Prominent South African Jewish leader and philanthropist Mendel Kaplan has died at the age of 73.
A particular champion of Jewish education and Russian aliyah to Israel, Kaplan served as chairman of the board of the Jewish Agency from 1987-1995, chairman of Keren Hayesod’s World Board of Trustees from 1983-1987 and national chairman of the Israel United Appeal, South Africa from 1978-1987. He also established the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the Univeristy of Cape Town and the South African Jewish Museum, and was one of the first funders of the City of David excavation.
Kaplan, who also authored several books, made his billion-dollar fortune in the South African steel industry, and for the last 35 years had residences in both Israel and South Africa, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“Few, if any, have done as much to build South African Jewry into the dynamic, vibrant community it is today,” said the chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Zev Krengel. He said that Kaplan could be called “the father of the South African Jewish community.”