As told by Tessa Goldberg (Berkman) and Alan Berkman.
Hymie was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1919. He was the oldest of 7 children: 6 boys and 1 girl. His parents were immigrants from Russia and Poland. His father, Morris Berkman, came to South Africa from Russia via Edinburgh, Scotland.
They lived in a big house and had property on the block between Voortrekker Road and Hopkins Street. Later on, this property was divided. The back of the property was sold to build the Parow shul and recreation hall. The front of the property where the house stood was divided and partly sold. One section went to the clothing company called Foschini and the rest was divided amongst some of the brothers. Hymie took a section of the house that had a bathroom and turned that into the first portion of his pharmacy. He later expanded it so that the pharmacy front extended all the way to Voortrekker Road. Next to the pharmacy, his brother Wolfe opened a butcher shop and around the corner, his brother Sammy opened an accounting practice. Meyer, an additional brother, opened a pharmacy in Goodwood. Elaine, Hymie’s wife, was an opera singer who performed and toured for CAPAB. Later, she created her own operatic company, which performed many of the well-known operas.
Both Hymie and Elaine were very involved in community affairs. Hymie served on the Parow Shul Board for a lengthy period; in addition, over the years, they each served as chairperson on several boards of the Jewish Federation.
Hymie graduated from pharmacy school in Cape Town. During WWII, he served under the British in Europe and secretly helped to bring many Jewish refugees from Europe into the then British Mandate of Palestine. He was a staunch revisionist and a follower of Menachem Begin. He was keen to settle in the Holy Land when the State of Israel declared independence. However, it remained a dream for many years. He returned to South Africa and married Elaine Daleski in 1950. They had 3 children, Merle, Alan and Tessa.
Hymie was an entrepreneur; at first, his was a pharmacy that only had prescription medicines. Many of the locals called him “Doctor” and he would “prescribe” over the counter medications. He was famous for selling Dutch remedy medicines which were very popular. Long before the large super pharmacies existed, Hymie sold additional items at holiday time. He had an extensive “gift” section that included: perfumes, make- up, dolls from all over the world, wallets, watches, jewelry and greeting cards for every occasion. As kids we all worked in the pharmacy during summer holidays. Hymie was an avid golfer and mostly frequented the King David country club on the weekends. He used to walk to work and back daily, return home for lunch, clean the pool or have a swim in summer and then go back to work.
Merle married and moved to Australia in 1975. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1992 from ovarian cancer. Alan and his family moved to Vancouver, Canada in 1990. In 1993, Tessa and her family moved to the U.S.
In 1988 at the age of 69, Hymie and Elaine (59) finally realized their dream and made Aliyah. They immigrated to Rishon LeZion. Hymie studied and passed the pharmacy exam in Hebrew, a language he had only learned on ulpan on arrival. In Israel, Hymie continued to work in his profession at the Assaf Harofeh hospital. They lived in Israel for 12 years. Hymie succumbed to multiple myeloma and passed away at the age of 79 in 1999. Elaine subsequently moved to Canada 2 years after Hymie passed away. Elaine passed away in 2014 from pancreatic cancer.