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Op-eds

Board looks back on a proud 114-year record of achievement

  • Jeff
The focus of the Board continues to be on finalising arrangements for its biennial national conference, to take place in the Sandton Shul hall on Sunday, August 20 at 15:00. That this will be the 49th such SAJBD gathering is indicative of how long the organisation has been carrying out its role as the recognised spokesbody and civil rights lobby of the Jewish community.
by JEFF KATZ | Aug 10, 2017

The origins of the Board go back to 1903, when a representative body for Jews in the then Transvaal and Natal, was established. This makes the SAJBD one of the country’s oldest communal representative bodies, and we are proud of what it has achieved, and continues to achieve 114 years later, in promoting our community’s safety and well-being.   

The Board’s work is multifaceted, comprising a range of cultural-educational, public relations, informational and outreach functions. However, its core mandate is to protect Jewish civil liberties, including combating anti-Semitism.

Since our last conference, we have successfully prosecuted a number of individuals guilty of defaming and/or threatening our community, whether through the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Equality Courts, media regulatory bodies and in other appropriate forums.

Most recently, we had the satisfaction of the South Gauteng High Court upholding the SAHRC’s ruling against Cosatu International Relations Spokesperson Bongani Masuku, who was found to have made threatening and highly abusive comments against members of our community who expressed support for Israel.    

Related to our right to identify as a Zionist community, has been our efforts, together with other Jewish and non-Jewish organisations, to counteract attempts, under the broad banner of “BDS”, to undermine the SA-Israel relationship.

This is a perennial battle, one fought out on university campuses, the media, at political level and in various other areas. Here too we have seen remarkable progress.

We have helped to ensure that vigorous attempts to impose academic boycotts against Israeli academics have come to nothing, while also developing increasingly effective counter-campaigns in response to the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” hate fest particularly at universities where there is a significant Jewish presence.

In the diplomatic arena, the successful visit in March 2016 of Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Ambassador Dore Gold, was a clear indication of the success of these efforts.     

In common with the rest of the Diaspora, South African Jewry must deal with the very real challenges posed by local and international terror threats.

We have established a close working relationship with the authorities, who have to date been extremely effective in recognising and dealing with this problem. We are further fortunate to be served by a dedicated, well-trained Community Security Organisation, whose professional staff and volunteer teams, continue to excel in fulfilling their mission to “protect Jewish life and the Jewish way of life in South Africa”. 

The two years since our last conference have seen a continued deterioration in the local political and socio-economic climate. That being said, we have also seen the resilience of our democratic institutions, including the judiciary, media, Reserve Bank and an array of political opposition, in the face of these challenges.

Civil society is likewise playing an important role in helping South Africa to regain its moral compass and we strongly encourage members of our community to involve themselves in these efforts.

Finally, I believe that if we all wish to live in a society predicated on the fundamental values of honesty and integrity, the very least we can do is to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct in our own day-to-day dealings.

 

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