Port Elizabeth of Yore: Jews Arrive and Make their Mark

Despite being a small proportion of the town’s population, the Jewish community has always been prominent in Port Elizabeth mainly due to their business and commercial acumen, but they also played a prominent role on the Port Elizabeth City Council. 

It is fair to say that everybody either had a Jewish school mate, friend or neighbour. In the case of the McCleland’s it was the Siesel’s who had escaped from Germany in the early 1930s. Arriving in Port Elizabeth with nothing but a suitcase, Mr Siesel opened a trading operation catering for the black population. The Siesel’s were our neighbours across the road in Mowbray Street, Newton Park. 

Main picture: Western Road Synagogue

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Mosenthals: A Metaphor for the Fortunes of Port Elizabeth

For me, the firm Mosenthals epitomises both the growth and subsequent decline of Port Elizabeth, but also the trajectory of South Africa’s industrial, agricultural and commercial growth. 

Even my family has a connection to this once prominent company. Firstly, my maternal grandfather was a wool sorter and later my mother was a typist in their employ.

Let us trace the journey that Mosenthals, Port Elizabeth and South Africa took. 

Main picture: The original offices of Mosenthals in Port Elizabeth

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