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Op-eds

In response to article on Seligson Commission

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
Last week’s issue of SA Jewish Report (SAJR) ran with the story of how the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Cape Council election, held last August, had been found to be “flawed” by the Seligson Commission, a body set up to investigate alleged irregularities in the way the election was conducted.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Mar 29, 2018

So far as the Seligson Report goes, the SAJBD welcomes the findings. By identifying shortcomings in the current elections process in the province, it has pointed the way to our taking the necessary remedial action, and the end result will be a board that is stronger and better representative of the Cape Town Jewish community.

Sadly, the SAJR article seriously misrepresented the issues, which we have taken up in a letter to the editor. While having no problem with being held accountable to the community, the scrutiny under which we come should be fair.

Those who put themselves forward for leadership roles do so for the benefit of the community, often at great personal and professional sacrifice. For this reason, we feel strongly that papers such as the SAJR should take careful responsibility before creating false impressions about Jewish communal leaders.

The inordinate focus placed on the fact that Eric Marx had acted improperly in giving a proxy vote to his son was one of the objectionable aspects of the article. That Eric acted in error is something for which he has long since apologised and even voluntarily withdrawn from public life for a period of time. The Seligson Commission found no new information relating to his conduct and recommended no further action being taken.

Despite this, the SAJR chose to pursue what can only be described as a vendetta against Eric by continually harping on his original action while failing to properly address the real substance of the Seligson Report. This is unjust. Eric has been an outstanding servant of our community. He is one of those rare leaders who selflessly strengthens our communal structures and facilitates Jewish life across numerous organisations.

Indeed, as the SAJBD, we directly observed how masterfully he healed deep rifts that were threatening the relationship between the Cape Council and the national body, and how he played a critical role in resolving the ‘Kol Isha’ issue. Hence our disappointment with the SAJR elevating and giving prominence to those who have sought to create division in the community.

The other issue misrepresented was the SAJBD’s attitude towards women. The Seligson Report was unequivocal in its findings that it was “unable to find that there was indeed a concerted, organised campaign to spread specific defamatory allegations against the two candidates among the electorate on account of their gender”, and “unable to find as a fact that the ousting of Ms Boiskin and Ms May in the election was the result of their being targeted as women”.

It is blatantly untrue to portray the SAJBD as a sexist organisation, and also an insult to the many women who have held leadership positions on its councils. Currently, three of the top positions on the board (president, national vice chairman and national director) are held by women.

Our community is constantly changing, and we constantly need to reflect the change. But we will always need to rely on the goodwill, dedication and selflessness of good men and women to give unstintingly of their time, and we are grateful to all of them for their service.

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

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