Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 27.6.19

This week, I would like to focus on our National Director Wendy Kahn’s recent participation in two very important international gatherings in Bucharest, Romania, namely the International Meeting of Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism and the annual World Jewish Congress National Community Directors' Forum.

At the Special Envoys meeting, presentations were made by a range of senior political and communal leaders who are at the very forefront of combating antisemitism worldwide. They included Elan Carr, United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and Anna Bokshitskaya, Executive Director Russian Jewish Congress. On one level, it is reassuring to see how seriously governments across Europe and further afield are taking the threat of antisemitism and the kind of practical measures that are being implemented to protect their Jewish communities. On the other hand, it is deeply sobering that 75 after the Holocaust, hatred against Jews has increased to such an extent as to necessitate these responses.

The meeting included an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community Centre in Buenos Aires. Considered to be the worst terrorist attack against Jews in the post-World War II era, the AMIA atrocity claimed 85 lives, and fundamentally changed the way Jewish communities in the Diaspora operate. Today, unfortunately, we have had to a great extent to rely upon ourselves to provide adequate security for our communal events and installations. Indeed, our own Community Security Organisation was formed on the initiative of the SAJBD soon after the AMIA attack.

At the Directors’ Forum, senior communal professionals from over fifty countries came together to share experiences and discuss common challenges. Two of the issues discussed at length were the dire situation of the Jewish community in crisis-ridden Venezuela and the ongoing problem of antisemitism within the UK’s Labour Party. Taking part in forums like this soon makes one realize that Jewish communities everywhere have their own unique challenges to deal with, which we always need to bear in mind when dealing with our own. We can also take heart from the many sincere and committed non-Jewish opponents of anti-Semitism who are today fighting that scourge alongside us. Lord Kevin Shinkwin, whom we were honoured to bring out to South Africa earlier this year to speak at Yom Hashoah and in various other human rights forums is one of them. Speaking in a debate on antisemitism in the House of Lords last week, Lord Shinkwin paid generous tribute to the SAJBD “for the wonderful work that its national director Wendy Kahn and her colleagues do to promote the Jewish community and its continuing and significant contribution to South Africa

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