‘Father of SA Jews’, activist, leaves rich legacy
BILLIONAIRE philanthropist Mendel Kaplan died of a stroke on Thursday. He was 73.
Kaplan, who ran the family business Cape Gate, started the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town.
In a tribute the Jewish Board of Deputies’ national chairman, Zev Krengel, called Kaplan a “father of the South African Jewish community”.
“When assessing what our community has achieved over the past few decades – whether it is in the educational, civil rights, social outreach, Zionistic, historical scholarship or cultural fields – the name of Mendel Kaplan casts a giant shadow,” he said.
“Few, if any, have done as much to build South African Jewry into the dynamic, vibrant community it is today.”
Kaplan was born in Cape Town in 1936 and studied law at UCT. He was awarded an MBA from Columbia University.
He held several high-profile positions in the Jewish community. He was vice-president of the Board of Deputies and honorary president of the World Jewish Congress. Kaplan also established the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town.
He ran Cape Gate, a family business manufacturing steel, wire and wire products in Israel and abroad.
From 1974 onwards, he split his time between South African and Israel.
Kaplan is survived by his wife Jill, four children and grandchildren.
He will be buried in Pinelands tomorrow.