Dear Jewish Affairs Subscriber

We are pleased to announce that the Rosh Hashanah 2015 issue of Jewish Affairs has now appeared, and is available online.

The issue comprises three main sections. The first, and largest, is “South African Jewry in World War II” which, to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, looks at various aspects of South African Jewish involvement in the conflict, including militarily, on the home front and the war’s immediate aftermath. There is a mix of original articles and reprints of past articles, particularly from The Judean, organ of the SA Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s League. Extensive use has been made of the SAJBD’s photographic archives in illustrating the various articles.

This is followed by a section on the early years of the State of Israel, including the role South African volunteers played in the nascent Israeli Air Force. The final section focuses on the foundations of post-apartheid South Africa, with reference to this year being the 60th anniversary of the ratification of the Freedom Charter.

Book reviews, poetry, an obituary for Jewish Affairs stalwart John Simon and readers’ letters make up the balance of the issue.

We hope that you will find much that is of interest in this enjoy this special Jewish Affairs issue, and hope that you will pass it on to those who might likewise enjoy it.

On behalf of the Editorial Board, I wish everyone a Shana Tova Umetuka.


David Saks



Click on the link below to view the Rosh Hashana Jewish Affairs:

Jewish Affairs Rosh Hashana 2015 



Dear Jewish Affairs readers

2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of both the end of World War II and the liberation of the remaining Nazi death camps in Europe. Accordingly, Jewish Affairs will feature various perspectives on these themes in the three issues this year.

The first 2015, Pesach, issue has now appeared and been uploaded onto this site. It includes Ann Harris’ report on her participating in a special commemorative ceremony held at Auschwitz on 27 January this year, marking to the day seventy years since the camp’s liberation by the Red Army. How a leading South African Jewish artist interprets the Holocaust legacy is a prominent theme in Ute Ben Yosef’s appraisal of the work of Abigail Sarah Bagraim.  A different perspective of the impact of Nazism in the arts field is provided by Gwynne Schrire, who writes on the persecution of German Jewish artists in the years leading up to the war and the connections some of them have with South Africa.

The eminent Jewish historian Dr Gabriel Sivan, a long-serving member of the JA editorial board, contributes a substantial monograph on the intriguing figure of Joachim Gans, believed to be the first practising Jew to live for a time in North America. His story is tied up with such famous events and personalities as Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, as well as the first British settlement in the United States. Articles with a South Africa focus comprise Veronica Belling’s account of writing the recent history of Cape Town’s Oranjia Jewish orphanage, David Sher’s tribute to the extraordinary philanthropist and Jewish communal leader, Samuel Sher, and a short story by Zita Nurok invoking how Jewish families and their black servants related to one another during the apartheid era. Finally, Maurice Skikne reflects on themes of mysticism and sexuality in the writings of I B Singer.

Book reviews look at an important new book on Reform Judaism in the US (by Bev May), a history of the Jews of South West Africa Namibia (Naomi Musiker), an important new Holocaust memoir (Marcia Leveson) and the autobiography of eminent local Judge Edwin Cameron (Ralph Zulman). New poetry and a reader’s letter complete the issue.

Wishing all our readers a Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach


David Saks



Click on the link below to view the Pesach Edition.


Jewish Affairs – Pesach 2015 – Updated


Kwara Kekana, spokeswoman for BDS celebrates the 10 year anniversary of BDS in her opinion piece in The Star 12/08/2015. What Ms Kekana chooses not to share is that the real outcome of their campaigns has been to foster a campaign of hatred against South African Jewry for their relationship with Israel.

