A broken Shabbos lamp inspires a home-grown source of illumination
By Chandrea Serebro
Ray Wainman is a 73-year young Jewish South African man born in Vereeniging who has a flair for all things handy. A regular amateur handyman to his family and friends, five years ago, while visiting his sister Sharon Bolel and her husband Rabbi Shem, Ray was handed his sister’s Shabbos lamp to fix. It was “falling apart” in her estimation, and she told her brother that she was on the verge of having to buy another costly Shabbos lamp unless he could work his magic and make some semblance of working order out of the lamp she relied upon every Shabbos for light. It is ironic, recalls Ray, because his sister Sharon and Rabbi Shem are to him his inspiration, his sister his “guiding light”. So it must have been her encouragement and all this talk of illumination that were the first steps to what would soon become Ray’s next big thing. Sharon knew well that Ray had been “blessed with good hands, and innovation and creativeness”, and as he was unemployed at the time, she encouraged him to invent a home-grown, kosher Shabbos lamp that was manufactured locally from high quality components, yet affordable.
With Shem and Sharon’s support (Shem was soon to become Ray’s business partner), Ray successfully created a stylish, sleek version of the adjustable lamp that is used for Shabbos. Ray named his invention Hi-Lo-Glo (the names ‘Shabbos lamp’ and ‘Kosher Lamp’ are names that are registered in the USA and Canada and could not be used), giving it local flair and a competitive price tag.
“At the inception of Hi-Lo-Glo, our first undertaking was to get our product safety-approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).” Because the lamp is an electrical product, Ray could foresee from the outset that more than just being used on Shabbos, the lamp would find its way into many houses and many rooms in these houses, giving light to all the household members, both young and old, and so for him the issue of safety was of paramount importance. “The light is perfect for a baby night light too, so we knew that the lamp would ultimately land up in some children’s bedrooms,” and seeing this as a major responsibility to ensure that all avenues had been pursued, Ray ordered testing to be done on his lamp to ensure its safety. Although it took quite a while, Hi-Lo-Glo was approved for safety with ease.
The next major hurdle was to get Hi-Lo-Glo halachically approved by the Johannesburg Beth Din. In this endeavor, it also sailed through with flying colours, now bearing two important stamps of approval that would show the market that it isn’t full of false promises, but that it does what it sets out to do.
“What a five year journey of self-fulfillment and fruitfulness this has been for me, filled with many trials and tribulations, a lot of hard work and set-backs, and the glow of success, self-determination, and triumph,” says Ray. August of 2017 saw the completion of the manufacture of the first batch of Hi-Lo-Glo’s in Ray’s little cottage at home, which became the centre of the Hi-Lo-Glo universe, and the lamps were all set to go out to the retail market. “We launched the sale of the Hi-Lo-Glo lamps at the Rosh Hashanah market last year at the Norwood Mall, and, like a whirlwind, we sold almost all of them.” Ray was inundated both with a sense of self-satisfaction and gratitude for the success of his endeavor, and from “the compliments and pats on the back which flowed from there”. As a result of what seems to be the market success of the lamp and an identified need for more, the Hi-Lo-Glo team undertook to produce another larger batch of lamps, but this time, in a more efficient, quicker, and, maybe even smarter way. “We have commissioned a group of University students studying engineering to make them up for us” – giving them the manpower they need and the students the chance to use their skills. Trying to keep the manufacture local is a way to contribute to the South African economy. “We are South African – born and bred – and feel gratitude to the country of our birth. South Africa has been very good to us!”
Hi-Lo-Glo has grown tremendously and, in the not-too-distant future, Hi-Lo-Glo is thinking of exporting the lamps. “I’ve dabbled with many inventions and innovations over the years and had it not been Sharon’s idea of this Shabbos lamp and her motivation and encouragement setting me off on this journey, it would surely never have happened. I’m vying for top spot to see who wins the top salesman’s prize of a trip to Mauritius – me or Rabbi Shem! Jokes aside, I couldn’t wish for a better partner in this venture – I handle the research and development, technical aspects and manufacturing, and Shem markets, sells, and pays the bills! You must admit I have the more exciting function to perform! Of course, there are of course still many challenges.” Challenges he welcomes.
Ray looks up to Sharon in life as well as in business. “She took the bull by the horns from a very young age, determined to make Yiddishkeit play a major part in her life, and how fitting it was that she should meet such a fine partner in Rabbi Shem Bolel.” Ray’s successful innovation has not in any way detracted from his sense of gratitude and appreciation for the things he has in his life. Sadly, due to his upbringing and circumstances beyond his control, Ray was not given a Jewish education. “But throughout my life I cherished my Jewishness.” He is flying from the hoo-hah his Hi-Lo-Glo has caused, yet he remains grounded and committed to the people and the things that illuminate his life.
For more information on the Hi-Lo-Glo go, visit www.hi-lo-glo.co.za.