Standing up to Antisemitism

by Mary Kluk on 8 June 2012

in Above Board

Jewish grave desecrated with a swastika in Bloemfontein in 2010

The relatively low level of antisemitism in South Africa compared with elsewhere in the world is something we are grateful for. That being said, hostile acts aimed at Jews solely on the basis of their being Jewish still regularly occur. Sometimes, these take place in the context of a dispute, in which the non-Jewish party makes gratuitous and offensive references to the other’s Jewishness. At others, it manifests as unprovoked acts aimed at denigrating the Jewish community, such as hate mail and graffiti. Some actions, while not explicitly antisemitic, are nevertheless offensive to Jews, and would include any public demonstration expressing support for Nazism.

It is part of the core mandate of the SAJBD to counter-act all acts of this nature. To this end, we have adopted a zero-tolerance policy in which every action that we become aware of that we deem to have even an element of anti-Jewish prejudice is taken up and pursued to whatever extent is necessary in order to achieve a satisfactory resolution. In recent weeks, we have taken up a number of cases of antisemitic or generally offensive behaviour, and I am pleased to report that all have had a satisfactory outcome. Several other cases of a more complex and far-reaching nature are still in the process of being dealt with, and will be reported on in due course. What I would like to stress that it is not necessary to remain passive in the face of antisemitism. Such prejudice is not acceptable in our society and there are remedies for it that the SAJBD will not hesitate to enforce if required. I therefore urge anyone who has a grievance in this regard to contact our offices (011 645 2521/ david@beyachad.co.za).

Taking part in the broader national discourse

I congratulate our Cape Council on the very successful public debate they recently hosted on the topic “Should Employment Equity have a sunset clause?” This was part of its broader strategy of actively involving itself and the Jewish community in nation building initiatives and debates. Panellists included the Western Cape representatives of the ANC and DA youth leagues and representatives of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce and Black Management Forum. Over 200 people attended the debate, which lasted for well over two hours. Pictures and a podcast of the debate can be found on the Cape Council’s website (www.capebod.org.za).

University Exams on Shavuot and Shabbat

We have again been able to resolve a number of cases of exams set on Yom Tov and Shabbat, this time at UNISA and UJ. Once again, we worked closely with these universities to find a workable solution, and I thank to them for their cooperation in making alternative arrangements possible. Once again, I urge any students who are faced with this problem to make us aware of it as timeously as possible so that we can take it up on their behalf.

Listen to “Jewish Board Talk” every Tuesday evening on 101.9 Chai FM with Steven Gruzd from 20h00-21h00, repeated Sundays 11h00-12h00. On Tuesday 12 June, Steve plans to chat to Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein about the Sinai Indaba, Lynne Raphaely about the Union of Jewish Women, and historian Lauren Segal about the significance of 16 June. Also streaming on www.chaifm.com

This Above Board column first appeared in the SA Jewish Report on 8 June 2012

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

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