Nahum Goldmann, Jewish Boer Memorial, Keeping Perspective

by Mary Kluk on 20 July 2012

in Above Board

Nahum Goldmann Fellowship

Our former president, Marlene Bethlehem and two staff members, David Jacobson and Steven Gruzd, recently attended the Nahum Goldmann Fellowship (NGF) programme in Poland. The programme is one of the flagship projects of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, of which Marlene is a vice-president.

It was the fourth such programme that David participated in. In the interim period, he and SAJBD Cape Council Vice-Chairman Rael Kaimowitz (himself a two-time Nahum Goldmann Fellow) have organised successful mini-Nahum Goldmann seminars for former fellows and other young Jewish leaders in Cape Town.

NGF grooms future Jewish leadership through bringing together young representatives of Jewish communities throughout the world for an intensive period of education and discussion about their Jewish heritage. It is a very powerful bonding experience and an enormously enriching one. Today, many past Fellows hold senior leadership positions within our community.

Jewish Boer memorial

The Board is partnering with the Ladysmith Siege Museum Trust in erecting a memorial to Jews who died serving on the side of the Boers during the Anglo-Boer War. Three years ago, we collaborated with the Trust in commemorating the 110th anniversary of the action at Surprise Hill, during which Harry Spanier was the first Jewish Boer to be killed in action. A plaque to Spanier, in Afrikaans and Hebrew, was unveiled on that occasion. This new monument records the names of all Jews who died in the service of the Boer republics. It is being erected near the main Burgher Memorial on the Platrand, just outside Ladysmith. It will be formally unveiled on Monday, August 6, at 11:00, and followed by a function at Platrand Lodge. A number of Board representatives, including myself, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft and Associate Director David Saks, will be participating. We would be delighted if other members of our community can be with us for what promises to be a memorable occasion.

Beware of overreacting

Members of our community are justifi ably upset when confronted with the public display of Nazi symbols, particularly swastikas. When this entails actually propagating the Nazi ideology (rather than in an educational context, such as in a museum), the Board will always take steps to counteract it. However, misunderstandings can occur. The swastika is in fact a very ancient symbol, and prior to its misappropriation by the Nazis, its meaning was essentially benign. It is an important symbol within the Hindu faith (unlike the Nazi version, it is decorated with dots and displayed upright rather than at an angle). Recently, we had to diffuse a potentially unpleasant situation when a Hindu woman was (inexcusably) abused and threatened by a Jewish colleague for displaying the sign. I would like to urge our community to learn the differences between the two symbols and not to overreact when confronted by the Hindu version. While some may be uneasy about something so reminiscent of the Nazi scourge, we need to respect the right of others to identify with their culture and recognise when nothing malicious is intended.

 

This Above Board Column first appeared in the South African Jewish Report on 20 July 2012

Mary Kluk is the Chairman of the SAJBD, and is based in Durban.

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