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Awards recognise previously excluded icons

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The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards this year is striving to recognise those who haven’t been acknowledged for their contribution in the past. To do this, changes have been made to certain awards to pay tribute to those who have made a difference.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Jun 14, 2018

The new awards will open the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards to a new audience, according to Howard Sackstein, Chairperson of the board of the SA Jewish Report. “We are honouring those who were previously excluded, and recognising that some of them have gone beyond previous criteria, even reaching iconic status,” he says.

Absa has introduced the following new awards: the Absa Business Icon Award, Absa Business Award, and the Absa Professional Excellence Award. The first two will replace the Absa Entrepreneur Award, the Absa Unlisted Company Award, and the Absa Listed Company Award.

Said Sackstein: “In the past, there was often no real distinction between listed and unlisted companies. Relatively small enterprises could be listed, and massive ones could be unlisted. They were differentiated based on a mere technicality.

“Enormous businesses were perhaps not generating a profit, while smaller ones were flourishing and making a sizeable profit. We therefore don’t want to distinguish between them as listed or unlisted. The people involved in them are all business people, are all eligible for recognition, and need to be acknowledged.”

One thing was evident, says Sackstein. “We often received nominations for senior partners in law firms or vice-chancellors who ran universities with huge budgets. We have also received other nominations of people who engaged in business but never fitted into these company categories. It was clear that not enough recognition was being given to the people who didn’t meet the previous criteria, and this needed to be addressed.

“We need to reward and recognise these outliers. We resolved to do this by establishing the term ‘icon’. We all have names in our heads of people who founded businesses that were truly trailblazers. These people broke new ground, innovated novel solutions never seen before, employed hundreds of people, or shook up the business realm in some way. These are people of iconic status, and we want to pay tribute to the difference they have made in the world of business.”

Addressing the Professional Excellence Award, Sackstein says the time has come to recognise people who were not previously accounted for in former criteria.

“Our community includes several nurses, architects, educators, doctors, and other professionals whose work couldn’t feature previously,” he says. “These are professional people who have risen above the ranks to become the cream of the crop in their respective fields not only locally, but internationally.

“Over the years, South Africa has produced several Nobel Laureates, many of whom were Jewish. We asked how such tremendous tributes could be recognised within the context of our awards. There’s no question that they must be, and this new award allows us to do so. The reputations of great contributors must be recognised, and the Achiever Awards now has a unique opportunity to acknowledge as many people of stature as possible.”

Sackstein acknowledged that the establishment of criteria for this award was rather difficult. “I have no doubt that our judges are going to have an extremely difficult time,” he says.

“How can you compare a doctor and a stockbroker, or weigh up the accomplishments of a nurse against those of an educator? The task is daunting, and I must say that I don’t envy our judges in the least. Using indicators such as overall success, reputation, innovation, contributions, and previous recognition, they are going to have to make an informed decision. They really have their work cut out for them.”

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