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.
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.
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.
In January 1997, as chairman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, I was sent to London to take part in one of the most important meetings of the post-Holocaust era. After eighteen months of tortuous and often secret negotiations that occasionally flared up into much bitterness, the Swiss government had finally agreed to the establishment of a “Holocaust Memorial Fund”, the purpose of which would be to compensate Holocaust victims and their families and ensure that there was full transparency regarding these distributions.
Coinciding with South Africa’s Women’s Month, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies recently hosted a delegation from the Israeli peace movement ‘Women Wage Peace’. Consisting of two Jewish, one Christian Arab and a Muslim Arab woman, the delegation engaged with government, civil society, academia, business, young people and the media, sharing their important messaging of peace-building through dialogue.
On 16 June 2019, a new memorial for the victims of the massacre that took place near Birzai, Lithuania, was unveiled. Located in the Astravas Grove in the Pakamponys forest four kilometres outside the town, it is the third memorial in Lithuania to bear the names of the victims at the massacre site.
“The ten fateful years between 1939 and 1948 changed the Jewish people and the course of Jewish history (M E Katz)”
It was during this disruptive, destructive and chaotic decade for European Jewry that, in a historical contradiction, there was a flowering of creative and brave leadership in the South African Jewish community. To quote Katz again, “The instrument that emerged to meet the educational needs of Jewish group life in the open society of the post war western world was the Jewish day school”.
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.