Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday wished South Africa’s Jewish community a happy Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

“On 24 September [Wednesday], Heritage Day, the Jewish community will be gathering in their homes and synagogues to usher in Rosh Hashanah,” Zuma said in a statement.

“It is a time both of solemn introspection and joyous renewal, of looking back and learning from the year that has passed while celebrating and gathering strength for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

“We commend our Jewish citizens for continuing to foster and live by their age-old traditions whilst at the same time fully identifying with and contributing in multiple ways to the building of our young democracy.”

Zuma said it was fitting that Rosh Hashanah commenced on the evening of Heritage Day, the public holiday through which South Africans celebrated their cultural diversity in a spirit of friendship and unity.

“Ours is a country where the different backgrounds – religious, cultural, linguistic or otherwise – are not merely tolerated but wholeheartedly affirmed,” the president said.

“We wish our Jewish citizens well over the Fast and may all have a successful New Year.”



In his meeting with the leadership of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) last week, President Jacob Zuma reiterated his government’s support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, and further saw a role for South Africa to play in bringing this about.

The SAJBD sees itself as partners with Government and the ANC in helping to promote peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. We therefore feel extremely disappointed by the ANC’s recent call for a boycott against Israel. This will not result in bringing about peace to the region but will only cause polarisation and division within our own society.

In reality the main target of this boycott is South African Jewry.  We have already seen how the importation of the Middle East conflict into this country by anti-Israel agitators has resulted in hostility and intimidation, including threats of violence to our community.

Some of those expressing such views, moreover, have come from the ranks of the ruling party, and even more frequently from its alliance partners. When the world’s only Jewish majority state is singled out for one-sided condemnation and punitive action over and above every other nation in the world, it inevitably fosters a culture of hostility towards Jews in general.

The ANC’s call for a boycott further undermines our Government’s encouraging attempts to play a role in the peace process, something it is pursuing through their Middle East envoys.

This notwithstanding, the SAJBD remains committed to supporting a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict, and will not be cowed by those, whether within the ANC or elsewhere in this country who wish to deny the Jewish community its right to identify with the Jewish homeland.  We therefore call on the ANC to play a constructive rather than destructive role in helping to realise our common goal of a sustainable peace in the Middle East.



Yesterday evening, the leadership of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) met with President Jacob Zuma and members of his Cabinet at his Mahlamba Ndlopfu Residence in Pretoria. The SAJBD briefed the President on the sharp rise in antisemitic activity in South Africa, including threats and intimidation against the Jewish community and its leadership. The Israeli-Palestinian question and ways in which South Africa could assist the parties in reaching a long-term peace settlement was also discussed.

In the course of the meeting, President Zuma rejected unequivocally all forms of antisemitism and intolerance, and stressed that his government remained committed to combating such prejudice. He further emphasised the need for there to be harmony between people of different backgrounds and opinions in South Africa.

On the Palestinian-Israeli question, both the President and the SAJBD expressed their support for the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peaceful co-existence and reiterated South Africa’s willingness to support all sides to find a solution.

The SAJBD welcomes President Zuma’s firm assurances that his government will not accept antisemitic bigotry and intimidation, and fully endorses his belief in the importance of maintaining harmony between South Africans of diverse backgrounds.

The SAJBD also endorsed the government’s NDP programme and pledged the assistance of the Jewish community in its implementation.

The meeting took place in a very warm and constructive atmosphere, and the two parties have agreed to meet in the near future to take the discussions further.

President Zuma was accompanied by the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Ministers in the Presidency, Mr Jeff Radebe and Ms Susan Shabangu and DG in the Presidency Dr Cassius Lubisi. The SAJBD delegation was led by Zev Krengel (President) and Mary Kluk (National Chairman) and included Jeff Katz, Raymond Goss, Eric Marx and Wendy Kahn from the SAJBD and Jonathan Silke and Ben Swartz from the SAZF.



Sep 19, 2014 at 07:43 AM




President Jacob has this evening, 18 September 2014, met with the leadership of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies at his Mahlamba Ndlopfu Residence in Pretoria.

The President was accompanied by the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and the Ministers in the Presidency, Mr Jeff Radebe and Ms Susan Shabangu.

The SAJBD delegation was led by its President, Mr Zev Krengel.

The meeting discussed issues affecting the South African Jewish community as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The SAJBD raised sharply their concern about anti-Semitic statements that have been made recently in the country.

President Zuma emphasised government’s abhorrence of anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance.

On the Palestinian-Israeli question, the President expressed unequivocal support for the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peaceful co-existence and reiterated South Africa’s willingness to support all sides to find a solution.

The SAJBD also reiterated their support for the two-state policy and emphasised the willingness of the SA Jewry to support government in the quest for solutions in the Middle East.

President Zuma acknowledged the important role played by the Jewish community in the struggle against apartheid and the transition to democracy.

The meeting agreed that Government and the SAJBD would have ongoing dialogue to promote understanding and cooperation. The two parties will meet again soon to take the discussions forward.

Enquiries: Mac Maharaj on 079 879 3203 or
Issued by the Presidency



Wendy Kahn writes on the group’s bullying protest outside of the SAJBD Gauteng’s twenty years of democracy conference Celebrating SA democracy free of Intimidation In the early days of our young democracy, South Africans embraced the image of the rainbow – the beautiful spectrum of colours that would stand together celebrating the diversity of their fledgling nation.

We were so proud of our young democracy, one that celebrated differences, and respected them. Every South African’s right to his or her own beliefs, values and affiliations were a cornerstone of the new nation. We pledged ourselves to the principles of freedom of speech providing every South African with the right to express themselves without fear or prejudice.

