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Op-eds

Small communities association on track

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Earlier this year, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) decided to establish an organisation called the Small Jewish Communities Association (SJCA) to take over the work of the board’s country communities department from the beginning of next year.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Oct 10, 2019

Encouraging progress was made in getting the SJCA up and running at a meeting of small community trustees on 6 October. There is still much work to be done mainly from a techno-legal and administrative point of view, but the fundamental principles of the new body are now in place. These include the composition of its governing body (on which the SAJBD will be represented) and responsibility for its day-to-day running. Under the capable and dedicated chairmanship of Barney Horwitz, and with Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft as chief executive and positioned to continue doing the outstanding work as spiritual leader to our far-flung country brethren that he has done for the past 26 years, we believe that the SJCA will be in excellent hands, and hopefully it will go from strength to strength.

Heritage Day

Interfaith activity has long been one of the strengths of the SAJBD Cape Council. On Heritage Day last month, the council partnered with various local faith communities in organising this year’s Cape Town Interfaith Initiative Religious Heritage Day Bus Tour. This is the seventh such tour arranged by Cape Deputy Director Gwynne Robins, an executive committee member of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative of many years standing. This year, participants visited the historic Gardens Shul, South African Jewish Museum, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Tushita Kadampa Buddhist Meditation Centre, and the Shiite Mosque. Robins presented a history of the museum, while Cape Director Stuart Diamond addressed the group at the Gardens Shul.

The importance of initiatives like this in fostering social cohesion and breaking down historic barriers of mistrust between people from different cultural, ethnic, or religious backgrounds cannot be overstated. They help to transform potential causes of division into opportunities for learning and sharing. This is surely the kind of South Africa we should all be striving to build, whether as organisations or simply in our individual interactions with our fellow citizens. Regrettably, all too often, political leaders, instead of showing the way in this regard, are guilty of exacerbating tensions by making inflammatory and offensive comments about certain sections of the population.

A recent example was Gauteng MEC Lebogang Maile’s deplorable tweet alleging that Jews have unfairly gained control of certain buildings in the Johannesburg CBD. We are in the process of arranging a meeting with the MEC to ask him to account for this baseless and insulting charge against our community, one that runs completely counter to the non-racial values of his own party, and indeed of our country as a whole.   

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

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