Today, world leaders and Holocaust survivors will be among those gathering at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 27 January 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army. Between 1940 and 1945, at least 1.3 million people, mostly Jews, were deported to Auschwitz, and of these, over 1.1 million were murdered.
The World Jewish Congress, together with the Steven Spielberg Shoah Foundation, has invited one hundred Auschwitz survivors from around the world to participate in this historic remembrance ceremony. They include South African Masha Shainberg, who will be accompanied by her daughter. She will join with other survivors and world leaders at this historic event.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated by the UN General Assembly on 1 November 2005. It commemorates the victims of Nazi genocide during World War II, including an estimated 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies and many thousands of mentally and physically disabled people and 9000 homosexual men.
Dear Community Member
Along with so many of our fellow South Africans, the Jewish community has been shocked and angered by the recent attacks against foreign nationals and their property in Gauteng. Scores of innocent people who came to our country in the hope of bettering their lot have been victimised and deprived of their livelihoods simply because they were born elsewhere. Despite certain claims that the violence and looting was essentially criminally motivated, the reality is that only businesses owned by foreign nationals were targeted. For that reason, such actions can only be regarded as hate crimes based on nationality.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has condemned these repugnant attacks, while also calling on the authorities to prosecute those responsible and do all they can to ensure the safety of those who have suffered.
As a result of this xenophobic persecution, many people have been robbed of their livelihoods and now find themselves destitute. The SAJBD therefore appeals to the Jewish community to contribute to a fund it is setting up to help ease their plight and assist them in getting back on their feet. The Jewish community responded very generously to the SAJBD’s appeal during the 2008 xenophobia crisis. We hope very much that its members will respond with similar generosity this time round so that we, as a community, can do our part in assisting the victims of the latest outbreak of xenophobic violence.
|Donations for Xenophobia Relief:
Account name: SA Jewish Board of Deputies
Bank: Standard Bank Killarney
Account number: 200305190
Reference: Your name+Xenophobia
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Wendy Kahn speaks with SABC’s Newsroom Talk. Watch the clip here.
Wendy Kahn debates Mohammed Desai on the issue of Leila Khaled on Newsroom on 22 January. View the clip here.
Over the past week, the Board continued to be much involved in responding to the imminent visit of Leila Khaled to South Africa as a guest of BDS-SA. In a variety of media forums (including National Director Wendy Kahn’s being interviewed by SABC TV news), we have consistently reiterated why we find the bringing out of this individual to be so abhorrent, and why South Africans as a whole should share this view.
BDS has sought to promote Khaled as a heroic freedom fighter in the mould of Nelson Mandela whom South Africans should admire and look up to. A substantial part of what we have done is to systematically explode that obnoxious conception by informing the public exactly who she is, what she has done and what her affiliations continue to be. Khaled is a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Over nearly five decades, this organization has systematically aimed at harming civilians as a matter of strategy. Recent atrocities carried out by the organization include the murder of the Fogel family in 2011 and last year’s the hacking to death of four Rabbis in a Har Nof synagogue. Khaled herself is best known for having hijacked a US airline and thereafter attempting unsuccessfully to hijack an Israeli one.
While it has been necessary to expose the real Layla Khaled, our main concern has been to deal with why BDS-SA invited her in the first place. What does it say about the motives of this group that it should not only have selected such an individual to act as the poster girl for its campaigns but have overtly played up her terrorist affiliations as a publicity tactic? The Khaled invitation has simply reconfirmed our worst fears about what BDS is all about. It is not a human rights lobby, nor does it really wish to help to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, in furthering its extremist agenda, it fosters hatred, division and confrontation in our society. One hope that as a result of its latest propaganda stunt, particularly in its having come at a time of heightened concerns about terrorism the world over, the penny will begin to drop even amongst those who previously might have been inclined to support the organisation.
As South Africa’s representative on the World Jewish Congress executive, I am involved in ongoing discussions on current security threats facing global Jewry. On the local front, we likewise need to constantly maintain a high level of vigilance. Here, the CSO plays a crucial role, and as always, its members – whether professionals or volunteers – carry out its mission with unfailing dedication and professionalism. We thank all those who devote so much time and effort to ensuring our safety, and urge community members to support them in every way that they can.
The new school term has resumed, which with the great majority of Jewish school-goers means attending one or other of the many Jewish day schools around the country. I cannot emphasise enough how crucial it is to provide a sound Jewish education if we are to continue to have a thriving community in the future. Here, we can proudly say that the standard is not merely good, but excellent. Nor does the provision of a strong Judaic component in the syllabus come at the expense of secular learning. On the contrary, the consistently outstanding matric results in all our schools show that it is possible to have the best of both worlds. I congratulate our recent successful crop of matriculants and wish our current learners all success in the year ahead.
- Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00.