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A galaxy of stars illuminates the Achiever Awards

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For the past 19 years, we have gathered here at the Jewish Achiever Awards as proud South Africans believing that our best days are still before us, said Howard Sackstein, chairman of the SA Jewish Report board at the opening of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards at Vodaworld in Midrand on Sunday evening.
by HELEN GRANGE | Aug 18, 2017

“Despite recession, political decay and rampant kleptocracy, tonight we reaffirm our belief that when the sky is darkest, the stars shine more brightly.

“Across the backdrop of South Africa’s heavens, our Galaxy of Stars will shine tonight as they illuminate our country and the world.”

Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2017
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He spoke to some of South Africa’s most illustrious talent in business, politics, sport, culture and the arts, who were gathered to find out who the nine winners of this year’s awards were.

It was an evening defined by glamour in black and silver decor, haute cuisine and outstanding entertainment courtesy The Muses, South Africa’s all-girl violinists.

Themed “A Galaxy of Stars”, the event kicked off with cocktails and tappas appetisers at 16:00, enjoyed as one of The Muses, Ashley Lineker, made an entrance in a bubble dress made of silver balloons and worked the room playing her violin.

The star-studded guest list included former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, former Deputy Commissioner of the SA Revenue Services Ivan Pillay, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Professor Mathole Motshekga, Deputy Minister of Public Works Dipuo Letsati-Duba, MEC of Economic Development Mandla Nkomfe, DA leader Mmusi Maimane and COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota, Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba and IFP Gauteng leader Bonginkosi Dlamini.

“Tonight we celebrate nine remarkable South Africans who have changed the very fabric of South Africa,” said Sackstein, adding that “integrity, service and excellence” were the qualities that the Jewish Achiever Awards, along with its partner Absa, sought out in the nominees and winners.

“We celebrate not to brag of our successes, but to highlight that each individual plays a role in shaping and improving the world.

“Our community created the trade union movement in South Africa, we were the communists, the capitalists, the industrialists and the humanitarian workers.

“We gave birth to Joe Slovo and Ruth First, to Rusty Bernstein and Arthur Goldreich, to Esther Basel and Sheila Weinberg, to Jill Marcus and Arthur Chaskalson, to Albie Sachs and Helen Suzman.

“Whether it’s Operation Hunger or Morris Isaacson School, whether its Afrika Tikkun or Liliesleaf Farm, the fingerprints of our people are indelibly imprinted on the history of South Africa,” said Sackstein to generous applause and a room awash in sparkle.

“We as Jews and South Africans, have seen the fruits of redemption as we have moved from slavery to freedom, from violence to peace, from ashes to resurrection. We measure ourselves not by our numbers, but by our impact on society. But life and peace and freedom are fragile. They need to be nourished and nurtured.”

His message to the politicians present was simple and clear:

“Every rand that is stolen or wasted is a home that is not built; a pension that is not paid; a student that never goes to university and water that is not delivered.

“As we sit dangerously on a precipice, we can never allow our nation to slip back into the abyss of despair.

“The problems we face today are man-made and require no Divine intervention to solve. They can and must be resolved by all of us as South Africans, determined to carve a better future for our country - and believing that the people of this country simply deserve better.”

Sackstein said that it is “hope that drives us forward with relentless optimism”.

It was in this “country of miracles” that “penniless refugees facing certain death in Eastern Europe, were allowed to settle in a country fraught with racial divides, among people who did not consider us worthy to live among them”.

He made it clear that “now more than ever, our moral leadership will define who we are as a people”.

He spoke to an audience filled with luminaries - aside from the award nominees and winners - that included Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Investec CEO Stephen Koseff, Bidvest founder Brian Joffe, David Hodnett, deputy CEO of Barclays Africa Group (for Absa), CEO of KIA Motors Gary Scott, co-founder and co-CEO of The Creative Counsel Gil Oved, and well-known psychologist Dorianne Weil, who stood out in a stunning red dress offset with glam heels.

Master of ceremonies for the evening was Kagiso Lediga, a stand-up comedian who kept the show rolling between rousing performances by The Muses, an electric string quartet made up of four beautiful women who owned the stage with their brilliant performances of all-time favourites like Miriam Makeba’s Pata Pata, Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence and the theme song from The Game of Thrones.

Dinner started, around beautifully decorated tables, with Japanese-style sashimi with pickled radish and capers, followed by a vodka and gazpacho consommé as a chilled palate cleanser.

Dinner was slow-braised chicken roulade with mushroom filling, crispy rice noodles and vegetables. True to theme, dessert was named “Rings, Starlight Spheres & Gold Glitter”.

It was washed down with top name wines and Bunnahabhain single malt Scotch whisky, sponsored by Distell and greatly appreciated.

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