The SAJBD is the umbrella representative spokesbody and civil rights lobby of the SA Jewish community. It promotes the safety and welfare of South African Jewry, including combating antisemitism in all its forms, and builds bridges of friendship and understanding between Jews and the broader South African population.
“Mir zaynen do!”(We are here!) The defiant concluding words of the Partisan Song constitute a ringing declaration by the Jewish people that despite the unspeakable crimes of those seeking their destruction, Am Yisrael Chai - the Nation of Israel still lives. They remind us that when remembering those whose lives were so cruelly and unjustly extinguished, we are also testifying that for all the harm they were able to inflict on us, our enemies failed in their aim of eradicating the Jewish people altogether.
The SAJBD: Always open for business
While the Board’s work naturally slows down over the December break, it never stops altogether. There are always new issues that arise that cannot be put off but have to be dealt with there and then. These can range from renewed upsurges of violence in the Middle East, incidents of antisemitism and even natural disasters. Following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, for example, we became extensively involved in assisting members of our community along with other South Africans caught up in the tragedy.
The Jewish community's political behaviour during the apartheid years has long been the subject of vociferous debate. 25 years after South Africa's transition to democracy, Jewish Affairs editor David Saks revisits the issue.
Inspired by the South African Jewish community
Over the past few weeks, a new movement has emerged on social media: #ImStaying – with almost 800 000 members at this point. The Facebook Page provides daily inspiring and uplifting stories of fellow South Africans who have experienced the special and positive aspects of life in our country. I have my own #IMStaying story which I am choosing to share on this platform.
SAJBD KZN Council President Jeremy Droyman and Council member Mike Caminsky met with the editor of the Sunday Tribune, Mr Sandile Mdadane, this morning to discuss the misleading street poster and newspaper headline that appeared in that paper earlier this week. The front-page read, “Rabbi lures youth to lair”. Mr Droyman shared that Mr Mdadane was extremely warm and receptive. He apologised for the error and will formally do so in print in the upcoming edition. He also offered to publish the SAJBD KZN Council letter of concern expressing the need for sensitivity when dealing with different religions. Please see letter below. Mr Droyman commented that he looked forward to further positive engagements with the Sunday Tribune.
End of the line for UCT Israel boycott
Last week the door was finally closed on long-running efforts by anti-Israel pressure groups to get the University of Cape Town to impose a boycott against its Israeli counterparts. In March this year, the UCT Senate went so far as to pass a resolution to boycott Israeli universities deemed to be ‘enabling’ Israeli rights violations
Last week the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced the results of a survey it had conducted on attitudes toward Jews in 18 countries, including South Africa. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has analysed the report, considering its finding against its own research data, as well as that of other organisations such as the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies is saddened by the passing earlier today of Sir Donald Gordon. For his phenomenal achievements in both the business and philanthropic fields, Donald Gordon was truly a living legend. As a business leader who founded the global insurance giant Liberty International, he was far-sighted, bold and innovative; as a philanthropist, his unstintingly generosity led to the establishment of a range of outstanding institutions and foundations that have benefited countless people and numerous worthy causes the world over
This Friday, the UCT Senate will once again meet to discuss the UCT Academic Freedom Committee (AFC) motion to impose an academic boycott against Israel. This is an initiative of the Palestine Solidarity Forum at UCT and is linked with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement.
On Sunday night, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) hosted its 50th national conference in Johannesburg. Held every two years, these gatherings are an opportunity for the community to connect to honour members who had done so much either communally or for the greater South Africa – like the late Johnny Clegg, who we honoured this year – but also to take stock of where we are.
People tend to be suspicious of change. As the thinking goes, if things have worked well enough in the past, why not carry on as before? On the other hand, circumstances inevitably do change, and when this reaches a point when the old ways of doing things are no longer sufficiently efficient and/or cost effective, then one is equally inevitably required to adapt to the new realities in order to remain sustainable.
