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Op-eds

Pretoria Council turns ‘three-score-and-ten’

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
The recent South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) national conference marked the fiftieth such biennial gathering of Jewish community leadership since the establishment of a united, nationally-based board in 1912. At its annual general meeting on Sunday, the SAJBD Pretoria Council likewise celebrated a significant milestone: its 70th anniversary as a distinct regional council of the board. Prior to that, Pretoria had been considered part of the greater Johannesburg region.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Nov 21, 2019

In spite of being located so close to the primary hub of Jewish communal life in South Africa, Pretoria Jewry has succeeded in maintaining its own distinctive character and independence. It constitutes one of the four main regional branches of the board, and in spite of reduced numbers, it remains a vibrant, contributing component of South African Jewry as a whole.

Of particular note this year is the extensive assistance rendered by the community to victims both of xenophobic violence in Pretoria’s Marabastad area and the Mozambique flood disaster. In my congratulatory message, I paid tribute to the community for everything it is accomplishing, making specific reference to those members, past and present, who have made so distinctive a contribution to the board’s national councils over decades. They include current chairman Louis Pearlman, past chairmen Victor Gordon and Lawrence Nowosenetz (both of whom received special community service awards at the AGM) and long-serving secretary Diane Wolfson. We wish our Pretoria colleagues continued success in the years to come, and look forward to working with them in building on our common South African Jewish heritage.

Chevrah Kadisha tribute evening

Also taking place this week was the annual Chevrah Kadisha tribute dinner, which SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn and I attended. As always, it was an inspiring occasion, one that highlighted the extraordinary and multifaceted work carried out by this remarkable organisation, together with the outstanding individuals, including lay leaders, professional staff, donors, and volunteers, who make it all possible.

At our recent national conference, I said that the Chevrah Kadisha has no equivalent in the diaspora, and this is surely true. In terms of the comprehensive range of services it provides, combined with how well it has succeeded in bringing so many different aspects of community welfare under one umbrella, it is indeed a unique organisation. What also stood out for me at the event was how the Chevrah Kadisha is developing strategies to ensure its sustainability for the next decade and beyond. The lesson we should take from this is that when it comes to ensuring the viability of our communal organisations, we can’t rely solely on idealism and good intentions, but must also strive to run them in the most efficient, practical, and cost-effective way that we can – in other words, like any other business.

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

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