Jewish Radio In Johannesburg


Kathy Kaler’s mother had a strange dream about her daughter in South Africa a few years ago. She dreamed that she heard her daughter, who worked in marketing in Johannesburg, on the radio.

Kaler’s mother’s dream comes true next week.

Chai FM, South Africa’s first Jewish radio station, will sign on at 101.9 FM on Dec. 1 at 6 a.m., Johannesburg time. Kaler is its founder and director and host of a talk show.

The 24/6 broadcasts — Chai FM will take a break over Shabbat — will be heard at first in greater Joburg, as the city is known; the broadcasts will be streamed over the station’s Web site ( in a few months.

Premiering at a time when South Africa’s Jewish population is rapidly shrinking because of emigration, mostly a result of a rising crime rate, the independent station is designed bring the sometimes fractured Jewish community together and strengthen its Jewish organizations, Kaler says in an e-mail interview.

“We see ourselves as a station for every Jew — irrespective of gender, age, religiosity, cultural heritage or ethnicity,” she says. “It would be worth it regardless of how many people are living in Joburg. Our station signature is ‘Brotherhood Understood.’ This statement encompasses all that the station represents, unity through diversity.”

“There’s no equivalent thing on the radio,” says Rabbi Chaim Willis, director of Aish HaTorah’s South African branch. “It will be very good.”

Chai FM’s initial format will be half music, half talk. The long-range goal is an 80 percent talk, 20 percent music ratio.

“If I didn’t believe in miracles before this process, I certainly do now,” says Kaler, who has taken charge of raising the station’s nearly $500,000 in seed money, including “blue-chip advertisers.” Commercials for non-kosher restaurants will not be carried; “it would not sit well with the majority of the community.”

A single mother, Kaler quit her job at a small advertising agency when she heard about her mother’s dream. “It touched a core inside me — I knew what my personal contribution to my community and humanity would be.

“We both cried when the license was granted,” she says.

Kaler’s mother will be an eager part of Chai FM’s listening audience next week. During the day she’ll hear the broadcasts at home, in her car, in the studio. “She will be listening everywhere.”