Max Judelman left Lithuania, age 19, and traveled by ship through Southampton, arriving in Cape Town, South Africa in 1926.
He arrived on the Witwatersrand and started off working for a cousin of his mother’s, Harry Sneech.
He later worked on the diamond diggings in Lichtenburg where he staked a claim. He used to hire “runners” who were professional athletes. They ran and staked out a claim for diamond prospecting. One time he was sitting in a tent examining stones when he was attacked and hit over the head by a robber who ran away with a large diamond. Max was taken unconscious to the hospital and the robber was caught and the diamond returned.
He also ran a general store and was the postmaster in Magoebaskloof near Tzaneen.
He then returned to Johannesburg where he opened a café/eating house in Jules Street, Malvern.
One of his clients owed him money. To pay off the debt, Max took over a brickyard as payment, which then became Jaybee Brickworks.
All the Judelman brothers played the game of bowls (except Louis who played tennis until he was in his 80s). However in the 1940s and 1950s, Jews were not welcome in the country and bowling clubs of the day. As a result, Max, together with others, including Louis Lubner, bought a piece of land (always land!) in Edenvale and formed Sharon Country Club, named after the Sharon Valley in Israel. Sharon Club became a true country club with facilities such as bowls, tennis, swimming as well as socializing. Sunday lunch and afternoon became a real social event with families playing sport and then enjoying lunch and spending the afternoon around the swimming pool. Max’s son, Errol, had his barmitzvah at the club on Saturday evening, September 1, 1956.
Max had a passion for building. He always said that he wanted to construct not destruct property. He started building mainly Industrial buildings in the 1950s at Jaybee Brickworks, as well as a block of shops and flats in Homestead, Germiston, which he called Lily Court after his wife. At that time, he was registered as an estate agent, working mainly in Homestead. He also got the license to build a garage selling petrol, as well as a second block of flats and shops in the same area.
He built a block of shops and flats in Boksburg. He then started building in Sebenza, Edenvale, in about 1960 after buying an acre of Industrial land for £2,000 from a cousin who was in financial difficulties.
After that he was extremely active, building numerous factory complexes until the mid-1980s when his son, Errol, took over.
Max smoked heavily. He used the cigarette boxes to write down all his notes and calculations.
Max’s wife was Lily (Baba), nee Liberman, who was born in Johannesburg.
Lily was more introverted than Max. After finishing her schooling, she trained as a legal typist for the firm of Lazar Sidelsky and Partners. Working there was a young black man who was training to be a lawyer, by the name of Nelson Mandela. The staff used to collect money for him to buy candles, so that he could study at night. Lily was mentioned in Mandela’s autobiography.
Lily was very involved in first aid and was a member of NVD, similar to St John’s Red Cross. At her and Max’s wedding, her colleagues formed a guard of honour.
Max built two houses on Queen Street, Kensington. The family lived in one of them, and he sold the other.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Kensington was a predominantly Jewish suburb.
There were no walls and people got to know each other very well. Everything was within walking distance.
In 1961, Max built a house in Dewetshof, a new suburb next to Cyrildene, where the family lived until Max died.
Max and Lily had two children. Errol married Ronit (nee Sholowitz). Maureen married Leonard Chalom. Both Errol and Maureen currently live in Johannesburg, South Africa
Read more about the Judelman siblings journey and life in South Africa