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

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 }

Earlier this week I attended the World Jewish Congress’s National Community Directors Forum.  My counterparts from 45 countries met in Prague to share our experiences and work together to find solutions to the challenges we all face.

I joined executive directors from countries such as Spain, Turkey, Georgia, Costa Rica, Germany, Ukraine, Ireland, Hungary, the US, France,  Greece, Finland, Norway, Moldova, The Netherlands, Brazil, the UK, Peru, Canada, the UK, Australia to mention but a few of the remarkable individuals that came around the table to address the real issues facing Global Jewry today.

We discussed the escalating levels of antisemitism internationally, focusing on ways that we can address this disturbing trend.  Frightening to note the growing neo-Nazi incidents throughout Europe, as well as the manner in which the anti-Israel activists are using this cause as a platform to launch anti- Jewish hatred.  I was asked to present a paper addressing our specific challenges in this area.

Although we in South Africa do not experience the same level of threat against religious practices in our own country, challenges to practices such as Brit Milah and Schitah are becoming serious problems in other countries, impacting on their way of Jewish life.

An issue that does affect us in South Africa alongside communities internationally is the growing phenomenon of cyber hate.  Antisemitic hatred and threats through the `anti-social media’ is certainly something plaguing Jewish communities everywhere and it was great to have an opportunity to engage on this important topic.

It was also special that South Africa’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, HE Franki Verwey joined us for dinner during the conference.

I was asked to present a tribute to former President of the SAJBD and Co-Chairman of the WJC Policy Council Mervyn Smith , who had passed away the previous day. Mervyn had not only made a significant contribution to SA Jewry, but had also played an important role in the international platform.

The World Jewish Congress has developed some outstanding programmes and departments to support our work as communal leaders around the world and it was a wonderful opportunity to work with this important global body.  I look forward to ongoing interaction with this important forum.

IMG_1242

 

 

{ 0 comments }

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 }

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.

{ 0 comments }

Associate Director David Sacks’ Opinion Piece on the Gaza conflict appeared in the Saturday Star on 19 July 2014

21 July 2014

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

[read more]

SAJBD issued a statement regarding antisemetic incident toward American Jewish business and communal leaders at the AU Commission Summit in Equatorial Guinea

9 July 2014

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 […]

[read more]

JEWISH AFFAIRS PESACH 2014 EDITION

10 April 2014

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 […]

[read more]

JEWISH AFFAIRS CHANUKAH 2013

29 November 2013

Jewish Affairs – Chanukah 2013

[read more]

JEWISH AFFAIRS CHANUKAH 2010

29 November 2013

JA Chan2010

[read more]

CHANNUKAH 2008

4 November 2013

JA CHANK 2008

[read more]

Jewish Affairs: Rosh Hashanah 2013

2 September 2013

Download Volume 68, Number 2, Rosh Hashanah 2013  Why Jewish Affairs serves such an important purpose is that it is the only vehicle that allows for a properly detailed, extended exploration of subjects of interest to South African Jewry, unlike other publications where space constraints seldom allow for topics to be dealt with in more […]

[read more]