18 October 2023 Eben van Tonder
One of the most important meat curers has been Aron Vecht. In my book on meat curing, Bacon & the Art of Living, I devote three chapters to him with addendums:
- Chapter 14.03: Aron Vecht
- Chapter 14.04: Aron Vecht: His Curing Method and Businesses
- Chapter 14.05: Henry Denny’s Singeing of Pork and Related Reflections on Vecht
Vecht established the Jewish Standard in London. Subsequent to establishing businesses in Australia and New Zealand, he lived in South Africa. He left in 1904 but a year following his death in 1907 in Antwerpen, a Jewish newspaper was created in Johannesburg (1908) by the influential Hersch, also called the Jewish Standard.
I was intrigued and wondering if there was any connection between Vecht and the creation of this newspaper, so I started digging. The undertaking is important because if such a link existed, it would support a question that I have related to the Gluckman Project, whether Vecht had any dealings with the Gluckman brothers.
In the end the link between Vecht and the Jewish Standard (Johannesburg is based on three realities:
- The key role that Vecht played in the Zionist movement and the overt reason for the existence of the Jewish Standard (Johannesburg) as a mouthpiece for the same movement;
- The fact that Vecht lived and worked in South Africa until 1904 and his work related as much to the cause of Orthodox Judaism and Zionism as it was related to refrigeration and the meat trade.
- The founder of the Standard in Johannesburg, Benzion S. Hersch, was in all likelihood heavily influenced by the much older and phenomenally wealthy and successful Aron Vecht, a driving force in the global Zionist movement. He may have named the paper after Vecht purely based on his respect and admiration for him.
I initially wondered if there could have been a link between Vecht and the Gluckman Brothers. After careful consideration and comparing the dates, I realised that several facts mitigate against any direct relationship to have existed between Vecht and either Nathan or Maurice Gluckman. This is important due to the key role that the Gluckman Brothers played in the development of the meat trade in South Africa.
So, this consideration of a possible link between Vecht and the Jewish Standard is important background information for sereral related projects.
The Jewish Standard at a Glance
Jewish Standard (The), (Der Yiddishe Fohn)
- 25.02.1909 fortnightly to 1910, then weekly to May 1913, then 5 times a week to 01.07.1913, then twice weekly to 00.08.1913 ceased. Benzion S. Hersch.
- July 1912 English supplement. Hersch. (Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG, Southern Africa Jewish Newspapers)
The following is an extract from Edelheit (2019) which elucidates the role of the Jewish Standard, Johannesburg.
Merger with the Jewish Chronicle
A 22 March 1918 publication of the Jewish Chronicle shows that the Jewish Standard merged with the Chronicle.
The Jewish Chronicle appeared with the sub-heading “with which is incorporated THE JEWISH STANDARD. Established in 1908.
A feature of the editorial commitment of the newspaper is beautifully and poetically stated as:
Here shall the Press the Jewish rights maintain, Unaw'd by influences, and unbrideled by gain; Here patriot Truth her glorious precepts draw, Pledged to Religion, Liberty and Law.
The passing of Benzion S. Hersch
The best way to commemorate the passing of Levi is a letter sent to the SA Jewish Chronicle and published on 27 September 1935 which Rabbi E. M. LEVY wrote from Sydney, Australia:
To the Editor,
S.A. Jewish Chronicle.
I am shocked to read in your issue of July 19th which has just reached me, of the death of my great friend whom I admired so much–Benzion S. Hersch. I send my sincerest condolences not only to the bereaved family but to South African Jewry as a whole for whom he toiled so selflessly and elf-sacrificingly.
Rabbi E. M. LEVY.
13th August, 1935.
Notice of the passing of Hersch was sent out on 17 July 1935 on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and the notice read as follows:
Hersch, Zionist, South African Pioneer, Dies
Ben-Zion S. Hersch, one of the builders of the Zionist movement in South Africa, and a founder of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, died here today.
Mr. Hersch was born in Janishky, Lithuania, and came to South Africa in 1902. He was fifty years old. Two children survive him.
Ben-Zion S. Hersch was one of the most prominent Jews in South Africa. He was associated with the national movement from the early days of Herzl. He helped organize the South African Zionist Federation and served as a member of the Executive Council of that body from 1910.
Mr. Hersch, the first immigration officer of the Board of Deputies in Capetown, rendered extensive services to the Jewish community in matters of immigration and naturalization.
The deceased also contributed to the local and overseas press. For a period he was editor and publisher of the Jewish Standard of Johannesburg. He helped develop the Zionist Record from a monthly official magazine to a weekly journal of large circulation. Up to his death, he was honorary chairman of the editorial board of the paper.
The entire Jewish community of South Africa greatly mourns the passing of Mr. Ben-Zion S. Hersch.
