The SAJBD

Press Release

by The SAJBD on 26 May 2014

in Articles, General, Media

On Saturday afternoon, an unidentified gunman went on a murderous shooting rampage in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, killing four people. There can be little doubt that the museum was targeted specifically because it was a Jewish institution, and that the attack was an antisemitically motivated hate crime. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has conveyed its outrage over this cold-blooded act of terror, as well as its deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Belgian Jewish leadership. It further calls on the Belgian authorities to do their utmost to bring the perpetrator to justice, as well as to take whatever measures that are necessary to combat hate crime, whether based on race, religion or any other such grounds.

The SAJBD is likewise deeply troubled about the near-simultaneous attack that took place on two Jewish worshippers outside a synagogue in Paris on Saturday night. One of the victims was severely injured after being struck in the eye with brass knuckles. As with the Brussels atrocity, this appears to have been a completely unprovoked attack against those singled out solely because they were Jews.
As pointed out by European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor, “attacks on Jewish targets in Europe do not exist in a vacuum, but are part and parcel of an overall climate of hate and incitement against Jewish communities”. The SAJBD shares this concern over the steadily rising levels of antisemitic hatred in Europe, which today increasingly threatens to take a violent, and even lethal form.

Ends.
For more information please contact Mary Kluk on 083 7758618

Issued by
Charisse Zeifert
Head: Communications
South African Jewish Board of Deputies

 011 645 2547 (direct) or 082 427-2788 (mobile)

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Five months ago, under the heading ‘Make Us Count’, the Board embarked on a serious of initiatives aimed at encouraging the Jewish community to become involved and in general get into the spirit of the upcoming national elections. It began with a drive to encourage first-time voters, as well as those living overseas, to ensure that they were registered. We went on to host a number of well-attended functions, including multi-party pre-election debates in Johannesburg and Durban, for community members to hear from and engage with senior representatives of some of the major parties contesting the election. The Make Us Count campaign culminated in the Board’s putting together a multi-faith, trans-national election observer team, with accreditation from the Independent Electoral Commission, to assist in monitoring the voting process and ensuring that everything was fair and above board. This was an inspiring success, and attracted much favourable coverage for the Board and for the Jewish community in general in both the local and overseas media. Around a hundred volunteers from across the religious and ethnic spectrum took part, covering over 250 voting stations in five cities.

All participants I have since been in contact with have expressed the tremendous sense of pride and satisfaction they experienced in being able to contribute in this way. We are very proud that the SAJBD facilitated this very special nation-building exercise, and I congratulate in particular Alana Baranov for heading it up so capably. Watching South African democracy at work was again an inspiring experience. One could not help but be struck by the warm spirit of camaraderie and sense of ownership in the wonderful democracy that we all enjoy. It was a spirit that transcended political affiliation, and made the elections – just like those memorable first elections twenty years ago – a truly unifying experience.

Currently, I am attending the American Jewish Congress (AJC) conference in Washington DC, along with six other South African representatives from the SAJBD. Representatives of some seventy countries are taking part in this important event on the international Jewish calendar. As always, it is an exhilarating experience to join with world Jewry in debating issues of concern to all of us. Over the years, we have established a much-valued partnership with the AJC, who have consistently supported us in times of both challenge and celebration. I look forward to reporting back more fully on the conference after my return.

One of the very complex matters our National office has been dealing with this year has been resolving problems of exams set on Shabbat and Shavuot. Fortunately, it now looks very much like acceptable alternative arrangements will be in place at all the academic institutions concerned, with students, as in years gone by, being able to write their papers immediately after Shabbat/Yom Tov at Beyachad. I will go into further detail regarding these arrangements in a future column, but I can say at this stage that henceforth, rather than having to renegotiate a solution on a year by year basis, we hopefully now have in place an ongoing arrangement that all religiously observant Jewish students will be able to avail themselves of when clashes occur.

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

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Earlier this week, the annual Yom Hashoah ceremonies took place under the auspices of the SAJBD in all the main Jewish population centres. The ceremonies in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth took place on Sunday and in Cape Town and Durban the following day. The keynote speaker in Johannesburg and Durban was Eva Schloss, a survivor of Auschwitz whose mother later married Anne Frank’s father, Otto. On Wednesday, she also spoke at the Cape Town Holocaust Centre. One of the themes stressed by speakers at this year’s events was that this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Holocaust in Hungary, in which over 400 000 Hungarian Jews were murdered within a few months.

Schloss recounted how for many years after the war, she had not spoken about her experiences, and how since the 1980s she had increasingly dedicated herself to doing so. On the first occasion she spoke, she had been shocked to be told by a young Israeli in the audience that she and her fellow victims had gone like sheep to the slaughter instead of fighting back. This, she said, had helped inspire her to testify and educate people regarding the terrible realities of the Nazi genocide, and the helplessness to which its victims were reduced.

