On Saturday, October 31st at 8 pm in a private room in the Tavola Restaurant in Herzliya Pituach, the sounds of “who did you say you were again? ” and “ gosh, I would never have recognized you,” rang out as no fewer than nine members of the 1955 University of the Witwaterstrand [Wits] Medical School met in a joyous reunion to celebrate 60 years since becoming doctors.
As chairman of the Wits Alumni in Israel, I was proud and honored to participate at this unique gathering, which was superbly organized by Dr.Neil Schwartz. In his opening remarks to the assembly of seven couples and two others who had unfortunately lost their spouses, Dr. Schwartz attested to the uniqueness of the occasion by expressing his doubt that such a gathering of nine in his class could be formed anywhere else in the world. Dr.Schwartz explained that he organized the get-together by enlisting the aid of the Wits Alumni Association in Johannesburg, South Africa who then forwarded his invitation to those alumni whose addresses had been registered . According to Dr.Schwartz, the list was incomplete as unfortunately, many names on the list were fellow classmates who Neil had personally known and were no longer alive.
Living in a small country like Israel, it wasn’t difficult for everyone to get together. Two non-Jewish classmates expressed their regrets for being unable to attend due to illness and a third responder who was also unable to attend said incredulously, “Crickey Neil, I never realized it was 60 years!”
Neil Schwartz was Assistant Chief of Internal Medcine at Barzilai Hospital, Ashkelon and then Medical Director of the Herzliya Medical Centre.
Professor Shmuel Eidelman was head of Gastro – enterology [GIT] at Rambam Government Hospital, Haifa, and also on the Scientific Board of the Ministry of Health.
Eric Lebanon was an ENT surgeon
Rochelle Krikler worked in child care for children with special needs
Others were in general practice.
As I was videoing the proceedings and taking still photos, I encouraged each participant to share his or her personal story as to how they came to be where they are today. Dr.Schwartz felt privileged that Dr.David Gruebel Lee from England was able to attend the reunion and in his address to the gathering, he referred to the fact that as whites, they had lived at a time when gaining entrance to a South African university was comparatively easy as 80% of the population were effectively unable to compete. This was followed by an excellent dinner and a slide show of caricatures of the professors and lecturers at Wits Medical School.
Many proposed that they “do this again,” but maybe annually instead of waiting for the 70th anniversary.