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Op-eds

Board’s Parliamentary Liaison an indispensable link

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
The position of Parliamentary Liaison is a relatively new one within the SAJBD. It was introduced with a view both to keeping ourselves abreast of major political developments affecting the country, and to be the interface between our community and other sectors of our diverse, multicultural society.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Nov 30, 2017

In view of this, it was very heartening to read in last week’s issue of the SA Jewish Report the letter from Michael Bagraim, Democratic Alliance MP and former SAJBD national chairman, commending the excellent work of the Board’s Parliamentary Liaison representative Chaya Singer.

So fulsome an endorsement of what Chaya, and by extension this department of the SAJBD, has been able to achieve in this challenging arena, is a welcome indication of how successful this venture has been to date.  

The SAJBD itself is strictly apolitical. As a matter of policy, we seek to meet with people from right across the political spectrum, since no matter how widely our views might differ, the very process of dialogue and engagement is beneficial. It helps to break down misconceptions, find common ground and in general move past the barriers that are inevitably created when people have no real knowledge about one another.

Parliament is the vital, beating heart of our democracy, but politics being what it is, building such relationships in that environment is far from easy. It is therefore very much to Chaya’s credit that she has been able to establish cordial relationships with so wide an array of constituencies.   

Parallel to fulfilling our core mandate of upholding the civil rights of South African Jewry, the Board seeks to have an active, visible presence in issues of broader national concern. Part of this involves making input into new legislation, in which regard we have been able over the years to draw on the considerable legal expertise that our community has always had in abundance.

By having a continual presence in Parliament, we are made aware well in advance of upcoming legislation concerning issues of relevance to our community and plan accordingly.

Democracy is about grassroots participation, and there is certainly nothing wrong in individual constituencies promoting their own particular agendas. That being said, it is of much value for the SAJBD, as the recognised spokesbody for SA Jewry, to be seen to be concerned with and involved in issues of concern to the greater society, as well as with those specifically pertaining to the Jewish community.

Once we are seen to be involved in addressing matters of broader national concern, it becomes easier to obtain a sympathetic hearing for our own issues when the time comes.

South African politics is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but at the same time, it offers multiple opportunities for ordinary people to get involved and make a difference.

Our Parliamentary Liaison branch is one way in which we are able to lead the Jewish community in being an active, contributing part of the process, while at the same time being able to deal with whatever issues of specifically Jewish concern that might arise. 

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

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