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Spectacular Absa Jewish Achiever event

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Sunday night saw the equivalent of our community’s very own Oscar awards when the South African Jewish Report hosted its17th Absa Jewish Achiever Awards gala banquet.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Aug 26, 2015

Photograph: Ilan Ossendryver

Pictured : Tali Nates, Thuli Madonsela, Claudia Swartzberg.

The banquet was completely sold out well before the time, with people placed on a waiting list and the indefatigable Howard Sackstein, chairman of the Achiever Awards, was dealing with desperate pleas for additional seating right up until its 16:30 start time.

All of the money raised from sponsorship and seat ticket, go to support the free publication and distribution of this newspaper and its digital content.

Attended by nominees, past winners, prominent business people, key sponsors, media, and glitterati, Vodaworld in Midrand was alight with dark suits and glittering gowns. As the guests hit the “red carpet”, they were interviewed by the striking Dina Diamond, a volunteer member of the amazingly capable team that, each year, organises the Achiever banquet, and the selection process.

Guests warmed up in the cocktail area with mohitos and whisky before entering the beautiful banquet hall. The theme of this year’s Awards was “We built this country with heart and soul”, celebrating the contributions made by South African Jewry, who, from humble beginnings, have helped to build and to give back.

As Sackstein noted in his opening address: “This group of underprivileged immigrants would become South Africa’s Nobel Laureates; winners in science, medicine and literature; leaders of the trade union movement, Struggle icons, constitutional court jurists, artists, academics, lawyers, musicians, doctors, entrepreneurs, industrialists and revolutionaries.”

In every aspect of society, Sackstein says, Jews have had a profound impact.

“From the captain of Bafana Bafana, to the winning goal at the Rugby World Cup; from ‘White Zulu’ music and transgender comedy to the charcoal drawings of [William] Kentridge and the magical Zanzibar paintings of Irma Stern; from Helen Suzman to Nadine Gordimer; from Joe Slovo and Ruth First to Solly Sachs and Arthur Chaskalson; from Sammy Marks to Raymond Ackerman; from Brian Joffe to Eric Sampson; from Donny Gordon to Adrian Gore; from Operation Hunger to Afrika Tikkun, South African Jews have built this country with heart and soul.”

Over 400 nominations were received for nine categories of winners, which included the launch of the Woman in Leadership Award, sponsored by Europcar.

Four panels of judges interviewed 64 finalists for a total of nine prizes. (See story on page 13 for winners).

Pubic Protector Thuli Madonsela, winner of the Chivas Humanitarian Award in honour of Cyril Harris, expressed deep gratitude, as did all the award recipients, for the honour.

She said: “I have seen this evening what this community has done to recognise fellow human beings who go out of their way to make the world a better place; I’m grateful for the work that is being done.”

Steven Koseff [from Investec] who gave out the Arts, Science and Sports Award to cartoonist Dov Fedler, spoke about the importance of entrepreneurs, many of whom were recognised that night. “You don’t create jobs by redistributing wealth, you create jobs by building companies.”

In handing out the new Woman in Leadership Award to war correspondent Paula Slier who runs a media house that supplies news on the Middle East to broadcasters around the world, Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO of sponsor Europcar, spoke about the importance of women in leadership in both business and society at large. She said: “Women leaders need encouragement”, referring to Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg’s view that women still make life choices to prioritise family life which keep them out of top corporate jobs.

The event, in celebrating the success, hard work and commitment of so many talented individuals, left all who attended feeling inspired, proud and optimistic with a sense that the members of this  small community are not just bystanders in South Africa’s process. They also perhaps felt strengthened and just a little more committed to building this country, despite all the hurdles it faces.

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