Blog  Finding My Jewish Connection In South Africa

Finding My Jewish Connection In South Africa

Hey Camp George!

I have been living in Cape Town, South Africa for almost three months (from November 2012 to February 2013). I went to Cape Town to participate in an internship at a magazine and flew half way around the world knowing no one. While I met lots of people through my internship, and also through my housemates, for the first time in my life, I had no Jewish connections. It wasn’t until a family friend arrived here and took me out to lunch that I was awakened to Judaism in South Africa.

Astra blog photo

Jane HK with some of the employees at Astra.

The place that we went for lunch was coincidentally about a 10 minute walk from where I live. It was a small café called “Coffee Time” that is tucked away behind a gated property. Coffee Time is a part of a foundation called the Astra center which provides work to Jewish young adults with disabilities, who would otherwise have difficulty finding employment. In addition to working in the café with professional waiters and cooks, Astra employees also work with professionals in the workshop that is also on site to create everything from Judaica items to children’s toys. As well, Astra provides housing in the form of group homes to 26 adults with special needs.

When I went to Coffee Time, I was overwhelmed with overhearing talk of Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, and whether or not the food being served was Parve. Having a couple weeks off from my internship, I decided to volunteer with Astra and spent two and a half weeks helping in Coffee Time.

While I didn’t have any formal restaurant experience, years of helping to serve and clear meals at camp gave me a great head start on things. Since it was the holiday season, many of Astra’s employees/ residents were away, but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a few, who were helpful in showing me the ropes and incredibly friendly, as were the kitchen and gift shop staff and all the guests at the café. Of course, knowing that my services in the café helped direct profits back into the center, which does such amazing work was especially rewarding. If you ever find yourself in Cape Town, this is a place you must visit!

For more information on the Astra center, click here.

See you back in Toronto soon!

Jane HK

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