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Op-eds

SA Jewish community happily boxes above its weight

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
Last week, in my report on the World Jewish Congress Community Directors’ Forum in Cape Town, I observed how highly South African Jewry is regarded in global Jewish circles, to the point that we are today regularly described as being a model for other Diaspora communities to emulate.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Nov 02, 2017

Delegates were astounded by how much the community, despite its relatively small numbers, is achieving, from the comprehensive range of communal activities and services it is able to maintain to the high level of on-the-ground involvement by its members.

Two memorable events over the weekend further highlighted the vibrancy of Jewish life in South Africa. The first was the Shabbos Project, which again brought together people from across the religious spectrum in celebrating this precious aspect of our heritage. The second was a tribute evening showcasing the extraordinary work of the Chevrah Kadisha, Johannesburg Jewry’s oldest communal organisation and one whose record of selfless service has few parallels anywhere in the Jewish world.

I congratulate Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and everyone else involved, for ensuring that the Shabbos Project was once again a resounding success. That this made-in-South-Africa initiative has since been enthusiastically adopted across the Jewish world, is itself indicative of the wider impact that SA Jewry is making on the global Jewish stage.

The Shabbos Project has from the outset been a great unifying force, cutting across religious and ideological affiliations. This is something that the SAJBD, one of whose core aims has always been to ensure that unity and shalom bayit is maintained, particularly welcomes.

Those of us in attendance at Sunday’s tribute evening to the Chevrah Kadisha, were moved and inspired to learn at first-hand what is being done to alleviate hardship in our community, in both the material and emotional-psychological spheres.

“No Jew will be left behind” is the watchword of this outstanding organisation, and it is a testimony to the generosity of its many loyal donors, past and present, that it has consistently been able to realise this noble goal.

There are enormous benefits in being part of a broader Jewish communal culture, whether it involves attending shul or shiurim, raising funds or contributing one’s time and effort to charitable, educational or Zionist causes, volunteering for the CSO, promoting Jewish heritage and identity or other such activities.

It provides us with a sense of security and belonging, moral strength and direction, safety and general psychological equilibrium. In turn, it helps us to remain positive and resilient, particularly in the turbulent and uncertain times in which we are currently living.

In dwelling on the strengths of our community, I certainly do not wish to appear to be bragging, nor to be painting an unrealistically rosy picture of what Jewish life in this country is all about.

Naturally, we too have flaws that need addressing and challenges that have to be confronted. Nevertheless, there is every reason to take pride in what is being accomplished, to draw inspiration from it and thereby to look ahead with confidence to whatever the future may bring.

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

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