The Importance of the Dates
Hersch passed away on 17 July 1935 at the age of 50. He was born in 1885 in Lithuania. When Hersch arrived in South Africa in 1902 he would have been 17 years old. He founded the standard in 1908, at the age of 23. Young people of 23 are looking for role models.
The fact that he was from Lituania would have endeared him to Vecht. The situation of Jews in the Russian Empire had a substantial impact on the development of Zionist thought in the late 1800s when intense persecution of Jews in the Russian Empire, of which Lituania was a part, fueled the desire for an independent homeland.
On the other hand, Vecht, a key figure in the international Zionist movement, an international traveller, and a very successful businessman who rubbed shoulders with prominent South Africans like Cecil John Rhodes and David de Villiers Graff who himself founded a newspaper in London in the 1880s would have been a natural mentor to Hersch. I can not imagine any scenario where Vecht would not have made an astronomical impression on the young Hersch with the accompanying inspiration for the rest of Hersch’s life! Historical records place these two not only in the same country, South Africa at the time when Vecht lived here, but also in the same City namely Johannesburg where the Jewish population lived in the same areas and attended the same Synagogue.
Between 1902 and 1904, the Jewish community in Johannesburg, South Africa, was primarily concentrated in the suburb of Doornfontein. The primary synagogue in that area during that time was the Great Synagogue, which was a significant religious and communal centre for the Jewish community. I will ask Heather MacAlister to investigate any possible links at least between Hersch and both Doornfontein and the Great Synagogue.
The foundation year for the Jewish Standard (Johannesburg) was 1909 and Vecht passed away in Antwerpen in 1908. Taking all the salient information of the background information on Hersch and Vecht, I can not help but conclude that in all likelihood the Jewish Standard created in Johannesburg was named in honour of Aron Vecht. As any good police detective will tell you, Hersch had the motive and opportunity to do exactly this.
Vecht and Gluckman Brothers
I initially wondered if there could have been a link between Vecht and the Gluckman Brothers. My suspicion for such a link stems from the fact that Vecht had extensive business interests in the frozen meat trade from Australia and presumably Argentina where he also lived and the fact that he was involved in Rand Cold Storage in Johannesburg at least till 1904. Gluckman Brothers set their cattle trading business up in Newtown, Johannesburg within walking distance from RCS.
A direct link would have been impossible due to the 1904 date when we know that Vecht was still involved in RCS, but that he also left South Africa in this year. The earliest reference we have for one of the Gluckman brothers, Maurice or Nathan relates to Nathan Gluckman in Johannesburg is a Rand Daily Mail advertisement from 24 June 1909, where an address is listed for Nathan, acting as a cattle trader the address is listed as 21 and 22 Primrose Building, probably in Booysens, Johannesburg. In those days, cattle were still bought directly from the farmers at the cattle market in what is today called Booysens in the Old Coal Yard. His brother joined him at this premises and they changed the name to The Gluckman Brothers. Since we know that Vecht left SA in 1904 and that neither one of the Gluckman brothers was in Johannesburg at that time, a direct link is improbable.
This leaves us with two possible explanations for the international trading relationships of the Gluckman Brothers. One is through the influence of RCS which was in turn, influenced by Vecht. We know that trading with Australia was one of his objectives because he said that much in an interview before he left Australia for SA. A second possibility is through Hersch, the founder of the Jewish Standard in Johannesburg. They were all immigrants from Lituania. By 1909, Hersch was 24, Nathan was 30 and Maurice was 35. They probably attended the same Synagogue in Johannesburg (a fact to be confirmed) and as fellow immigrants from Lithuania, in all likelihood had a friendship relationship with each other. It is well known that the Jewish Lithuanian community in Johannesburg had close ties. It could have been Hersch or someone else from this community who introduced them to Vecht’s trading relations or possibly even inspired them through the stories of Vecht. The fact that the young Hersch with his fervour for the Zionist cause and strict upbringing in Lithuania named his newspaper, founded a year after the passing of Vecht and gave it the same name Vecht gave to his newspaper in London, years earlier is of great interest in this matter and a fact that cannot be ignored. It remains complete conjecture, but I do not think it’s without some merit.
Vecht probably had no direct contact or involvement with the Gluckman brothers Nathan and Maurice. What is far more probable is that he influenced them indirectly through RCS (Rand Cold Storage) and the general business relationships he established between South Africa and Australia (and possibly Argentina). Vecht is far more likely to have influenced Ben-Zion S. Hersch who created the Jewish Standard in Johannesburg, a year following the passing of Vecht.
Jewish Chronicle, 22 March 1918
SA Jewish Chronicle, 27 September 1935
Edelheit, H. (2019) History Of Zionism: A Handbook And Dictionary, Routledge, 19 Sept 2019