50 facts about Nelson Mandela and the Jewish community: 1-10

50 facts about Nelson Mandela and the Jewish community: 1-10

Nelson Mandela was an icon of resistance and one of the most influential figures in modern history, but what was his relationship with the Jewish community like?

Here at jewishnews.co.uk we’re running 50 facts about Nelson Mandela and the Jewish community that you may not know. 10 facts a day, all week long!

Compiled by Zak Bentley and Debra Green

Click here for facts 11-20

Click here for facts 21-30

Click here for facts 31-40


1. In the 1950s, Jewish lawyer Lazar Sidelsky offered Nelson Mandela a job as a clerk despite apartheid restrictions.  [divider]
2. While working for Sidelsky, Mandela became friends with Nat Bregman, a Jewish man and fellow clerk. Mandela described him as “bright, pleasant, and thoughtful. He seemed entirely colour-blind and became my first white friend”. [divider]
3. After being appointed Volunteer-in-Chief of the 1952 Defiance Campaign of apartheid rule, Mandela was arrested alongside a handful of whites including two Jewish men, Albie Sachs and Percy Cohen.  [divider]
4. Following his 1952 arrest, The Law Society of the Transvaal attempted to have Mandela’s name stricken off the roll of accredited attorneys but he was successfully defended by two Jewish lawyers (Walter Pollack Q.C and William Aaronsohn) who both acted without charge. [divider]
5. During the 1956 Treason Trial, the defence lawyer that saved Mandela from the death sentence was a Jewish man named  Israel Maisels. [divider]
6. In the 1960s whilst Mandela was on the run from South African authorities, one of his safe houses belonged to a Jewish communist, Wolfie Kodesh. [divider]
7. 1963 – the prosecutor that helped send Mandela and other ANC leaders to life in prison was Percy Yutar, an active member of the Jewish community. [divider]
8. 1985 – the Black-Jewish Freedom Seder honoured the struggles of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky (imprisoned in the Soviet Union). [divider]
9. 1960s-1980s – during his 27 years in prison, Irwin Cotler, a Jewish-Canadian international human rights lawyer represented Sharansky, Mandela and other prisoners of conscience. [divider]
10. March 1986 – B’nai B’rith leader, Gerald Kraft, calls on the South African President to release Mandela.[divider]
Be sure to check back tomorrow for more facts about Nelson Mandela and his relationship with the Jewish community!
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