
He was member of the S.A. Jewish Ex-Service
League and of the Hebrew Order of David.
Chaplain to the Middelburg Military Camp. Married Adina Reich in 1945 and they
had a daughter named Esther.
Rabbi Engel was our Rabbi in Witbank from 1961 - 1971, and he was the South
African Community Rabbi from 1971 - 1982.
The photos below are from Rabbi Engel's collection. His daughter Esther Tolkin
(Engel) kindly allowed me to scan them for our web site. The first Batmitzvah
during Rabbi Engel's term was the Batmitzvah of Shana Bernitz and Anne Kramer.
Click on any photo to view
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