To most of us, the HOD is synonymous with Barmitzvahs, wedding receptions, or similar types of simchas. Few are aware, however, that the Hebrew Order of David is much more than an events venue. This organisation was once an integral part of the very fabric of Jewish life in South Africa. It touched the lives of almost every Jew in the country by operating according to one simple principle: love thy neighbour as thyself. When Polish-born Joseph Distiller and Louis Faiga arrived in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century, they were united in the goal of helping fellow Jews. Following the conclusion of the Boer War in 1902, the economic and social conditions in South Africa were not particularly inviting to the Jews of Eastern Europe. Distiller and Faiga aimed to create as comfortable a landing as possible for Jews immigrating to South Africa, fostering a sense of companionship, and helping them adjust to their new reality. To this end, in 1904, they established an organisation which was the first of its kind founded in the Commonwealth. A branch of the English based Hebrew Order of Druids, the organisation inaugurated its first lodge on 27 November, naming it in honour of the great man himself, Dr Herzl Lodge. This would eventually become the primary base of the Hebrew Order of South Africa, and it is from here that positive change unfolded across the Jewish community at the time. The organisation continues to make a difference today, operating from its headquarters in Oaklands, the same premises as the above-mentioned event held so many years ago.
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