In October last year a man entered a Woolworths store in Sea Point in Cape Town pushing a baby’s pram. He walked over to what he understood to be a Kosher meat shelf, reached into the pram and pulled out a pigs head placing it on the shelf and then proudly tweeted about his `accomplishment’. He boasted about his response to BDS’s call to boycott Woolworths. Just another victory for the BDS organization; their calls to target Woolworths had resulted in yet another antisemitic incident. Far from BDS trying to harness our country’s history for its narrow motives, it has instead made a mockery of our constitution that we hold so dear. Its process of intimidation deprives fellow South Africans the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association and the freedom of religion and belief and opinion, as prescribed by our Bill of Rights. BDS has spent 10 years telling us what we must say, where we can shop, what functions we can attend and which academics we can learn from in our universities. If you don’t toe their line, you are subjected to intimidation, threatened and harassed.
Take for example the group of young South African leaders who just visited Israel and the Palestinian territories. In line with the diplomatic ties that our country has with Israel there was no reason that they should not travel there to see for themselves what the situation is. BDS, petrified that they would experience a contrasting narrative and a reality vastly different from the story they have been punting, threatened the young people before, during and after their visit. They tried to bribe them with R40 000 each to prevent them going on the trip. Since their return they have intimidated and harassed young South Africans who dared to contradict BDS’s version of the conflict. I hardly think this behavior is consistent with our Constitutional principles. One wonders why an organisation ostensibly campaigning for democratic rights would go to such lengths to suppress honest, open debate on the issues that supposedly concern them.
Then there was the SA Zionist Federation Conference earlier this year when BDS again threatened that they would “Shut down Sandton” and ensure that “no Zionist conference will be held on our soil”. Surely BDS should not be celebrating this type of bullying nor the comments that were made at the rally telling conference goers, “We must do everything we can to ensure that we do not allow proud Zionist racists onto our land. Voetsak. You think that this is Israel, we will kill you.”
Kekana has a fixation on the term `ethical company’, yet her own company could not be further from this standard. If BDS had any modicum of ethics they would have been appalled at the calls to deregister Jewish students from Durban University of Technology following their hosting of BDS guest Leila Khaled there the night before. If they subscribed to any values of decency they would have taken action against their coordinator Mohammed Desai who justified the singing of Dubula iJuda (shoot the Jew) at a BDS protest at Wits University as Jewish audience members arrived for a concert. A company interested in ethics would not tolerate their members disrupting a Jewish community event by grabbing the microphone and they wouldn’t throw stinkbombs at the same time as bomb threats were called in to the theatre venue.
Two weeks ago BDS Coordinator Desai sent a threat to organisers of a private function, where Young South Africans returning from Israel would be reporting back on their experiences, that he and 35 BDS groupies with `the media’ in tow would gatecrash the event. Organisers were under no illusion as to BDS’s motives to disrupt the proceedings. There are countless examples of their attempts to do this, including the piano concert performance at Wits where groups of BDS supports stormed the venue forcing the pianist and many audience members to flee in fear. Or more recently when BDS thugs can be seen on camera preventing Palestinian Human Rights Activist Bassem Eid from continuing his speech to students at the University of Johannesburg, simply because Eid provided a different picture of the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Again our constitutional rights are tossed aside for BDS’s righteous attempt at `ethics’.
If you don’t kow tow to BDS’s demands, you will become the target of their intimidation campaign. And let’s be under no illusions, this is not about `Palestinian Solidarity’, it is vile, unmitigated antisemitism. Kekana claims they select consumer campaigns after careful analysis and strategic consideration.” Their `careful analysis and strategic consideration’ involves identifying and targeting South African Jewish businesspeople, threatening them and their businesses should they not comply with their edicts. The owners of Reggies, Dischem and Cape Union Mart are just a few of the Jewish businesspeople targeted by these antisemtic threats. We fail to understand how intimidating South African Jewish businesspeople will in any way further the peace process. On the contrary, all it does is harden relationships and cause hatred between fellow South Africans. It certainly differs from our government’s stance on trade with Israel as articulated in a DTI statement on 6/8/2014, “People in South Africa are free to trade with Israel, and Israel is free to trade with South Africa.”
And don’t for one minute consider that these boycotts are `non-violent’ as Ms Kekana would like us to believe. Last year, following on the Pigs Head incident a group of students responding to the BDS calls to disrupt Woolworths stores looting a store in the Sammy Marks Square in Pretoria causing over R200 000 of damage to merchandise. This doesn’t sound peaceful to me. The reason a South African court granted an interdict against BDS protesters entering Woolworths’ stores was because of the threats and intimidation against Woolworths’ employees and customers.
Thankfully our government, like the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), believe that a Two State solution is the only practical way forward, consistent with international thinking, including the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. Our President in July last year was quoted as saying that, “The only solution lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties” and the Department of International Relations confirmed that, “The lasting solution to the Middle East problem lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties”.
Kekana ends her opinion piece quoting Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” It is time that South Africans see BDS for what it is; an organization that is bent on intimidating and threatening people who dare not share their views, with purely antisemtic motives as evidenced by the outcomes of their campaigns.
The SAJBD believes that these hate campaigns do nothing to further the peace process between the Palestinian and Israeli people, they only create unwanted racism in our country. We as fellow South Africans should stand up against this destructive organisation ensuring that our precious values enshrined in our constitution are upheld.


