Durban Jewish Social Services plays a crucial role in the KZN Jewish community.
Our mission statement is to ensure that no Jew in our community is left without food on the table, a roof over their heads and a warm environment for their children.
We assist on average 120 clients monthly, although we have seen this number increase over the past 2 years, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many in our community found themselves losing jobs, businesses or having to cope with the severe lock down and its implications. People who were usually able to cope financially and emotionally on their own, were forced, due to dire circumstances, to reach out to DJSS for help. Thanks to the generosity of our major donors and foundations, we were able to assist these clients keep the roof over their heads and feed their families albeit in a stressful environment. We review recipients regularly and provide grants to cover their basic living expenses, for example, rental costs, food and household expenses, medication, medical expenses, counselling and other costs deemed essential for their day-to-day living.
The Adopt-A-Grandparent project had to be adapted due to the pandemic. DJSS had to pivot and in an attempt to meet the needs of those in our community feeling anxious, lonely or worried, created a telephone support line. This offers an important connection during the pandemic with a trained professional who chats to community members in a safe and confidential space. DJSS support line is 064-940-2938 operating during business hours.
We cook and package on average 400 Meals-on-Wheels monthly which are distributed from Jewel House. These meals are supplied to the elderly, infirm or those, who for one reason or another, are no longer able to cook or shop for themselves. Mid-way through the pandemic when Jewel House was operating on a skeleton staff, the Durban Jewish Centre offered to assist and prepare the meals in the DJC kitchen and deliver them to Jewel House for distribution. We are grateful to them for this support.
DJSS is the organisation under which Jewel House falls. Jewel House is a residential home which, at present houses 10 vulnerable people who require assisted living. We ensure that all their daily requirements are met from having a live-in Housemother, Registered Nurse and Social Worker on permanent staff. A psychologist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist are available to see to their needs as required. They are accompanied to all outings and functions in our community and necessary appointments.
During the Covid pandemic DJSS endeavoured to keep our most vulnerable residents as safe as possible. Unfortunately, due to their many co-morbidities, the residents were in lockdown level 5 for longer than the government required, unless for an emergency. We applaud our staff for displaying exemplary behaviour since the onset of the pandemic. To ensure all Covid protocols were strictly maintained, the staff moved onto the property and operated on a rotation system (going home to their families intermittently, then tested and quarantined on their return). We are grateful to report we have had zero Covid cases in Jewel House amongst the residents to date. We wish to thank the many in our community who donated/provided meals, entertainment and support to our Jewel House residents during these unprecedented times.
We are very fortunate to have an outstanding team of dedicated, caring staff and volunteers. Each of them going the extra mile without hesitation to ensure that the needs of our clients and residents are met to the best of their abilities. Their love, support and knowledge mean that even though our task may be daunting at times, we are able to provide the outstanding assistance we do to so many in need throughout the greater KwaZulu Natal region.
Started as the Jewish Benevolent Fund in 1898. First mention of welfare work amongst Jews in Durban seems to be a report in The Natal Mercury in November 1891 which refers to a Ladies Jewish Benevolent Society. Apparently it was short lived. Thereafter the next report is from Jewish sources, recording that Mr Louis Goldberg, who was known for his work for the congregation, had constituted himself a one-man philanthropic institution in 1898.
Very informally in 1898 the Durban Jewish Men’s Benevolent Society made its appearance. The chairman was Mr A Benson. To help him was Rev A Levy as secretary and Mr Hanreck as treasurer. Three years passed before a general meeting formally adopted by-laws and in 1901 appointed Mr Louis Goldberg as president.The Society soon had its hands very full with the advent of the Anglo-Boer War. With a flood of refugees from the Transvaal it was necessary to form the Jewish Relief Committee. In 1903 it persuaded the Jewish women of Durban to form the Jewish Ladies Helping Hand Society.
Not long after the Society was formed, the Holy Vestment Society came into being in order to obtain and care for the holy vestments in the Synagogue and in order to raise funds for the furnishing of the Synagogue which at the time was being built. Subsequently it was incorporated into the Helping Hands Society.
Then the name of the original society itself changed. It became the Durban Jewish Ladies Guild and so remained until 1939 when it was renamed the Durban Jewish Woman’s Guild. The Men’s Benevolent Society and the Guild remained as separate entities.
In 1953 the Guild celebrated its Golden Jubilee with a service in the Synagogue and a reception at the Durban Jewish Club. A Senior Welfare Officer of the Witwatersrand Jewish Welfare Council addressed their Annual General Meeting that year and urged that a trained social welfare officer should be employed.
A discussion also ensued as to the advisability of amalgamating the men’s and women’s societies and two years later this was achieved. In October 1955 the Durban Jewish Welfare Association was instituted. The first president of this committee was Mr I Geshen. The appointment of Beulah Lange in 1968 ushered in a new approach, the employment of professionally qualified social workers. Psychologists, psycho-therapists, occupational therapists, medical doctors, lawyers and accountants in the community were also generous in volunteering their services.
May 1996 saw the name change to Durban Jewish Social Services still playing a crucial role in assisting Jews in the greater KwaZulu Natal region today.