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Op-eds

Our conference: a report-back and celebration

  • Jeff
The focus of the Board over the next three weeks will be on our national conference, which will take place in the Sandton Shul hall on Sunday, August 20, at 15:00. We hope as many of you as possible join us for this occasion, which is as much a celebration of what our community is all about as it is about reporting back to our constituency.
by JEFF KATZ | Aug 03, 2017

One of the highlights of our conferences is the presentation of awards to community members who have made an especially noteworthy contribution in particular fields. The first, the Rabbi Cyril and Ann Harris Human Rights Award, honours those who have advanced the cause of democracy and social justice in South Africa.

Past recipients include Helen Suzman, Phillip Tobias and Arthur Chaskalson. The other is the Eric Samson Mendel Kaplan Communal Service Award, named after two of our community’s foremost leaders and philanthropists. The practice is to make one award to a lay leader and another to a communal professional. Previous recipients include Isla Feldman, Gerald Leissner and Elliot Osrin.

This year, the Rabbi Cyril and Ann Harris Human Rights Award will be presented to Leslie Rosenberg and Molly Smith, founders and first principals of the Mitzvah School in Sandton.

The school was established in 1986 on premises provided by the Beit David congregation to assist students from Alexandra in completing matric. This was at a time of great political unrest, with education being severely disrupted in the township and with the creation of the school being considered illegal under the exiting apartheid legislation for being in a “white” area   

Initially seen as a temporary measure, the school (supported throughout by Beit David and the United Sisterhood of the SA Union of Progressive Judaism) became a permanent resource for learners from disadvantaged areas to complete their schooling, with well over 1 000 students having since graduated under its auspices.

In addition to taking the lead in making this a reality, Mrs Rosenberg and Mrs Smith also helped pioneer a new, forward-looking approach within the Jewish community, one driven by the recognition that those who enjoyed a privileged position under apartheid, have an ongoing responsibility to help address the profound socio-economic imbalances that resulted from that iniquitous system.

The recipients of the Eric Samson Mendel Kaplan Communal Service Award, are John Moshal (lay) and Shirley Beagle (professional). John is a living legend both in the fields of Jewish communal leadership and in that of philanthropy, in which regard he has made the Moshal family name synonymous with unparalleled generosity both in South Africa and overseas, including in Israel.

The true meaning of tikkun olam is performed every day by the efforts of John and his family and we are truly honoured to bestow this award on him .I would also like to pay personal tribute to John for being a source of constant inspiration, guidance and support for which I will be eternally grateful..

Shirley for her part, is the engine room of the SAJBD, the behind-the-scenes planner and co-ordinator who makes things happen, and who goes well beyond the call of duty to ensure that everything proceeds as planned.

One especially admirable aspect of her work has been her assisting Holocaust survivors to make claims under the various survivor funds, a sensitive and complex process in which she has consistently achieved excellent outcomes.

When the time comes for Shirley to come up to receive the award, I anticipate that no-one will be happier than her colleagues, who themselves have benefited so much from her special qualities over the years.  

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

 

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