Any visit to the Constitutional Court is a stirring experience. Once used as a prison for political activists, amongst them M K Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, it today serves as a critical vehicle for safe-guarding the fundamental human rights and freedoms on which our post-apartheid society is founded.
Welcome to our American visitors
We had hardly had a chance to (metaphorically) catch our breath after the whirlwind visit of our Women Wage Peace guests from Israel when it was time for us to welcome another prestigious delegation to South Africa, this time from the American Jewish Committee (AJC). One of the world’s most effective Jewish advocacy organisations, the AJC has a long and proud history of building relationships with different religious and ethnic communities and world leaders.
To create lasting peace, women’s voices are critical. Men alone won’t bring about peace and it’s about time that we all realise that. This is not just opinion - it’s in the numbers. From conflict prevention and conflict resolution to post-conflict reconciliation, studies have borne out that women’s meaningful participation in peace processes significantly increases the likelihood of a negotiated settlement lasting longer than 15 years.
Four remarkable Israeli women show the way forward
The main focus of the Board over the past several weeks has been preparing for the visit of a delegation from Women Wage Peace, an Israeli NGO that has brought tens of thousands of Israeli women from across the faith and political spectrum together in the common cause of working for peaceful co-existence between the different peoples in the region. Comprising two Jewish, one Muslim and one Christian women, the delegation has been brought out by the SAJBD in the lead-up to Women’s Day to share the lessons and experiences of this inspiring grassroots movement, while at the same time drawing lessons from South Africa’s own successful experiences in conflict resolution.
Turning back the tide of hate
South Africa is hardly the only democratic country that is grappling with problems of racism, xenophobia and other forms of bigotry. That much clearly emerged during a roundtable discussion on combating hate held under the auspices of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre this week. Participants included the Centre’s director Tali Nates, SAJBD National Vice-Chairman Prof Karen Milner and National Director Wendy Kahn, former German Minister of Justice Dr Däubler-Gmelin and Shanelle van der Berg representing the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). It was an engaging discussion, but also a sobering one. Throughout the free world, hate crimes are on the increase, with a strikingly high proportion of them - in Europe, North America and elsewhere – being motivated by antisemitism.
Best wishes to SAZF for their conference
The SAJBD and the SA Zionist Federation are often described as being ‘sister organizations’ (although, to take the sibling metaphor a bit further, the Federation is technically the Board’s elder brother, having been founded several years before). While the Board’s core mission is to ensure the safety and well-being of the local Jewish community while that of the Federation is to deal with issues relating to the community’s relationship with Israel, in essence the work of the two organisations is complementary. For that reason, we frequently work together, primarily when our right to identify as Zionists and support Israel is in any way threatened.
Preserving the heritage of SA Jewry
Last week, our National Director Wendy Kahn and Parliamentary Liaison officer Chaya Singer attended several budget speeches in Parliament, including for the Treasury and the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation, Public Enterprises and Home Affairs. It was encouraging to note that the comments by International Minister Naledi Pandor on the Israel-Palestine issue were measured and balanced, and that overall, the debate on the subject were much less vitriolic than in previous years. Hopefully, this will be the case on future occasions when the subject comes up for discussion.
At the time of writing, together with our National Vice-President Zev Krengel, I am in Israel, where we have participated in a number of high-level meetings aimed at providing updates on recent political developments in South Africa, sharing information pertaining to our own community and getting perspectives on the current political situation in Israel. This will form the basis of my next column.
Nahum Goldmann Fellow Programme nurtures Jewish leadership
The recently concluded Nahum Goldmann Fellowship Programme (NGFP), which this year was held in Israel, once again brought together a broad range of up-and-coming young Jewish leaders from around the world for an intensive period of Jewish learning, discussion and sharing of experiences and perspectives. As always, participants found it to be an extremely enriching and inspiring experience, particularly in the opportunities it provided for engaging with Jews from completely different backgrounds.
Yanir Grindler writes for the Daily Maverick "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex enough without the shouting."
