Jewish Affairs

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@beyachad.co.za or david@beyachad.co.za

Members of the Jewish and Japanese communities, diplomats, business leaders and Holocaust survivors packed into the Abe Abrahamson Auditorium at Beyachad last Wednesday to remember Chiune Sugihara, the heroic Japanese diplomat who exceeded his authority to issue 6000 life-saving visas to Jewish refugees during World War II. The event took place under the combined auspices of the SAJBD Gauteng Council, Embassy of Japan and Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. Amongst those famously saved from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis by Sugihara were most of the members of the Mir Yeshiva, which was able to relocate to Shanghai for the duration of the war. Four of those present at the function were Johannesburg descendants of those survivors, Rabbis Yossy Goldman and Weinberg and Rebbetzins Rochel Ehrman and Chaya Sternstein.

In her message of welcome and introduction SAJBD Diplomatic Liaison Aviva Moses, who headed up the initiative, stressed the enduring example Chiune Sugihara had set by his heroic actions. In ‘a period of utter desperation’, he had stood out and shone through the fundamental humanity he displayed, and in today’s turbulent times, it was a lesson the world at large needed more than ever to take to heart.

“No matter what continent we live on, our world is in turmoil. We are bombarded on a daily basis with news of torment, terror, death and destruction. And there has never been a time when is has been more important for every individual to rediscover his or her humanity, because without this intrinsic component of our being, what are we?” she said.

The keynote address was given by Hugh Raichlin, a well-known and popular speaker on Jewish life in countries throughout the world and who recently added Japan to the growing list of places he has lectured on. In addition to speaking (with accompanying audio-visual material) on the life and achievements of Sugihara, Raichlin gave an overview of the Jewish connection to Japan since the 1860s combined with entertaining insights into the nature of Japanese society today. As depicted by him, Sugihara emerged as a genuinely saintly man who to the end refused to take any special credit for what he had done. Raichlin also stressed the unfailing support provided by Sugihara’s wife, Yukiko, and the crucial involvement of the family of the young Solly Ganor. Excerpts from a video interview with the latter especially arranged for the occasion were also screened.

Rabbi Goldman and Rabbi Weinberg spoke about their own fathers, both of whom were provided with visas by Sugihara. Rabbi Weinberg said that his father, the only one of eleven siblings who survived the Holocaust, would relate his story to his family on the first night of Chanukah every year. This had instilled in his children an awareness of how important it was to remember and be grateful to their benefactors. Similarly, Rabbi Goldman’s father was the only survivor of his family in Poland. On his behalf, as well as that of his descendants – amongst them nearly eighty great-grandchildren, Rabbi

“I thank you for the gift of life, for the gift of the generations. G-d bless Mr Sugihara’s precious soul” he said.

Messages were also given by Japanese Ambassador Yutaka Yoshizawa, SAJBD Chairman and Holocaust educator Mary Kluk and Tali Nates, Director of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. Ambassador Yoshiwaza noted that in Japanese culture, it was at this time of the year that the spirits of one’s ancestors were believed to return, and therefore it was a time when those who had passed away were traditionally remembered. This included remembering both the two million Japanese who had died during World War II together with acknowledging the death and suffering Japan had inflicted against others during those years. Against this background, he said, the legacy of Sugihara shone even brighter.

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Click on the link to view David Sacks’ opinion piece SAJDB pdf_01

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Following an antisemitic incident concerning a group of American Jewish business and communal leaders at the AU Commission Summit in Equatorial Guinea, the SAJBD liaised with Malcolm Hoenlein for a full briefing on the occurrence.

The SAJBD issued a statement regarding the incident and wrote to the Chairperson of the AU Commission Dr Dlamini Zuma to protest the treatment of the Jewish group asking for a full investigation.  She responded on Friday that the issue was raised at the post Summit meeting, an investigation is under way and she will communicate the findings.

A letter was sent to President Zuma requesting clarification as to whether the SA delegation had been at all involved and at a DIRCO briefing last week, Clayson Monyela assured our Chairman Mary Kluk that he had personally spoken to each of the delegation and none of them had been involved in any way.

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Jewish Affairs Pesach 2014 EDITION

 

Pesach 2014

This Pesach 2014 issue of Jewish Affairs is divided into two broad themes. The first looks at the legacy of Jewish Lithuania, providing perspectives by those who were born and grew up there, those descendants of Jewish Lithuanians who have returned to visit and from a renowned rabbi and historian on Lithuanian Jewry’s enduring spiritual-intellectual heritage. Veronica Belling, Natalie Ginsberg and Joseph Rabie are all descendants of Lithuanian Jews who settled in South Africa. In their accounts of visiting the land of their forebears, they bring their particular family experiences and academic training to bear in describing their thoughts and feelings on confronting the echoes of a culture that was all but obliterated seventy years ago. The Lithuanian boyhood of Solly Per features in a memoir written up by his daughter-in-law, Linda Per, and the editor tells the harrowing yet also inspiring story of Lithuanian Jews who escaped the Nazi killing machine through being sent to a Soviet slave labour camp just days before the German invasion. The opening article by Rabbi Berel Wein is taken from the recent book The Legacy: Teaching of the Great Lithuanian Rabbis, co-authored with South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein. This stresses the importance of ethical, moral conduct and fitting inter-personal conduct in Jewish philosophy, one of the areas in which Lithuanian Jewry did much to enrich the Jewish world.

Part two of this issue deals more broadly with the themes of identity and culture. Gwynne Schrire’s witty and erudite take on Jewish eating habits through the ages provides, as it were, much food for thought on the question of how much diet and Jewish identity are intertwined. Bev May, a new contributor, exams with much sensitivity the complex area of gender in Jewish tradition. The extent to which the British connection has influenced Jewish modes of worship in South Africa is addressed by David Sher, and SAJBD archivist and frequent contributor Naomi Musiker looks back on an invaluable oral history project conducted by the Jewish Historical and Sociological Society in the middle of the last century. Finally, veteran Israeli scholar Dr Aryeh Newman puts the case for a more open and flexible approach to current Halachic challenges.

Book reviews include Ralph Zulman on Robe Rose’s take on a local Jewish Ponzi scammer and two new studies focusing on the theme of immigration from Eastern Europe. Hazel Frankel’s original Yiddish poem poignantly relates to the opening theme of this Jewish Affairs issue.

On behalf of the Editorial Board of Jewish Affairs, I wish you all a Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach.

David Saks
Editor

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