Like Anne Frank, whom she had known and been friendly with before the war, Schloss (born in Vienna to Erich and Fritzie Geiringer) survived in hiding in Amsterdam for a lengthy period before, after two years, she and her mother were betrayed and arrested. Her father and brother, Heinz, had by then been sent to the Mauthausen in Austria, where they died just days before the camp was liberated by US forces. Eva and her mother were sent to Auschwitz, where new arrivals were processed and sent either to work in Auschwitz or to immediate death in nearby Treblinka. Because she was wearing her mother’s hat and coat, the fifteen year-old Eva looked older than she was, and hence was selected by Josef Mengele for the former. Somehow, she and her mother survived for nine months before one day waking up to find that the Germans had abandoned the camp, taking most of the inmates with them. A few days later, the Soviet troops arrived to liberate the camp.

Schloss spoke movingly of her lost brother, a gifted musician, poet and artist whose paintings made whilst in hiding she was able to recover after the war. She concluded her address by reading one of his poems, which appears in her recent book The Promise and which she wrote in his memory to keep the promise made by his father that he would live on in the memory of those who knew him.

In Johannesburg, messages were delivered both by Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk, Hungarian Ambassador Bela Laszlo. The latter stressed the Holocaust had been a tragedy for the entire Hungarian people and further acknowledged and apologized for the fact, long suppressed, that the Hungarian government of the time had cooperated with the Nazi administration in the deportations and murders.

******note : EVA SCHLOSS left a few signed copies of 2 of her books in our offices, if you would like to purchase these please contact Jenni on 0116452521, stock is very limited.

 

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With the country’s 5th elections since the democratic transition less than a fortnight away, the Gauteng Jewish leadership had the opportunity last week of hearing from two of the parties likely to between them attract the bulk of the Jewish vote. On Thursday evening Jack Bloom, leader of the DA in the Gauteng Legislature, headed a delegation of mainly Jewish city counsellors that met with representatives of a range of Jewish organisations at Beyachad. The following day, it was the turn of the ACDP, represented by the party’s Chief Whip in Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley. The meetings took place under the auspices of the SAJBD, which earlier this year arranged for Minister Fikile Mbalula to address a Jewish youth gathering on behalf of the ANC.

Bloom said that the success of the DA’s record in the Western Cape was one of the main planks of its campaign. Under successive DA administrations, the Western Cape had been a model of good governance, in contrast to the corruption and mismanagement that was rife in the remaining, ANC-led provinces. Voters, many of whom were of the ‘born free’ generation and therefore less influenced by the apartheid and ‘Struggle’ legacy, now had it in their power to extend this successful record to other parts of the country. To break the ‘ridiculous’ syndrome of people toyi-toying against bad service delivery one day and voting for the government the next, the DA was saying to them, “Lend us Your Vote” to give it a chance to meet their requirements. Given the extent of government corruption and its dire impact on economic growth and job creation, the DA needed to get as much support as it could so as to save South Africa. It had, Bloom said, become as urgent as that.

Both events included a focus on the Israel-Palestine question. It was accepted, that the DA’s traditionally measured and nuanced policy on the matter had not changed at all. However, it was suggested that there was a disconnection between official DA policy and implementing it when issues arose at parliamentary level. The party had failed, for example, to oppose measures aimed at boycotting and delegitimising Israel, such as in the BDS-inspired cancellation of South Africa’s participation in an agricultural conference there. Bloom said that better communication was needed to convey the party’s true position to the community. He nevertheless pointed out that at the recent International Relations Parliamentary Portfolio Committee discussion on the outcomes of the Solidarity Conference on Palestine, the DA had not only helped ensure that the final declaration adopted was a greatly watered-down one, but had even joined with the ACDP in still voting against it.

In introducing Dudley at the following day’s lunch meeting, SAZF Vice-Chairman Ben Swartz described the ACDP as having been, often to their own detriment, the “greatest and truest friend of the Jewish and Zionist community in South Africa”. Dudley observed that by providing the Jewish community with another option, the DA had been made to realize that it could no longer take its support for granted. In the course of her presentation, she outlined the philosophy and modus operandi of the ACDP as a Christian, Biblical-based party that nevertheless had to be realistic in terms of what could practically be achieved. In a democratic society, nobody could be compelled to follow Christian-Biblical precepts, but by the same token, government did not have the right to impose secularism on the population, such as in interfering with the way religious communities chose to bring up their children. Dudley rejected the argument that voting for the smaller parties was a wasted vote, pointing to the many successes the ACDP had been able to achieve in influencing government policy and as an honest broker in facilitating constructive debate when this was so often paralyzed by the bitter rivalry between the ruling party and the official opposition.

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