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.   

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 4.10.19

Encouraging progress for new Country Communities body

Earlier this year, it was decided to establish a new organisation, called the Small Jewish Communities Association (SJCA) to take over the work of the SAJBD’s Country Communities Department from the beginning of next year. At a meeting of trustees representing some of the smaller communities from various provinces on Sunday, encouraging progress was made in getting the SJCA up and running.

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.

Charisse Zeifert

The power of one to effect change for the many

I found a news article in The Star newspaper last week particularly eye-catching. It related how 21-year-old Antoinette Nthabiseng Thabapelo has initiated a programme, Adopt a Son. Her aim is to change the patriarchal narrative around boys in her community of Bekkersdal, west of Joburg.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 20.9.19

Last week, proponents of an academic boycott against Israel at UCT, contrived (in defiance of university regulations) to send a statement entitled ‘South African Jews support the Academic Boycott of Israeli Universities Enabling the Occupation’ to all members of the UCT Senate.

Dishonest campaign by UCT boycott lobby 18.9.19

In a thoroughly duplicitous and misleading statement issued on Friday, a small Jewish fringe group sought to create the impression that support for an academic boycott against Israel is a view that enjoys significant support in the South African Jewish community. They were commenting ahead of a UCT Senate meeting where a boycott of Israeli Universities was to be discussed.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 13.9.19

Jewish Achievers Awards point the way forward

Coming as it did at the end of a traumatic week for this country, this year’s SA Jewish Achievers Awards was a heartening demonstration of how much people from across the age and gender spectrum in our community are managing to accomplish.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 6.9.19

Xenophobic violence against foreign nationals remains a serious problem in South Africa. Over the past decade the Board, with the ready assistance of the Jewish community as a whole, has on a number of occasions involved itself in relief efforts on behalf of victims of such unrest.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 23.8.19

Meeting with Dirco

This week, a delegation comprising representatives of the SAJBD and SAZF met with Minister Naledi Pandor at the offices of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The discussion revolved around advancing peacebuilding between Israelis and Palestinians, and was very cordial and constructive.

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

Watch now

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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. 

David Saks

THE REAL PROBLEM WITH IQBAL JASSAT’S LATEST SCREED

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.

Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich Censured for Threatening Jewish Community

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”.  

Charisse Zeifert

Charisse Zeifert writes for Saturday Citizen

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)

Jewish Affairs Rosh Hashanah 2018

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.   

SAJBD pays tribute to Veronica Sobukwe

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.

Wendy Kahn

Our Madiba Moment of Reconciliation

On Mandela Day last week, sandwiches were made and handed out, blankets knitted and distributed and speeches given by impressive and inspiring world leaders. It is fitting then, that, on that auspicious day, I experienced what I believe was a profound ‘Mandela moment’, one that exemplified the Madiba values and spirit.