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Afrikaan Quest

Eliana Cline

Afrikaners are best known for their unusual tongue and love of a dried beef treat called biltong. But lately, they’re becoming better known to the Jewish community in South Africa, where dozens of Afrikaners have shed their Christianity and found their true spiritual home.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The winter morning sun shines brilliantly against the azure African sky. Aryeh Simcha Boshoff meets me at the gate of his home, his black yarmulke resting easily on his head, his two dogs barking at his heels. Well over six feet tall and broad-shouldered, Aryeh Simcha exudes youthfulness, confidence, and strength. His wife Talya wears a colorful scarf wrapped around her head. My crude high school Afrikaans allows me to follow the gist of the conversation with their ten-year-old son Binyomin as he shows off his two budgies [parakeets]. Siddurim and Chumashim lay scattered throughout the house and an ornate gold engraving of Jerusalem hangs on the wall. The Boshoff family didn’t live like this ten years ago. In fact, a decade ago they knew almost nothing about Judaism and would have described themselves as devoted Christians. But the Boshoffs, and dozens of other formerly Afrikaans Christian families, are now part of a growing trend in South Africa, one that has seen young and old leave the religion of their birth to find Judaism. Rav Moshe Kurstag, rosh beis din in Johannesburg, marvels at the phenomenon. “This is a new thing for the beis din,” he said. “We have never seen whole families converting to Judaism.” 

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