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Op-eds

Remembering June 16

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
On 16 June 2006, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) led a Jewish community delegation to Soweto to take part in events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the protests that sparked what would come to be known as the Soweto uprising.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Jun 13, 2019

The delegation participated in a march from the famous Morris Isaacson School to the Hector Pieterson Memorial, named after the teenage demonstrator who was the first to be killed in the violence. The Morris Isaacson School, which featured prominently in the protests, is named after a distinguished member of our community whose generous support made its establishment possible in the early 1950s.

On Youth Day this Sunday, we will once again take a group to Soweto, including King David and Yeshiva College students. As before, the participants will follow the original route of the 1976 protestors in marching from the Morris Isaacson School to the Hector Pieterson Memorial. On reaching their destination, they will lay wreaths in memory of the hundreds of South Africans who lost their lives in the uprising. In honouring those who died, we remember them not only as victims of an unjust, racially oppressive system, but also as brave freedom fighters whose courage and sacrifice helped pave the way to non-racial democracy less than two decades later.

As previously emphasised in this column, one of the practical ways in which our community can identify meaningfully with our country’s national culture and heritage is by participating in events organised around public holidays. Over the years, the SAJBD has headed up numerous such initiatives, including attending commemorative events at Sharpeville on Human Rights Day and joining other faith communities in activities organised around Reconciliation Day. Apart from the genuine goodwill that this generates towards our community, our participation in such events strengthens our own feelings of connection to the society of which we are a part, and creates avenues through which we can continue to contribute and build bridges.

Fighting racism is incumbent on us all

Apartheid was formally consigned to the trash bin of history a quarter of a century ago, but inevitably, the abolition of racist laws did not mean the demise of racist attitudes themselves. Accomplishing this was – and remains – an ongoing imperative for all South Africans, even for the “born free” generation which has never lived under a system predicated on racial discrimination.

Last month, the SAJBD Gauteng Council launched what is hoped will be an ongoing campaign to sensitise our own community against this pernicious phenomenon. As a necessary first step, we have drafted a principled statement condemning racism, and committing ourselves to confronting it whenever and wherever it surfaces. The statement was sent last month to all our affiliate organisations in Gauteng to sign, and thereafter take forward in their own spheres of activity. I urge all community members to embrace the ethos and values of the declaration, and look for ways to give it practical expression in their daily lives.

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

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