In 1849, the first synagogue was dedicated in Cape Town, South Africa, called Tikvat Israel -- "Hope of Israel," referring to the Cape of Good Hope. Originally, the Dutch East India Company's rules required that all residents must be Christians. Only after freedom of religion was introduced in 1803 did Jewish settlers from England and Germany come in significant numbers to Cape Town. Around the turn of the 20th century, the development of diamond and gold mines attracted a large number of Jewish immigrants. South African Jewry enjoyed great prosperity, strongly represented in the commercial and professional sectors. The Jewish community was characterized by a deep attachment to traditional Jewish values and strong bonds with Israel. The Jewish population of South Africa reached a peak of 120,000 in the early 1970s, but with political turmoil and the dissolution of Apartheid, tens of thousands of Jews left to settle in Israel, Australia and the U.S. Tikvat Israel synagogue -- South Africa's first -- is still standing today.
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