Bertie Lubner

When Philip Krawitz, himself a highly regarded businessman, philanthropist and Jewish communal leader, was asked recently to give a talk on the part played by Jews in building the South African economy, he decided to focus on those who in addition to economic success made significant contributions in the philanthropic field. Some great, indeed legendary names came up in his address, people who truly changed the country for the better and of whom our community was justly proud.  Almost without exception, moreover, these business magnates generously supported Jewish causes, whether relating to local needs or to Israel.

Earlier this week, we were greatly saddened by the passing of someone who in the course of a long and varied life epitomised - to an extent rarely equalled - someone who achieved hugely in all three of these fields. Bertie Lubner was an outstandingly successful businessman who devoted just as much, if not more, passion and effort to serving his community, country and beloved State of Israel. What was so remarkable about him, and which his fellow SAJBD members on our Gauteng Council and NEC found so inspiring, was that the word 'enough' was not in his vocabulary. Despite all he had achieved - even listing the highlights here would take up too much space - Bertie was always looking to do more.  This was as true in his final months, when his health was failing, as it was in his younger, more robust days. 

At our National Conference last year, Bertie was presented with the prestigious Eric Samson Mendel Kaplan Communal Service Award. It was only the latest in a long string of public honours he had received over the previous quarter-century and more, and in truth he could just as easily have been given it when the SAJBD first instituted the award back in 2003. What spoke volumes was the reaction of the capacity crowd when the award was announced. In the outbreak of spontaneous cheering and rhythmic clapping - a reaction far from typical  of South African Jews, noted for being restrained and undemonstrative in their public behaviour - we saw how greatly esteemed was the name of Bertie Lubner in our community. And just as importantly, Bertie saw it too. We will miss him greatly, but can take at least some comfort from the thought that the legacy he left will benefit ourselves, our country and the people of Israel for generations to come.

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