Op-eds

Proud to meet the challenge

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
The core mandate of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is to safeguard the rights and promote the welfare of South African Jewry, but there are times where, as the community’s representative body, we involve ourselves in matters of wider national concern.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | May 21, 2020

In the past, this has included assisting victims of xenophobic violence, flood, and in fire relief initiatives, and helping to ensure the continuation of essential services during public-sector strikes.

Today, the overriding challenge facing the country is to provide sufficient food to those unable to generate any kind of income due to lockdown conditions to sustain themselves and their dependents until the crisis has passed. The Board has been devoting much of its time and resources to making a difference in this area either through its own projects or by working with and supporting other Jewish-led upliftment initiatives.

As our National Director Wendy Kahn stresses, in addition to seeing to the welfare of our own community, we need to be concerned about the real crisis of hunger in the greater society.

That’s why we have taken the outreach we are already involved in and elevated it to another level. Last week, thanks to an extremely generous contribution from an anonymous donor and further contributions from other community members, the SAJBD launched its R9 million fund to provide food to communities in need during the lockdown.

The Board has partnered with the Angel Network, a non-government organisation founded by a group of Jewish women that even before lockdown was accomplishing marvellous things in terms of helping severely disadvantaged communities. We have been working with it on numerous CAN (Community Action Network) initiatives, and with the substantial additional funds, are now in the process of rolling out an assortment of projects in both rural and urban areas of Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and North West Province.

For more details, I recommend listening to the messages from Wendy Kahn and the Angel Network’s Glynne Wolman, which can be found on our Facebook site and website (http://sajbd.org/), along with information on some of the other inspiring work that is being done.

The day will come when we, and future generations, will look back on this very difficult period in our country’s history and evaluate the extent to which our community responded to the complex moral and logistical challenges of the day. We can be justifiably proud of what has been and is being done in that regard. In Gauteng alone, nearly two-thirds of CAN projects are being run by Jewish community members.

However, right now our focus has to be on continuing this essential – indeed life-saving – humanitarian work. Every contribution helps, no matter how small, and I urge all members of our community who are in a position to do so to come on board in whatever way they can.

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

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