Press Releases

In his meeting with the leadership of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) last week, President Jacob Zuma reiterated his government’s support for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, and further saw a role for South Africa to play in bringing this about.

The SAJBD sees itself as partners with Government and the ANC in helping to promote peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. We therefore feel extremely disappointed by the ANC’s recent call for a boycott against Israel. This will not result in bringing about peace to the region but will only cause polarisation and division within our own society.

In reality the main target of this boycott is South African Jewry.  We have already seen how the importation of the Middle East conflict into this country by anti-Israel agitators has resulted in hostility and intimidation, including threats of violence to our community.

Some of those expressing such views, moreover, have come from the ranks of the ruling party, and even more frequently from its alliance partners. When the world’s only Jewish majority state is singled out for one-sided condemnation and punitive action over and above every other nation in the world, it inevitably fosters a culture of hostility towards Jews in general.

The ANC’s call for a boycott further undermines our Government’s encouraging attempts to play a role in the peace process, something it is pursuing through their Middle East envoys.

This notwithstanding, the SAJBD remains committed to supporting a negotiated, two-state solution to the conflict, and will not be cowed by those, whether within the ANC or elsewhere in this country who wish to deny the Jewish community its right to identify with the Jewish homeland.  We therefore call on the ANC to play a constructive rather than destructive role in helping to realise our common goal of a sustainable peace in the Middle East.

 

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The SAJBD extends its sincerest condolences to the all members of the Bernhard family, the Union of Orthodox Synagogues and the Chabad community on the passing of Rabbi Norman Bernhard, ztl. A man of many gifts and boundless energy, Rabbi Bernhard arrived in South Africa a little under half a century ago and quickly established himself as one of the country’s most dynamic Jewish leaders and spokesmen. As a religious leader, he was amongst the foremost innovators in the field of Jewish education, both at the school and adult level, and contributed significantly to the impressive growth of Judaism both in Johannesburg and elsewhere in the country. As a congregational rabbi, he served for well over three decades as spiritual leader to one of the city’s leading communities, the Oxford Hebrew Congregation. He further held important leadership positions with the UOS structure.

Rabbi Bernhard’s involvement in Jewish communal life went well beyond the religious sphere. In the media field, he was a frequent guest on radio discussion programmes, bringing to bear his trademark wit, eloquence and erudition in explaining Judaism and Jewishness to a wider audience. He also wrote regularly for Jewish and general publications in this regard. Rabbi Bernhard was also one of only a handful of Jewish religious leaders to have spoken out against the injustices of the apartheid system from the pulpit, and maintained a keen interest in encouraging Jews to be involved in the political transition process. Long before it became common practice, he ensured that his community was involved in general social upliftment projects on behalf of the needy in the wider community.

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Disregarding all standards of basic decency, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) today chose to send an ugly message to the Jewish community of South Africa. This morning, as a protest against Woolworths for stocking Israeli products, COSAS members in Cape Town deposited a pig’s head in the kosher meat section of a Woolworths food store. A press statement issued by COSAS Western Cape chairperson Siphakamise Ngxowa, inter alia declared that Cosas “will not allow people who will not eat pork to pretend that they are eating clean meat, when it is sold by hands dripping with the blood of Palestinian children”.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is appalled by this hate-filled demonstration. We have seen “Shoot the Jew” being chanted at public gatherings and explicit threats made to carry out revenge attacks against the Jewish community for events taking place in Israel and Palestine. Now we have been presented with yet another case of anti-Israel activism crossing over into blatant antisemitism.

It is common knowledge that pork is strictly forbidden according to Jewish dietary laws. This is why depositing pigs’ heads at places associated with Jews and their religion has long been a tactic of those wanting to offend and intimidate the Jewish community. In the past, however, such acts were carried out anonymously. By contrast, Cosas has not only done so in full public view, but has gone about widely publicizing this gross act of bigotry. It is further noteworthy that BDS-SA, which is heading up the campaign to boycott Woolworths, not only failed to condemn the incident but have assisted Cosas in publicizing what it had done.

The SAJBD regards this incident as a hate crime and is investigating its options regarding taking the matter further.

Cosas’ actions have nothing to do with human rights activism. They are acts of racial and religious hatred aimed at causing maximum offense to Jewish people. They are also completely at odds with South Africa’s proud tradition of tolerance and decency and have crossed the moral divide.

