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

{ 0 comments }

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 to the present is followed by a feature on the SAJBD’s 2014 ‘Freedom Seder’, in which Chief Rabbi Goldstein, Zev Krengel and Johnny Copelyn provide their insights on the attainment of freedom in SA in the context of the Biblical exodus narrative. An enlightening analysis of where the country finds itself today and what led up to it is provided by Tony Leon, one of the main actors in that story. Marlene Bethlehem looks back on her ten years on the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Commission, a statutory body created in this case to promote and protect the rights of South Africa’s many diverse ethnic, faith, linguistic and cultural groupings. One of the ways in which Jewish community members are trying to make a positive difference in addressing the legacy of apartheid is in the educational field. Here, Honey Gluckman has written a moving and inspiring account of her work as a Second Innings ‘Granny’ tutoring underprivileged learners.

The transition to democracy theme also features in the Book Reviews, with Naomi Musiker and Ralph Zulman looking at two important recent books on the subject, Liberation Diaries: Reflections on 20 Years of Democracyand Tony Leon’s latest book, Opposite Mandela: Encounters with South Africa’s Icon. Marcia Leveson writes on a compelling new novel on a Jewish family in 1960s Port Elizabeth and Gary Selikow evaluates a recent work countering the standard anti-Israel narrative now so commonplace in the global media and academic and NGO environment.

Section Two is of a more historical nature, with the essays exploring various aspects of the South African Jewish experience. Bernard Katz writes on General Jan Smuts, using the original text of a speech he gave to show why he has been described as one of the greatest Gentile Zionists. Shirley Klein Kantor writes on the Jewish legacy of Calvinia and her own life-long connection with that Western Cape town while, also on the theme of South Africa’s largely vanished rural Jewish heritage, Joy Kropman reflects on the many exhibitions on that subject that she has curated over the years. Finally, Gwynne Schrire looks at the little-known link between three prominent British Zionists – novelist Israel Zangwill and his cousins Montague David Eder and Joseph Cowen – and South Africa. Other items include new poetry and Isaac Reznik’s obituary on the distinguished rabbi and scholar Dayan Denis Isaacs.

We hope you enjoy this latest Jewish Affairs issue, and that you will pass it on to anyone who might likewise be interested.

 

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

 

David Saks

Editor

Jewish Affairs, South Africa’s leading Jewish intellectual journal, features a wide variety of articles on Jewish religion, history and culture. It has been published under the auspices of the Board since 1941. To subscribe or take out a gift subscription, please contact Shirley Beagle +27116452583 beagle@sajbd.org or david@sajbd.org

Jewish Affairs – Rosh Hashanah 2014

{ 0 comments }

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies, on behalf of the Jewish community, extends its sincerest condolences to the people of Nigeria on the Synagogue Church of All Nations disaster and to the many South Africans who have lost family, friends and loved ones as a result.

This is a tragedy for the entire continent, but in light of how many of the victims were from South Africa, it has had a particularly grievous impact on our own country.

The SAJBD commends the South African government on its efforts to assist survivors and to ensure that the remains of those who died are timeously repatriated. We wish those who were injured a speedy and complete recover, and hope that the prayers and condolences of their fellow citizens will be of comfort to all who have been affected by the tragedy.

{ 0 comments }

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 joining thousands of people on Sunday at the landmark rally at the Brandenburg gate protesting against ‘Jew hatred’. This was both inspiring and disconcerting – disconcerting, because we have to ask why we are once again having to confront this kind of vile prejudice, a mere seventy five years after World War II. Have the horrific lessons of that history still not been learned? The inspiration came from the impressive line-up of influential German political and religious leaders who all expressed their outrage and condemnation of antisemitism in all its forms. Chancellor Merkel opened her speech with the reassuring promise: “That people in Germany are threatened and abused because of their Jewish appearance or their support for Israel is an outrageous scandal that we won’t accept.” Fighting antisemitism, she said, was a “national and civic duty”. Unfortunately, Germany is not the only country experiencing crude antisemitism, something greatly exacerbated by the Gaza conflict.

The WJC meeting has provided an opportunity for the leadership of world Jewry to discuss this scourge and their plans to combat it. It has showcased once again the incredible work and projects undertaken by the WJC, of which the SAJBD is an Executive member. It is fast becoming the international Jewish leadership brand, focused on addressing and responding to issues of importance to world Jewry. One of the most significant initiatives, which is receiving a great deal of justified attention, is the growth of young Jewish political leaders. In this regard, I am thrilled to congratulate Marc Posniac from the SAJBD Gauteng Council, who has been elected as Chair of the steering committee of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps.

I was very sorry to miss what to all accounts was an excellent Gauteng Conference on Sunday, and once again wish the incoming Executive all the best for the coming year. I am looking forward to participating in the Cape Council Conference this weekend.

The Yamim Tovim are coming up, and in light of the steep rise of antisemitic activity in recent months, there is a need for heightened awareness on our part to ensure that proper security arrangements are in place. The CSO, in close partnership with the police services, is as always pursuing this task with the utmost thoroughness and professionalism. Every community member needs to do his or her part, however. We all need to be constantly vigilant and report any activity that could be regarded as suspicious, and we also need to cooperate fully with the CSO, both by taking to heart the carefully thought-out security tips they provide and by unquestioningly following their directives when attending communal functions.

This being the last issue of the SA Jewish Report before Yom Tov, I take this opportunity on behalf of the SAJBD to wish our wonderful Jewish community of South Africa a happy and peaceful New Year and well over the Fast.

  •  Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00.

 

{ 0 comments }

Positive vibe at SAJBD conference

15 September 2014

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 […]

[read more]

Mary Kluk and SAJBD condemn vicious Holocaust blog

12 September 2014

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 […]

[read more]

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 […]

[read more]

Rwandan Genocide Survivor talks on antisemitic rhetoric during Gaza

8 September 2014

  Charisse Zeifert will interview Bonaventure Kageruka on Chai FM this Friday from 12:20

[read more]

Benjamin Pogrund looks at media failings in article in the Mail & Guardian

5 September 2014

http://www.ornico.co.za/editorialstream/OwnMediaAttachments/2014-09-05_1663946.pdf 

[read more]

Mary Kluk’s, Above Board

4 September 2014

On 14 September, delegates representing a wide range of Gauteng Jewish organisations will be coming together for the SAJBD’s biennial Gauteng Council conference. The theme of the conference is ‘Celebrating 20 Years of Freedom’, but in light of recent events, there will also be a special focus on the impact of the Gaza conflict on […]

[read more]