Op-eds

UAE represented at historic WJC forum

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) National Director Wendy Kahn participated in the World Jewish Congress (WJC) National Community Directors’ Forum last Thursday, giving thanks to guest speaker Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Sep 10, 2020

Apart from the unavoidable fact that this year’s event took place online, it was also unique in that a new country was represented on the WJC. That country, as you may have guessed, is the United Arab Emirates. It was an emotional moment when Ross Kriel, the leader of the small Jewish community in Dubai, addressed the gathering. The fact that he and his wife, Ellie, (who runs a successful kosher catering service in a city where Jews were not welcome for many years), as well as Rabbi Mirvis himself, are all products of our own community, made the occasion even more meaningful from a South African Jewish point of view.

Heritage Month

September is Heritage Month, when South Africans are encouraged to celebrate their culture and traditions while also celebrating what all South Africa’s communities contribute to the national identity. One of the institutions established to safeguard and promote these values is the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Commission. The SAJBD has had a strong connection with this body ever since its establishment, beginning with the appointment of our immediate past president, Marlene Bethlehem, as deputy chairperson when it was first constituted in 2003. In all, Marlene served on the commission as a representative of the Jewish community for two five-year terms.

At the end of August, Wendy Kahn and Gauteng Council member Reeva Forman participated in a seminar with the commission on the roles and challenges faced by women in cultural, religious, and language sectors. Kahn made a speech on behalf of the Jewish community in which she emphasised how there had been significant change in terms of the leadership of women in South African Jewry over the past decade. It’s encouraging to note that in both the recent Gauteng and Cape Council elections, 50% of the elected leadership is women.

Heritage Month is an opportune moment to reflect on our own history and culture. Over time, the SAJBD’s core mission of representing the community and upholding Jewish civil rights has been expanded to incorporate various activities to preserve and promote this legacy, particularly in the local context. One of these is our journal, Jewish Affairs, which for nearly 80 years has served as the community’s leading Jewish historical, cultural, and current affairs journal. The latest issue, the fifth to appear in the new online format, is now out and freely accessible, along with back issues going back to 2009, at https://www.sajbd.org/jewish-affairs. Jewish Affairs is currently housed on the SAJBD website, but a new standalone Jewish Affairs website is in an advanced stage of production. As a way of participating in Heritage Month you can, at no cost, sign on as a subscriber by sending your name and email to [email protected]

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

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