Equating Zionism with racism is far too easy a way out of proper debate around the roots of the conflict in the Middle East, and Israel Apartheid Week serves to exacerbate rather than defuse the tensions. The time has come for rational debate in an attempt to find common ground between the two opposing sides, rather than slogan-shouting.
This year, Human Rights Day coincides with the Jewish festival of Purim. While the two events appear to have little in common, in actuality, there are numerous interesting parallels between them. The Purim narrative, based on events recorded in the Book of Esther, abounds with human rights themes.
Academic freedom should be embraced, defended and never be taken for granted. This was the consensus at a meeting between representatives from Stellenbosch University (SU) and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) at the University on Friday, 25 January 2019.
South African Jewry conveyed a rousing message of support to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his efforts to confront the legacy of corruption and state capture at last night’s SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Gauteng Council conference.
The SAJBD was heartened by an email we received from Mr Solly Hattia, a member of the Muslim community.
“My experiences living amongst a Jewish community. My first engagement with Jewish people began when the company I worked for merged with a Jewish family-owned-business and to whom I was then to report to as my new CEO. My first encounter with my new Boss, Ronnie Norwitz, was on a Friday when he came down to my office at around 12 looked at his watch and said “Solly aren't you going to be late for your Friday prayer?” Never before in all my years of working, had I ever had this courtesy from a boss! His other interesting comment on my return from the Mosque was all ways, "Friday's are good days ". Ronnie would always say this with the gesture of a clenched fist swinging his arm through the air as if he was going to hit someone. He always greeted me with a smile and a kind word. Braai days at work you would find him at my fire naturally.
At the biennial conference of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng Council next week, Gauteng Jewry will have the first opportunity of engaging directly with President Ramaphosa since his assumption of the presidency earlier this year. Rather than delivering the traditional keynote address, Mr Ramaphosa will be exchanging views with eminent business leader Stephen Koseff on challenges currently facing South Africa, what the Jewish community is (or could be) doing to help address them and how each sees the future of the country and its people. In other words, it is not about what this country should be doing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian, or any other foreign policy issue, but is framed as being a South African conversation between fellow South Africans on South African issues.
Join the SAJBD annual conference on 25 November at 17h15, as we celebrate Mandela’s Centenary with President Ramaphosa and the Nelson Mandela Centenary programme.
On 13 August 2014, then Western Cape Cosatu chairman Tony Ehrenreich posted a comment on Facebook calling for revenge attacks against the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and other “Zionist supporters” in retaliation for the deaths of Palestinian civilians. Amongst other inflammatory comments, he wrote, “The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish board of deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye”.
Have you heard the joke where a Jew, an Afrikaner and an Indian walk into a Shebeen? It sounds like the kind of “witty” yarn that EFF leader Julius Malema would spin. Oh, wait, actually, he has already told tales about different minorities – singling them out for abuse. Most recently, he “cleverly” managed to insult two minority groups at the same time, when he said: “There’s a group of white right-wingers (read Afrikaners) who are being trained by Jews in Pretoria to be snipers.” (sic)
We are pleased to announce that the Rosh Hashanah 2018 issue of Jewish Affairs has been posted on our website. The printed version will be sent to subscribers shortly. As always, we ask that you assist us in widening the reach of the journal by forwarding this message to anyone who may be interested.
In May this year, the State of Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary. To mark that memorable milestone, the Rosh Hashanah 2018 issue of Jewish Affairs is devoted almost entirely to the subject of Israel, and in particular to the noteworthy role that South African Jews played in its birth and early struggle for survival. The editorial board thanks all those who responded to its invitation to contribute their own memories and perspectives for this special JA issue.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies pays tribute to Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, and extends its condolences to the Sobukwe family on her passing. Mrs Sobukwe will always have an honoured place in South African history for her loyal, steadfast support for her legendary husband, the great Pan-Africanist leader Robert Sobukwe, during the struggle against apartheid.