Africa. As was the custom, Faiva went first. When he arrived, he found work and
saved so his family could join him.Via England to South Africa
The port of departure for South Africa was Riga, which is
far to the north and a little west of Gorodok. Riga was the departure point for South
Africa because it was the best way to get to South Hampton, England. That's where the
ships set sail for the three weeks' voyage to South Africa.
Chipa went to Riga with their children, Annie, Hirschel,
Lazar, and George. (Chipa is short for Tzippora, which was the
name of Moses' wife.) Unlike our tiny shtetl, Riga was a cosmopolitan city dating from the
middle ages, and it was outside the Jewish Pale of Settlement. It was also
known for its fine shopping.
Photo courtesy of
Lure of shopping
Several times Faiva sent Chipa the money for passage,
but instead of buying tickets, she spent it on clothes for the children and herself. Finally,
he wrote saying that if she did not take the next ship, she would not
have another chance. She bought the tickets and set sail with the children.
The Ubersteins spent their first few years in the small town of Tulbagh in the Cape
Province. Faiva set up shop in their home, and that's where he would fix the wristwatches
and clocks that were brought to him. He was handy and resourceful, and he could also
repair shoes when the occasion demanded.
By the time the Ubersteins' neighborhood had gone into a
decline, their daughter, Annie, was married. Her husband, Solomon Rom, and Harris, Faiva's
oldest son, bought a large house for Faiva and Chipa in The Gardens, a suburb of Cape Town
that was primarily Jewish. The homes were beautiful, every house had a little garden, and
the school was three-quarters Jewish.
Business on the patio
The Ubersteins' house in The Gardens was large enough for
them to rent a floor to newly-arrived immigrant families, which provided a continuous
source of income. Faiva created a second bathroom, and the patio he turned into his place
of business. There he did repairs and created jewelry. He also made his
wife some beautiful brooches.
Man of taste
Faiva not only repaired wristwatches and clocks, but he
also resold the antiques and fine furniture he enjoyed finding and refurbishing. That's
how the grandfather clock and grand brass bed happened to come into their home. He
became known for his wonderful taste, and he would keep his eye out for things people
would commission him to find for them.
Blue is better
Faiva also "knew" diamonds. The
story goes that when Faiva was shown the "pure white" diamond
a young girl had just been given by her fiance, he commented that a blue diamond would have been better.
The best diamonds are so white that they appear to have a
bluish tinge, he explained.
Matzoh balls from scratch
Faiva taught himself to read English, and he loved to talk
politics. He was also an opera buff, and he and Chipa shared an
enthusiasm for the Yiddish Theater flourishing in Cape Town. They were Orthodox, and Chipa
kept a kosher kitchen. She was so kosher that she wouldn't let anyone else bring
meat into the house. She was also a wonderful
cook, especially her tzimmes and matzoh balls, which she made from scratch.
For shul, the blue straw
Chipa was very particular about her appearance and would
not go out without looking her best. She had a navy blue straw hat decorated with
artifical flowers, which was her favorite for going to shul. She liked brightly colored
accents, and she had more than one red sweater in her wardrobe. Even into
her 90's, Chipa would show her distaste for something she regarded as dowdy by saying,
"That's for old people."