It is a little rich that Ronnie Kasrils should accuse me of invoking the Hamas bogeyman, The Star Letters, August 4, while simultaneously invoking a bogeyman of his own, the old apartheid regime.

This is simply a transparent ploy to discredit me upfront without having to deal with any­thing I might have to say.

Primarily, Kasrils claims that I have misrepresented him by pointing out that he made no mention of Hamas in his article. This is a red herring. It is pre­cisely Kasrils’s failure to deal in any way with the pernicious role that this Islamist movement plays in thwarting peace efforts that underlines the intellectual bankruptcy of his argument.

One thing should be made absolutely clear: Hamas’s unam­biguous commitment to eradi­cating Israel and establishing a Shariah-compliant Islamist dic­tatorship in its place does not merely prevent the attainment of a negotiated two-state solu­tion to the conflict, it also ren­ders impossible the unitary sec­ular democratic state, one where all religious groups co-exist equally.

Why is it that left-leaning commentators in general find it so difficult to hold the Palestin­ian leader in any way account­able when it conies to apportion­ing blame over the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Hamas is the dominant faction in Gaza. How, then, can Kasrils, by his own admission, deliver a 14 000-word lecture on the whole issue in which Hamas receives just one, passing, men­tion?


No Place for Extremism, Kasrils Ought to Counsel

3 August 2015

David Saks, Associate Director of the SAJBD writes for The Star:   “Ronnie Kasrils’s latest diatribe against Israel (“Unite for an Undivided Land” The Star, July 29) is, even by his standards, remarkable for its factual inaccuracies.”   Read the article here. 

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SAJBD Deplores Hate Crimes

31 July 2015

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies joins Israelis and Palestinians in mourning the tragic death of eighteen month old Ali Dawabshe, in a horrific Jewish extremist right-wing “price tag” attack this morning in the West Bank. The SAJBD unequivocally condemns hate crimes and calls for the perpetrators to be brought swiftly to justice. Our […]

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“No More One-Sided Information” by Klaas Makgomole

21 July 2015

The Israel – Palestine conflict plays a large role in South African student politics. Many rally behind it to gain political support for various agendas and others simply see the information provided (by organizations like BDS-SA) and are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause without questioning why and how the whole conflict actually happened. I do […]

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“Students Vilified for Israel Trip” by David Saks

21 July 2015

David Saks writes for the Sunday Tribune on 19 July 2015. What’s immoral about inviting young people to come and see Israel for themselves? Shortly after their return from an investigative visit to Israel, ANC-affiliated members of the touring student group were subjected to an extraordinary diatribe by Obed Bapela, chairman of the ANC’s International […]

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Jewish Board will pursue Hate Speech cases against Mcebo Dlamini

16 July 2015

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) notes that in its review of the disciplinary procedures against Dlamini, the Wits University Legal Office expressed the view that Mr Dlamini’s ‘Hitler’ comments, while ‘abhorrent’, nevertheless “did not breach the exceptions to the Constitution regarding freedom of speech”. Their decision, is relevant only in respect of the internal […]

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David Saks responds to Muhammad Khalid Sayed’s claim: ‘BDS campaign is not malicious’ in Politicsweb

7 July 2015

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