The congregation was outgrowing the synagogue now having to worship in four different venues over the High Holy Days. Rene Kleinman recalled that on chagim the rabbi and Adv (later Judge) Dennis Davis would take turns to give sermons in the shul and in the Weizmann Hall.
After nine years of dreaming, scheming and planning they were able to start building a new enlarged Synagogue centre in 1979 to be called the Peisel and Leah Marks Synagogue Centre consisting of a permanent Succah named after Ben Wilder that was adjoining and separated by folding doors from the Max and Hannah Stoch Hall. Max Stoch their treasurer had been largely responsible for obtaining the funds for this hall. By incorporating the former Board Room and Rabbi’s office another spacious hall was created which could be divided into two smaller halls. One became a youth shul named the Samson Youth Synagogue in honour of Dave and Minnie Samson, the parents of Eric Samson. In addition, the office block was redesigned to include part of the Max and Hannah Stoch Hall as their increased rabbinical and administrative staff required increased office accommodation.[i]
The Synagogue continued to attract crowds and extend its range of activities - except on Tuesdays. Television had finally arrived in 1976 and people were glued to their screens to watch the suitably edifying films the Government allowed to be shown especially on Tuesdays when Civilization and The World at War was screened on TV – cinemas and restaurants had to close on that day because their customers were at home watching The World at War. When the TV authorities refused to screen the episode featuring the Nazi death camps and the Shoah, the Jewish community was so angry that protest marches were planned and John Simon, Board of Deputies Chairman and G&SPHC member, met with the Government minister concerned who spoke to Prime Minister Vorster and the decision was rescinded.
In his retirement in Jerusalem, Rabbi Fogel published his memoirs with sponsorship from the Marais Road Shul.
Right from the commencement, my services were appreciated, our home was open to all. We acquired numerous friends, both within the congregation and wider afield. One Friday afternoon while on my way to shul, I met a number of congregants also on their way to the service. I remarked ‘What a wonderful sight – Jews walking to shul, I think our shul is the second best in the world, after the shuls in Israel’ whereupon one turned to me saying: ‘Rabbi, please, how can you make such a statement? Where in Israel do you have a shul like ours? Every Friday eve, we pride ourselves with an attendance of a thousand worshippers. And with a Rabbi, Cantor and choir like ours, I think our shul is the best in the world!
I replied: “Please forgive me and let me explain myself. It is said that Mr Ford of Ford Motors of America claimed that his cars were the best in the world. Someone asked him: ‘So, if that is the case, why do you drive a Cadillac?’ He replied: ‘For my customers, the best, for myself, the second best.
Not all were as full of praise for the congregation. In an editorial Solly Kessler bemoaned its apathy, this despite the cultural activities.
It is a sad fact that only a very small number of members play a part in the planning and supervision of its activities. This is particularly regrettable when one looks at our membership lists and sees that our congregation includes so many of proven ability in numerous spheres. There is scope for a multitude of activities centred on the Synagogue… With this in mind the Management Committee has resolved to embark on an intensive programme, which will include an adult, mixed choral society, a drama group, a Sunday Morning Breakfast Minyan Club, a Biblical Theme Philatelic Society, discussion groups, dealing with Jewish philosophical themes, a cantillation (trop) study circle and a Club of twenties (to cater for the social needs of younger congregants).
The congregation was thrilled when one of their own members Teddy Mauerberger, whose father Israel had been one of its founders, was elected Mayor of Cape Town and their shul would host Mayoral Sunday. The Rosh Hashanah bulletin proudly reported on the event.
[i] Two weeks before the tenders expired, they realised they could not afford to build as building costs had gone up so much. Leah Marks, past president of the Ladies Guild, invited the executive to their home. She asked about the progress of the building scheme. There was silence and then she said “Sign the contract, Peisel and I will give you the money.”