Positioning Statement

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.   

CAN project - Ikageng and Illovo

Illovo CAN Ikageng (together with a small group in Glenhazel and Westcliff) with the assistance of Selpal in aiding with the distribution of food and hygiene goods - are making a huge difference to the lives of the community in Soweto supported by Ikageng. Our CAN started around 20th April and to date have provided around 15 000 meals.


SAJBD and the Angel Network deliver food to those in need

Last week Nobody in Limpopo got enough food to survive for the next 21 days. This weekend was the turn of a number of other villages in the Giyani District.

Thanks to the Save a Soul project, funded by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), nobody will go hungry in Nobody for the next three weeks.

Dial a Granny

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Melrose 2 CAN project

In 2016 a group of young South African women took part in a Women’s Renaissance Programme in Israel. They included Anne Zwarenstein, on whose initiative the group recently came together once more to form the founding core membership of the Melrose 2 CAN. Since then, their numbers have been augmented by other residents of Anne’s street, Victoria Avenue, Melrose, as well as adjoining streets in the suburb.

Assisting the most vulnerable

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CAN project - Waverley 2 Kliptown together with Melrose

Even prior to the Covid-19 lockdown Caron-Leah Resnick, together with Ilan Ossendryver, has over the last few years been involved in upliftment projects in the Kliptown area of western Johannesburg. With lockdown conditions having greatly exacerbated the already dire living conditions in Kliptown, she now coordinates the efforts of the Waverley 2 Kliptown CAN, which is registered with Gauteng Together and the Angel Network to provide food to destitute families living there. Waverley 2 is collaborating with the Melrose CAN headed up by Howard Sackstein, which has passed on to it the food donations they have received for distribution to Kliptown families. Melrose is concentrating on food donations while Waverley receives mainly monetary donations.

CAN project - Momentum

Elaine Kotton heads up a second CAN whose membership largely comprises participants in the annual Women’s Renaissance Programme in Israel (the other is the Melrose 2 CAN, headed by Anne Zwarenstein). Today, the programme goes under the name of Momentum, and Elaine was part of the 2019 group. After consultation with Robyn Smookler and the Angel Network’s Glynne Wolman, it was decided to support the Siyathanda Stimulation Centre in Benoni as the CAN’s core project.

Can project - Pretoria SAJBD & UJW

Just as many Jewish community members in Johannesburg have involved themselves in various hunger relief initiatives in and around the city, so has Pretoria Jewry thrown its weight behind a range of crucial humanitarian projects in the greater Pretoria area. The work is being spearheaded by the Pretoria branch of the Union of Jewish Women, with the support of the Pretoria Council – SAJBD. The UJW is represented on the Council and functions as its social outreach arm. Currently, its representative is Ciska Lewis, who has been at the heart of the Covid-19 relief effort.

Eric Marx, Chartered Accountant, Senior Partner of Marx Gore, on COVID-19 Financial Relief.

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“Lockdown relaxation…caution” - Prof Schoub

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Prof Schoub with a sober message for SA Jewry

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Prof Schoub speaks about the logic behind the lockdown.

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Dr Israel ‘Boomie’ Abramowitz has passed away at the age of 91

Dr Israel ‘Boomie’ Abramowitz, who passed away this week in Perth, Australia at the age of 91, was a true gentleman from the old school of Jewish communal leadership in South Africa. In the course of a long and distinguished communal career, he can truly be said to have epitomised the particular strengths that have made the South African Jewish community so respected a component of global Jewry. All this he achieved while simultaneously pursuing his career as an eminent vascular surgeon.

Speaking out for inclusivity, integration

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 27.9.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 30.8.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 16.8.19

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.

Yanir Grindler

Women can bring peace to Middle East conflict

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.

Above Board 8.8.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 2.8.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 25.7.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 19.7.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 27.6.19

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.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 11.7.19

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.

Lord Shinkwin at Yom Hashoah 2019

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RACISM: DO THE DUCK TEST

Zev Krengel writes in the Sunday Independent. His piece is a response to Zane Dangor who questioned whether Jewish leadership were using criticism of Israel to silence debate. In this article Krengel applies the “Duck test” as an indication of antisemitism.

Yanir Grindler

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.

The Great Debate #MakeUsCount

Join in this year’s Great Debate and engage with leaders from five political parties as they discuss issues pertinent to the community. Make your voice heard by sending your questions to yanir@sajbd.org or tweet your questions using #MakeUsCount.

ANC TODAY Human Rights Day column

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.

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.