About the authors
Mushe Kirsh was born in Johannesburg in 1936 to Koppel and Rose Bacher, both first-generation Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. After matriculating at Barnato Park, she completed a leadership training course in Israel and afterwards worked for the Medical Research Institute at Wits University. In 1957, she married Issie Kirsh, with whom she had four children. She has been involved in the activities of the Women’s International Zionist Organisation – South Africa for over fifty years, including serving as president in 1996-9.
David Saks is an author, editor and historian. In April 1997, he joined the staff of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, going on to becoming its Associate Director. He is the editor of the journal Jewish Affairs and has published extensively on South African Jewish, political and military history.
About the book: African Outliers: The Story of the Bacher and Kirsh Families
African Outliers is both a family and a general history. On the one hand, it tells the story of two remarkable Jewish families, the Bachers and the Kirshes, who immigrated to South Africa from Lithuania in the early decades of the 20th Century. On the other, it tells the larger story of their lives and times. African Outliers reviews the history of modern-day South Africa, from colonial times to the birth of democracy, of the founding and subsequent development of the State of Israel and of the Jews of Lithuania, from that community’s hey-day as the acknowledged hub of religious scholarship in the Jewish world through to its final tragic destruction in the Holocaust. The authors have succeeded in interweaving the private personal histories of the people who feature in the book into the broader historical narrative, on the one hand explaining the political, social and economic context in which they unfolded while on the other showing the disproportionate impact that members of both families had on influencing the events of the day.
The book features many eminent personalities who had a significant impact in their chosen fields, whether in the field of international sport, business, the media or Jewish communal affairs. One is Dr Ali Bacher, a successful national cricket captain who later, as head of the SA Cricket Board, famously guided South African cricket during the fraught final years of Apartheid and beyond. Another is Issie Kirsh, founder of South Africa’s first independent news and discussion channel, Radio 702, which provided a dynamic vehicle for bringing about change during the final years of white minority rule and transition to democracy. There are many other, albeit lesser known, figures, however – people who with quiet dedication built families, forged successful careers and found ways to contribute, to South Africa, to the Jewish community and to Israel. It is a story that in many ways epitomises the saga of Jewish immigration to South Africa, whereby the new immigrants succeeded in becoming fully involved, identifying citizens while at the same time ensuring the continuity of their ancient religious heritage and culture in their new homeland.
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