On Monday, I was privileged to take part in a moving, and in many ways unique, commemorative ceremony in Ladysmith. The occasion was the unveiling of a memorial to twelve Jewish fighters who died in the service of the Boer republics during the Anglo-Boer War. Joining me were the President and Vice-President of the Council for KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, Linda Nathan and Ronnie Herr, SA Country Communities Spiritual Leader Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft and Associate Director David Saks. We all participated in some way, from delivering messages, laying a commemorative wreath or speaking at the luncheon function afterwards. The Jewish role in the Anglo-Boer War is one of David’s special interests, and he was much involved in the initiative. We were pleased to also have with us the Director of the Africa Desk of the American Jewish Committee, Eliseo Neuman. Eliseo and David had just participated at the Johannesburg Limmud event, which I was delighted to hear was a resounding success.
Jewish attendees were far outnumbered by local enthusiasts, some who had travelled far to be there. The function took place under the joint auspices of the SAJBD and the Ladysmith Siege Museum Trust, and the latter was very much the senior partner. The whole venture entailed a huge amount of organisation, from obtaining the requisite permission from the national monuments authority through to making the memorial and then organising the various details of the ceremony. It was indeed a remarkable display of warmth and friendship towards our Jewish community. I extend my heartfelt thanks to all concerned and in particular to Dr Eugene Campher and Jan Human for helping to add a unique Jewish dimension to the culture of military historical commemoration in our country. Thanks also to the Victor Daitz Foundation, Aaron Beare Foundation and Jakamar Trust for sponsoring the production of the monument.
On our return to Durban, Linda, Ronnie and I made a brief stop to view another new monument that has just been erected. This marks the spot where Nelson Mandela was finally captured after a long period on the run on 5 August 1962, marking the start of the 27 years he would spend in prison. Our visit reinforced for us how important it is for South Africans to join in preserving and remembering their common historical heritage. Whatever we are today, individually and collectively, can only be properly understood through looking back to what happened in previous generations and acknowledging the accomplishments and sacrifices of those who preceded us.
Continuing on the theme of bringing South Africans together, the annual Cycalive event is currently underway, with learners from Torah Academy and other local schools cycling from Johannesburg to Durban. Through the Gauteng Board, we arranged for Gauteng MMC for community development Chris Vondo to officiate at the send-off. This remarkable initiative, started by Rabbi Dovid Hazdan some fifteen years ago, not only raises funds for needy Gauteng schools but just as importantly builds bonds of friendship between our Jewish youth and their counterparts in the wider society. We are looking forward to hosting them at the traditional welcoming braai at the Durban Jewish Centre.
Finally, we urge University of Johannesburg students whose exams have been set on Shabbat to contact us without delay (011 645 2521/ firstname.lastname@example.org). Resolving the problem is dependent on our being timeously informed, and if left too late doing so might not be possible.
- Listen to Steven Gruzd on Jewish Board Talk on 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00. Repeats Sundays, 11:00-12:00.