As told by his son, Rodney Reznek
My father was born in Koffiefontein, a small town in the Free State, which in itself must have shaped his world view. Much has now been written about the Jew in the Dorp and their relationship with the local Afrikaans community - there are references for this. He then went to school at St Andrew's in Grahamstown (not Bloemfontein) and went onto study at the University of the Witwatersrand.
I think the story that stuck with me most of his medical student career, was how irascible Raymond Dart was. (Dart of course became a giant in South African science and set the anthropology world alight with Australopithecus Africanus.)
He then went to practise, first in Rhodesia and then to a very small place called Steynsrus in the Free State province where, on arrival, he was presented with a petition from the local community who did not want a Jew as their town doctor. Despite this protest, he continued to practise in this small town for 6 years. To judge from his own account of his experiences there, his time in Steynsrus seemed to have been enjoyable and rewarding. It also seemed to have been successful, at least according to one report several years later from a former patient of his.
He moved to Parow in about 1942, and did many of the things that one would expect from a prominent town professional, i.e., the municipal council, giving the address at the opening of the local shul in Afrikaans (in which of course he was word perfect, given his upbringing). His consulting rooms were initially in the house, separated by a door and we, as children were constantly admonished to be quiet. On weekends, patients would come to the front door and conversations then took place between my mother or father with the patient, on reflection a rather surreal experience.
A memory - when he attended the bioscope at the local Lantern it was not unusual for the transparency appearing on the screen telling him that he was wanted urgently! Has that ever happened anywhere else? Registration numbers on the family cars were CY3001 and CY6789 so that the GP could easily be recognised.
I wonder how this would help? Would people flag us down in case of an emergency?
I well remember going for very long walks on a weekend as a child, towards Parow North (at that stage Parow went no further than the Northern's Rugby Field) and on the way we would regularly encounter people who greeted him with a 'môre dokter' and as we moved on my father would say: 'I brought her into this world', and to me the person always looked pretty old.
As a doctor, my overwhelming impression of my father is one of commitment, interest and compassion. This was clearly a feature of that generation. At least for a decade or longer my father didn't take a holiday. Sure, he played golf with his chums at King David, a distraction from the work, but there is no doubt that the centrality of the work in his life was part of an ethos that was located to some extent in time and place. I am not sure that it exists like that now. When I went to medical school and I was studying at home, I felt so gratified when he called me down to show me an interesting case.
I can well remember him asking me to palpate a patient's abdomen and quizzing me on my findings in a woman who had autosomal dominant adult polycystic disease of the kidney; He gave me a little lecture on ketoacidosis just before the Amida on Yom Kippur - the reason for this little lecture was obvious. Perhaps it seems a bit patronizing and arrogant (or just typical of medical students), but I was astonished at how much he knew. He felt it important to keep up and he certainly practised what he preached, at least well into the latter stages of his medical career - attending lectures and reading journals.
As regards the compassion, I remember when he was putting up a new building on the site of our previous home/his practice that a Black man fell from the scaffolding and started to convulse. I witnessed this and ran to call him. He came and as long as I live I will remember him holding the hand of this Black workman and the tears streaming from his face, much to the horror of the surrounding foremen.
Maurice Reznek, as told by his daughter Jean Tobias
Our Mom, Zelda was involved as most of the doctor's wives were of that generation in the practice of their husbands. At one time, she worked as his office manager mainly taking care of 'the books' and doing the banking for the practice. For me personally, it was always a treat to go with my dad on house calls. I was about ten years old and felt very special as I sat next to him in the front of his light green Fleetline Chevrolet. I was quite happy to sit and wait for his return from seeing his patient and then question him as to how the patient was doing. I remember his stories of his experiences in the Free State as a doctor. One that has stuck with me since my childhood was the one where he was called to help a pig that was in labour, he helped bring her piglet into the world, as she was attended by the anxious farmer and his wife.
Living in Parow with a doctor's office as part of our house, was certainly a unique experience.
We lived on busy Voortrekker Road with a traffic light at Picton Street, and a regular occurrence at mealtime, was the screeching of brakes followed by the sound of metal hitting metal with a loud crash! Somebody had gone through a red light!! Most times there were no serious injuries.
The Parow Shul was where all local Jews met. 'Cheder' (Hebrew) classes were with Rabbi Lipschitz and his wife. On Jewish holidays as young kids we sat and giggled in shul and many times there was a loud banging on the side of the bimah, 'please be quiet'!
My husband, Brian, worked with my dad in Parow and then joined Leslie Levy in his practice in Bellville, as did Martin Loon, a relative of Leslie Levy. They both worked there until both their families emigrated to the States (Cincinnati) where Brian and Martin did further training to become anaesthesiologists.