The Bill of Rights in our internationally acclaimed constitution enshrined “the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of dignity, equality and freedom”. It furthermore guaranteed Freedom of religion, belief and opinion in section 15, Freedom of Expression in section 16 and Freedom of association in section 18.

Yet these pivotal principles of our democracy were forgotten yesterday when a protest orchestrated by BDS SA descended on the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng Conference.

Gauteng Jewry was due to gather on Sunday for its biennial conference with the theme celebrating South Africa’s 20 years of Freedom. The Jewish community along with our fellow South African citizens rejoices in the miracle of our nation, and its members likewise wanted to remember the struggle for our young democracy, to commemorate its achievements and focus on the future.

However BDS SA and the factions within the ANCYL chose to cynically protest this gathering of Jewish South Africans, as well as smearing the Jewish community with insults. Based on their disagreeing with our community’s connection to Israel, they decided to demonstrate against our celebration of this important 20 year milestone. This is something altogether new in our country. Since when do we try and intimidate fellow South African citizens from participating in their country’s heritage? Who gives anyone the right to determine who can and cannot rejoice in the principles of democracy?

The foundations of this country are built on respect and tolerance. These were certainly not in evidence yesterday. Tweeted Braam Hanekom, “The ANC should waste not time speaking to the @sajbd they are racist, Zionist, Islamophobic, supporters of murdering Palestinian children”. Suggested Lwazi Samya, “Maybe the ANCYL should mobilise against the Jewish Board of Deputies”. Zunaid Seedat tells us to, “vat jou goede en voetsek!” while Nazeer Guman comments, “Zionism threatens true freedom in SA: Ban it!!!” These kind of inflammatory and provocative emails run diametrically counter to what our democratic society is all about.

So far as the Middle East issue is concerned, the SAJBD has frequently stated its stance on the Palestinian and Israeli situation, calling for a negotiated settlement resulting in two countries for two nations living side by side with secure borders. This is in line with our government’s stance which was reiterated frequently through the recent war.

I don’t ask BDS SA to hold by these views, knowing that their belief is that Israel should not exist at all. But what I do ask is that they have enough respect for their fellow South African citizens to not allow the conflict in the Middle East to jeopardize the relations between fellow South Africans. I ask that the dignity and respect enshrined in our constitution be upheld and that the dreadful intimidation that we have seen in the past weeks, culminating in Sunday events, be curbed.

During a concert by an Israeli artist on Wits Campus last year BDS protesters chanted dubula e juda – ‘Shoot the Jew’. BDS SA Coordinator Mohammed Desai justified the singing in an interview, “Just like you would say kill the Boer at funeral during the eighties it wasn’t about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying with the apartheid regime”. According to Desai, “The whole idea anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion”.

Unfortunately we are now regularly seeing anti-Israel sentiment crossing the line into overtly anti-Jewish rhetoric. Over the past 2 months we have seen antisemitism statistics rise in SA from 52 for the entire 2013 to 116 for the 7 weeks over the Gaza war. Jewish South Africans were targeted intimidated and threatened by those holding different views about that conflict.

While we recognise the right to protest about international conflict like this one, when this deteriorates into hate speech and intimidation this crosses the line.

MEC Lusufi, in his very warm address at the conference, acknowledged that “the Jewish community enjoy a special place in the struggle for democracy and freedom”. He also spoke of the need for peace and reconciliation in order to build on these achievements and overcome the country’s problems. How unfortunate it was that the protesters outside could not hear this pivotal message. Had they done so, they may have realized that threatening their fellow South Africans and forbidding them a place in our democracy is not conducive to building a healthy society.

South Africa is a country for all. It is a country where diversity is celebrated and alternate views respected. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies will continue to celebrate our democracy as proud and involved South African citizens. We will not be intimidated by those who do not represent the values of our constitution and our Bill of Rights, but seek instead to silence and sideline those who do not share their views.


Wendy Kahn is the National Director of the SAJBD


Jewish Affairs Rosh Hashana Special focus on 20 years democracy

17 September 2014

We are pleased to report that the latest (Rosh Hashanah, 2014) issue of Jewish Affairs has now appeared. The special focus of this issue is on this year’s 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa and how it has affected, and been influenced by, the Jewish community. The editor’s historical overview of the transition years […]

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Jewish community extends condolences to Nigeria on the Church Disaster

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At the time of writing, I am participating in the Governing Board meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC)  in Berlin. The intention of hosting the meeting in Berlin was to show solidarity with the local Jewish community, which is experiencing a renewed upsurge of hatred against them. We began our visit to Berlin by […]

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Positive vibe at SAJBD conference

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Despite a strong focus on the upsurge of antisemitism as a result of the Gaza conflict and the presence of anti-Israel demonstrators outside the venue, Sunday’s SAJBD Gauteng Council conference, with its theme of South African Jewry twenty years into democracy, had a largely positive focus. Speakers, including Michael Katz and Colin Coleman, emphasised how […]

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Mary Kluk and SAJBD condemn vicious Holocaust blog

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One of the most objectionable recurring themes in the flood of anti-Israel invective provoked by the Gaza conflict was the ready comparisons made between Israel’s actions and the crimes of the Nazis. It goes without saying that those resorting to such terminology were not attempting to present a reasoned, fact-based argument; rather, the aim was […]

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SAJBD Conference 2014 Celebrating 20 Years of Freedom

10 September 2014

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, and Dr Zweli Mkhize, ANC Treasurer General, will be amongst those participating in the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng Council, to be held this Sunday, 14 September, at Investec from 14h30 – 15h15. The focus of the conference will be to celebrate the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy, reflect […]

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