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Mitzvah Day at Leeuwkop Prison

13 November 2014

The word Mitzvah is a commandment to do a good deed – it’s a kindling of the soul and what better place to refresh your soul, learn and inspire others than at place so many people forget – prison.  International Mitzvah Day is held every year with the Union of Jewish Women and this year […]

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 Passing of Communal Giant, Mervyn Smith

17 November 2014

Tributes from around the world have been pouring in for Mervyn Smith, a senior South African Jewish communal leader who went on to play an increasingly important role in the arena of international Jewish politics. Smith, who was 77, passed away in Cape Town over the weekend after a long illness. The funeral took place […]

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SAJBD comments on the terrorist attack at a Jerusalem Synagogue

18 November 2014

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies is shocked by the barbaric terrorist attack against worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue this morning. We extend our heartfelt condolences to those whose friends and loved ones were so brutally murdered, and pray for a complete and speedy recovery for those who were injured. This atrocity was the latest, […]

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The BDS Theatre of the Absurd

20 November 2014

The actors are the same. The script is the same. The rhetoric is the same. In this ongoing Theatre of the Absurd, BDS is ready to stage every possible propaganda stunt in order to manipulate public perceptions. The latest production in the ongoing BDS propaganda circus was yesterday’s so-called “Woolworths Shareholders Press Conference”.  Few realised that […]

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SAJBD meets with President Abbas.

27 November 2014

Yesterday, the senior leadership of the South African Jewish community, comprising representatives of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and SA Zionist Federation, met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and President Zuma at the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria. The Jewish delegation was much reassured by President Abbas’ confirmation that he and his government […]

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South African Jewish Board of Deputies Mourns Dalya Lemkus

11 November 2014

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a number of Israelis murdered in terror attacks.  Among them was Dalya Lemkus, a young woman, whose family came from our own South African Jewish Community.  26 year old Dalya was fatally stabbed in her neck while waiting for transport at the side of the street outside […]

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The ugliness and intolerance of BDS SA

18 September 2014

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 […]

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SAJBD : Outcome of Wits Disciplinary Process

20 January 2014

The verdict against ten students guilty of misconduct during a concert at Wits University represents a resounding reaffirmation by Wits of the values of academic freedom, diversity and tolerance. In March last year, a group of demonstrators lead by members of the then Student Representative Council invaded the venue where Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshev was […]

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JEWISH COMMUNITY MEMORIAL SERVICES FOR NELSON MANDELA

6 December 2013

Dear Community Members We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Nelson Mandela and together with our fellow South Africans we mourn this loss. Please find below the statement that was released to the media earlier this morning: “The Jewish community of South Africa mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, beloved father of […]

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Jewish community mourns the Passing of Nelson Mandela

6 December 2013

The Jewish community of South Africa mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, beloved father of our nation. We join with all the peoples of the world in paying tribute to the life of a true giant of humanity, and in extending our sincerest condolences to the Mandela family. A man of unflinching courage and unswerving […]

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Typhoon Haiyan Relief : Appeal

12 November 2013

  https://secure3.convio.net/jdc/site/Donation2;jsessionid=DA4F61B64A8C707B1488AB5476E946DE.app347a?df_id=2741&2741.donation=form1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE New York, NY, November 9, 2013 – In the aftermath of the destruction wrought by super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has begun collecting funds for relief efforts. Responding to a quickly rising death toll and catastrophic destruction, JDC staff experts are consulting […]

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letter to community re statements by Minister Nkoana Mashabane and MK Avigdor Lieberman

4 November 2013

STATEMENT FOR JEWISH COMMUNITY The SA Jewish Board of Deputies and SA Zionist Federation have issued a statement expressing surprise and outrage over recently reported comments by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s regarding the South Africa-Israel relationship. According to media reports, Minister Mashabane stated on Friday that her government’s policy is not to engage with […]

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PRESS RELEASE : 4 NOVEMBER 2013

4 November 2013

The South African Jewish community is surprised and disappointed by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s comments regarding South Africa’s relationship with Israel. According to media reports, Minister Mashabane stated on Friday that her government’s policy is not to engage with Israel at the ministerial level until progress has been made in advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace […]

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Press Release: “Shoot the Jew” Chant Condemned by SAJBD

2 September 2013

What was supposed to have been a silent demonstration against a concert by an Israeli jazz quartet at Wits University last Wednesday [28 August] turned ugly when some of the protestors chanted dubula e juda – ‘Shoot the Jew’ – outside the venue. The protest was organised by BDS–South Africa, an organisation that campaigns for […]

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Press Release: SAJBD Commends University for Upholding Freedom of Speech

29 August 2013

Last night [28 August], a capacity crowd enjoyed an enthralling recital by the Daniel Zamir Quartet, four world-renowned jazz musicians from Israel, at Wits University. The event, held in the Great Hall under the auspices of the Wits Music Department, was attended by over 1000 people from across the ethnic, racial and religious spectrum. It […]

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