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Op-eds

Reaching out to Ramaphosa

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
When President Cyril Ramaphosa agreed to speak at the conference of the Gauteng Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, we decided to use the occasion as an opportunity to demonstrate our community’s commitment, in the past and today, to helping build South Africa.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Nov 29, 2018

Since assuming the presidency, Ramaphosa has worked tirelessly to address the damaging legacy of the previous administration. It was important for the Jewish community to hear from Ramaphosa himself regarding his vision for the country, while at the same time showing that it supports his efforts to deal with the challenges facing our country and is willing and able to assist in that regard.

When introducing the session in which Ramaphosa and eminent business leader Stephen Koseff exchanged views on how to get things right in South Africa, I alluded to how Ramaphosa – when addressing our community in Cape Town – stated that his government continued to regard the Jewish community as “valued partners in building a better society for all”. I reiterated that he could rely on the wholehearted support of South African Jewry in his endeavours to achieve those goals. Coming at this particular time in South Africa’s history, when so much hangs on whether or not we, as a nation, succeed in getting the country on the correct path, we believe that these were the core messages that we needed to communicate.

There is a great deal of anxiety in the Jewish community over the current state and future prospects of the country, and whether Jews still have a place in it. Such sentiments are understandable in view of the increasing racial polarisation in our society, which has been exacerbated by the divisive and confrontational rhetoric on the part of certain political leaders. As Jews, we are under additional stress because of uncertainty about the future of the South Africa-Israel relationship.

Our conference went a long way towards addressing these concerns. Ramaphosa’s insightful, reassuring observations were warmly received by the capacity crowd, as were the other items on the programme, including the celebration of the Mandela legacy, and honouring the Coleman family for the courageous stand taken by its members against the apartheid regime.

A memorable evening closed with a special award to our remarkable National Director, Wendy Kahn, who, as previously reported, has received the signal honour of being included in The Jerusalem Post’s annual list of the world’s 50 most influential Jews. As with previous board conferences, Wendy oversaw every detail of the complex process, while somehow keeping on top of a host of other pressing issues that the board has had to deal with. Her achievement is well summed up by the following extract from the citation we presented to her: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that you have rewritten the manual in terms of what it means to be a successful Jewish communal professional, setting a standard that both your counterparts and your successors can only strive to emulate, but can hardly expect to exceed.”

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk on 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday, from 12:00 to 13:00.

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