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Saving SA one Achiever at a time

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A record 920 guests converged on the Sandton Convention Centre on Sunday, 8 September, to find out the winners of this year’s Absa Jewish Achiever Awards.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Sep 12, 2019

They weren’t disappointed. Guests and winners were enthralled by a unique performance by one of the world’s best conductors, Benjamin Zander, and the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra, with the hilarious John Vlismas as emcee.

The illustrious winners of the 20th Achiever Awards include Discovery’s Adrian Gore and Barry Swartzberg, global businessman Sir Mick Davis, McDonald’s Chief Executive Greg Solomon, and Bafana Bafana captain Dean Furman.

Upon arrival, the guests networked while being treated to an array of refreshments ranging from artisanal cocktails to more traditional spirits, accompanied by savoury canapés.

The excitement was palpable, escalating as the guests entered the ballroom to take their seats to an official welcome by Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the awards and the SA Jewish Report.

“Over the past two decades, we have celebrated some of the most remarkable South Africans who built this nation,” said Sackstein.

“They include people who devote their lives to the upliftment of society, and legends who have made a success of their lives internationally but still consider South Africa their home.”

South Africa has suffered wave after wave of negativity and bad news for some time, Sackstein said, but the talent recognised by the awards offers an answer to the tide of negative sentiment, and a start to solving our many problems.

“For those who believe that the best days may still be before us, the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is a beacon of hope and a glimmer of inspiration for all South Africans. How do we save South Africa? We start by looking at the list of [our] nominees. People who, despite the odds, are building this country.”

Sackstein left guests in the hands of the maverick maestro, Zander, under whose baton the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra performed with aplomb, its members deftly navigating the music of Beethoven under the gaze of hundreds. The orchestra’s confident performance earned it a standing ovation.

Vlismas took the helm as master of ceremonies following the musical spectacle, this time making people cry with laughter.

More than 600 nominations were received this year, and more than 5 000 members of the public voted for the winners for the first time.

The year’s winning personalities include the founder of Timeless African Safaris, Marco van Embden, who won the Kia Community Service Award; football marvel Dean Furman, who received the SAA Voyager Art, Science, Sports and Culture Award; and CellVault Chief Executive Michael Gewer, who took the Kirsh Family Entrepreneur Award.

Title sponsor Absa’s award categories recognised the accomplishments of Discovery co-founder Adrian Gore with the Absa Business Icon Award. His business partner, Barry Swartzberg, was also recognised, sharing the Absa Business Award with maverick McDonald’s South Africa Chief Executive Greg Solomon.

The executive head of Redhill School, Joseph Gerassi, received the Absa Professional Excellence Award for his forward-thinking contribution to the world of education.

The Europcar Women in Leadership Award went to philanthropic powerhouse Edna Freinkel, who has dedicated her life to assisting the learning-impaired through her focus on reading and dyslexia.

Watchdog organisation Corruption Watch, whose tireless team strives to hold leaders to account, was recognised with the Glenmorangie Signet Humanitarian Award.

Jewish personalities who have left their mark internationally were among those recognised. These include the South African-born, United Kingdom-based Sir Mick Davis, whose diverse career in business, finance, and British politics earned him the Capricorn Lifetime Achievement Award. Zander was also recognised with the SAA Voyager Special and Extraordinary Award for his contribution to the world of music.

Amidst the hearty applause and cheering, guests tucked into a gourmet dinner prepared by kosher culinary artist, Gary Friedman. As exquisite as the plated main course was, however, the real pièce de résistance was the dessert. Each attendee received a box containing five individual treats, among them a delectable pumpkin and apple caramel pudding and mouth-watering potted Lindt fondant au chocolat.

As the evening drew to a close, the guests departed with their ears full of music, their hearts bursting with inspiration, and their waistlines a few centimetres bigger. It was an evening that paid tribute to individual greatness and communal achievement, and eyes shone from beginning to end.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Carol Kahn 16 Sep
    Just so VERY proud of my people who truly go that extra mile! ✡️��✡️

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