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Jewish community needs united, inclusive leadership

  • Letter3
There are so many reasons why the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is an annual inspiration. However one of the most understated is that when you talk figures and percentages, you are treated to a small nation with a lot of success. Its success is not just its own, but an achievement for the community and the country. Year on year, different faces are nominated, and the depth of this society has never let us down. Most winners are humble, and see their role as one of service.
by Darren Bergman, DA shadow minister of international relations and cooperation | Sep 12, 2019

It begs the question where we are as a community, and whether we are still welcome in this country.

Last week was a bad time for South Africa on the global stage. It highlighted a country cruising on autopilot, praying that the economy will sort everything out, and the fact that the government has run out of ideas. Deafening silence, poor choices, and divisiveness gave us a clear indication that our new dawn is just a dream.

Among this, South Africa was forced to move away from the topics of Israel and Morocco, and account for its own shortcomings. I think it’s fair to say that it was getting a taste of its own medicine. There were threats of diplomatic boycotts, interference in its handling of domestic matters, and an arena of people standing up to leaders and telling them that enough is enough. To say that the authorities were caught like a deer in the headlights is an understatement. Unfortunately, knowing the government the way I do, this will be a temporary setback. Before long, it will be back to scapegoating, preaching dreams, and peddling hope.

It’s at a time like this that the Jewish nation of South Africa, a dwindling yet productive presence, can show the government that we aren’t pawns on a chess board, but rather one of the more enchanting characters with moves to play.

Our community of late has seen that its leadership structures are just as fallible as those of the government. We have leaders who try to hold onto the rugby ball for as long as possible, not daring to pass to some of those willing to play their part on the field. We have seen extraordinarily poor decisions such as partnering with organisations or boycotting events, and creating an environment of divisiveness. Volunteers and players alike never get the opportunity to network together for the benefit of future South African Jewry. Instead, we are told what we should feel, and how we should feel it.

The time has come to bring a united force of leaders, businessmen, politicians, and activists into a room to ensure that the question is not whether Jews have a home in South Africa in the future, but rather whether we as Jews will ensure that our place is welcome and guaranteed.

I make an open challenge to the Union of Orthodox Synagogues, South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and South African Zionist Federation et al to make it happen. Include us!

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