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Op-eds

The SAJBD and the wider society

  • Jeff
In the SAJBD’s mission statement, even before any mention of upholding Jewish civil rights, particular stress is put on the Board’s role in building bridges of friendship and understanding between the Jewish community and the wider society.
by JEFF KATZ | Jun 22, 2017

Specifically, our mandate is “to work for the betterment of human relations between Jews and all other peoples of South Africa, based on mutual respect, understanding and goodwill”.

Over the decades, the Board has pursued this goal in many areas, including in the interfaith sphere, wartime mobilisation, cultural exchanges and participation in initiatives aimed at strengthening human rights and democracy.

The Cape Council has traditionally been very involved in this aspect of the Board’s work. In recent weeks, their activities have included hosting 70 members of the Muslim community to an interfaith iftaar meal (an event addressed by Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk), meeting with the Congolese Civil Society to assist them in deciding priorities and forward planning and participating in the 23rd Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide.

In Gauteng, Reeva Forman has been especially active in the sphere of social outreach and interfaith activities on behalf of both the Board and Temple Israel. In recognition of her excellent work on the Gauteng Faith-Based Organisations, she was elected vice-chairperson of the National Interfaith Council of South Africa - Gauteng Chapter, at its official launch two weeks ago.

As detailed in previous columns, the Board further leads SA Jewry in identifying with and participating in the broader South African democratic culture and heritage, including national holidays, elections, input into the legislative process and anti-racism education.

During times of national crisis, including periodic outbreaks of xenophobic violence and natural disasters such as the recent Knysna fires, we find ways in which Jewish organisations and individuals can help in alleviating the situation.

We have not and will  never appeal in vain. The culture of giving has always run deep in our community, and providing a conduit through which our community can contribute to the public good, is an important component of the work done by the SAJBD. 

Exam timetable reminder 

Through all of this, the Board is regularly called upon to resolve difficulties specifically relating to Jewish law and practice. As noted in last week’s column, we have been working with the Gauteng health authorities and other relevant bodies in addressing problems of autopsies being delayed as a result of the current mortuary workers’ strike.

An area where we are continuously involved, is that of accommodating religiously observant university students whose exams have been set on Shabbat or Yomtov. As always, students who have scheduling clashes, need to inform us as soon as possible so as to allow us sufficient time to come to an acceptable arrangement with the institution concerned.

In particular, we ask Unisa and  University of Johannesburg students who might be in this position, to check their timetables and  contact us immediately should there be any problems. All communications should be sent to [email protected] and marked for the attention of Wendy Kahn.  

 

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

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