South African philanthropist and communal leader Mendel Kaplan died yesterday at his home in Cape Town. Kaplan, 73, suffered a major stroke earlier this week. He will be buried on Sunday.

Kaplan who has been involved in communal projects for over 50 years was an honorary president of Keren Hayesod, a former chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors and of Keren Hayesod’s World Board of Trustees.

According to Ambassador Avi Pazner, World Chairman of Keren Hayesod, “He was a giant in the Jewish world. He had very deeply rooted Jewish and Zionist feelings and he knew how to get what he wanted  and what he wanted was always for the good of the cause.”

Here’s more from The Jerusalem Post:

He was a major figure in the world of Jewish organizations, especially renowned for promoting and mobilizing the issue of Soviet aliya after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Kaplan will be remembered as “a very committed Jew who continued to study Judaism until his last day,” Alan Hoffman, director-general of the Jewish Agency’s Education Department and a close friend of Kaplan’s, told The Jerusalem Post.

“He was a great Jewish leader who managed to go beyond South Africa,” said Hoffman, adding that Kaplan had been gifted with a unique ability to combine “an enormous commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people and the ability to solve problems and deal with global Jewish issues.

Mendel was one of those who understood before anyone else that unless Jewish education is at the center of the agenda of the Jewish people, there won’t be a Jewish people.”