For a relatively small community, South African Jewry has always prided itself on punching above its weight, in the international as well as the local context. In both respects, last week was an especially noteworthy one. On the international front, three members of the SAJBD delegation featured on the programme of the World Jewish Congress meeting in Buenos Aires. National President Mary Kluk presented one of the resolutions during the plenary, Marc Pozniak spoke in his capacity of Chairman of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps and African Jewish Congress President Ann Harris chaired an AJC meeting attended by representative of eight affiliated countries.
Simultaneously Alana Baranov, who is both a member of the Board’s professional team and a Vice-President of the Council for KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, was in Geneva, making representations to the United Nations Human Rights Council on behalf of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps.
Amongst other issues, Alana addressed questions relating to minority communities, countering violent extremism and the incompatibility between democracy and racism.
On the local front, as described in more detail elsewhere in this issue , the Board, in close partnership with SAUJS and the Jewish day schools, was involved in a range of anti-racism and community building initiatives in the lead-up to Human Rights Day. Our involvement was in itself of much importance to our community, particularly our youth. As has been stressed so often in this column, by myself and by my predecessors, it is incumbent on us to combine addressing our own needs as a Jewish community with participating in the affairs of the greater South African society.
As we know, the continued prevalence of racism and related intolerance in our society, which is doing so much to undermine the culture of national unity, is one of the most pressing challenges South Africa faces. Here, South African Jewry is already playing a useful role, from the outstanding work done by the SA Holocaust & Genocide Centre through to the outreach activities carried out by our students, schools, communal organisations and the SAJBD itself.
It has been very encouraging of late to see how much these efforts are appreciated by our counterparts, and how today the Board is regarded as being at the forefront of the debate on how to resolve these problems. The experience we have in dealing with issues of antisemitism, racism and discrimination and the institutions we have worked with over the years to address them means that we are well positioned to play a constructive part on the national stage.