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Hebrew Society at Wits is finally approved

  • Wits Hebrew
A group of Wits students of all religions were elated on Monday after hearing that their application to form a Hebrew Society had been approved at the eleventh hour. With orientation week, commonly known as “O-week” set to begin on campus next Monday, January 30, clubs and societies set up shop to attract members and, had the approval not been granted this week, it would have delayed the students’ plans for a year.
by ANT KATZ | Feb 03, 2017

The application was made by students of various faiths and had nothing to do with the SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS). The new society will be completely independent of SAUJS.

Permission to form societies and clubs falls under the purview of the Students Representative Council (SRC), which originally turned down the students’ application due to it being, according to them, too focused on linguistics and not enough on culture.

On December 23, club members followed the normal process and addressed an “Appeal of club and society application decision” to Dean of Students Dr Puleng Lenka-Bula, who directed movers for the new club to the appeal process already underway for clubs and societies who had been turned down.

A disappointed prospective member, Anesu Dera. told Jewish Report in December that he had been keen to join the society - and had even considered becoming active on the committee. Dera told Jewish Report this week that he was very excited at the news and believed it would enhance diversity among students.

“I can’t wait to start learning and meet other people in the process,” he said. As a Christian, it makes sense to learn Hebrew to understand the bible as well as using it as a means of tracking international affairs,” he said.

While there had been a Hebrew Department at Wits in the past, chaired by the late Prof Jocelyn Hellig, none has existed for many years.

The driver behind the initiative, Ilana Demby, told Jewish Report on hearing the news of the successful appeal on Tuesday: “We are just so thrilled! This will be a student-driven initiative that will enable all students, regardless of background, to enjoy Hebrew. Even when I am no longer a student I hope students will continue learning Hebrew.”

The university explained that it encourages the SRC to handle applications for clubs and societies as a leadership and skills-building process.

“This is an internal student matter related to student governance and the University is managing it as such, in line with its relevant rules, policies and procedure,” Wits senior communications officer Buhle Zuma explained to Jewish Report last week.

“Dean of Students Dr Puleng Lenka-Bula and Jabu Mashinini, the senior programme adviser: Student Governance, are attending to the matter,” said Zuma, and they would correspond directly with the “affected parties as appropriate”.

Zuma highlighted that “student societies and student governance is a formative space for students to develop and enhance their leadership skills”.

However, a further hearing was duly held on Monday January 23 and the Hebrew Society was given the go-ahead and joins numerous other cultural and/or language clubs on campus, among them Xhosa, Zulu, Venda, Italian, Hellenic, Sotho and Pedi.

All that remains now is to wait and see how many students sign up at O-week.

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