Jewish Affairs - Chanukah 2016

Whereas the Rosh Hashanah issue of Jewish Affairs concentrated on the South African Jewish community and its history, to mark the community’s 175th anniversary, this issue has a more general focus, with articles looking at aspects of, amongst other themes, Diaspora Jewish history, Israel and the Holocaust. Veteran contributor Bernard Katz adds a new instalment to his “A Brief Journey through….” series of skilfully crafted potted histories of major European Jewish communities, this time looking at the Jews of France. The stirring, and little-known story of the formation of specifically Jewish military units to fight the Nazis is recounted by Barbara Rigden’s Rabbi B M Casper and the formation of the Jewish Infantry Brigade in World War II. Honey Gluckman  tackles the broader subject of Judaism and modern science, looking what many see as being a growing congruence between modern-day scientific discoveries and traditional Jewish teachings.  

There remain several items of South African Jewish interest, however. They include Philip Krawitz’ engaging overview of leading Jewish businessmen, who combined economic success equally with impressive philanthropic efforts, Karen Marshal’s appreciation of her late sister, the eminent sculptress Naomi Jacobson, and the first part of Stuart Buxbaum’s life of his uncle, Dr Hartwig Buxbaum. The latter deals with Buxbaum’s early life in pre-World War II Germany, and the sombre circumstances that compelled him and other close family members to flee their homeland and settle in South Africa. Zita Nurock’s short story ‘Holocaust Echoes’ deals with the lingering legacy of the Shoah. 

The book reviews primarily deal with items of South African Jewish interest, including Ralph Zulman’s appraisal of a newly-released biography of iconic radio personality John Berks. New poetry is contributed by Charlotte Cohen, Pamela Heller-Stern and Rodney Mazinter.  

Eugene Delacroix’s famous 19th Century painting of a Jewish wedding in Morocco was chosen as this issue’s front-cover image because of its relevance to the article ‘The Farhud vs the Nakhba’ by former Israeli diplomat Zvi Gabay. The article describes the still little-known saga of how the de facto ethnic cleansing of Jewish communities in Arab-speaking countries that took place in response to the Zionist movement, particularly after the birth of the State of Israel. Also on an Israel theme, Rodney Mazinter provides a useful summary of Benjamin Pogrund’s important study, Drawing Fire: Investigating the Accusations of Apartheid in Israel. 

On behalf of the editorial board of Jewish Affairs, I wish all our readers a productive, and safe, December break.

David Saks, Editor

Recent Articles

No basis for Israel-apartheid analogy

Confronted with the charge that Israel is equivalent to Apartheid South Africa, it is tempting simply to retort that it is probably the only country in the Middle East that is not an apartheid state. One could further make an ostensibly compelling case as to why this is so. Take the example of Iran, where the only non-Muslims allowed to become Members of Parliament are those elected by their respective communities to the five seats reserved for religious minorities. Does this not call to mind the separate seats for ‘Bantu’ and ‘Coloured’ representatives elected on separate voters’ rolls in the apartheid parliament? In Yemen, there reportedly remain restrictions on Jews with regard to places of residence - Group Areas Act?

Campaign spurs antisemitic actions

At the opening of this year’s “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), former President Kgalema Motlanthe warned the BDS organisers of the event against allowing antisemitism to creep into their campaign: “Antisemitic actions couched in the language of human rights, and disguised by its discourse cannot be countenanced. Such actions not only undermine the humanity of a people, and entrench a painful history, but also serve to undermine our commitment to principled and moral action. It is crucial that the struggle for human rights and an end to oppression be absolutely severed from such religious intolerance and bigotry.”