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Op-eds

Let’s celebrate our ‘Yes we can’ attitude

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Over the past few weeks, this column has unavoidably had a negative focus, having reported mainly on recent acts of anti-Semitism and how the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has gone about dealing with them. Certainly, this is a serious issue that can hardly be swept under the carpet. However, we must avoid becoming overly focused on it, to the extent that it comes to overshadow the many positive things about living as Jews in South Africa.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Jul 12, 2018

South African Jewry is widely regarded by its counterparts in the Diaspora as a model Jewish community, whether in terms of the high levels of Jewish identification and involvement of its members, or the reach and effectiveness of its communal infrastructure. Amidst all the stresses and strains of everyday life, we sometimes forget how much we have to be thankful for, and indeed, proud of.

One of the institutions that helps bring our community together and keep it informed is Johannesburg Jewry’s very own community radio station ChaiFM, which this year marks 10 years of broadcasting. How ChaiFM came into being and how it has survived and carved a niche for itself, despite the many difficulties that have confronted it, is testimony to the dedication of its personnel and the generosity of its supporters.

The SAJBD has been involved with the station from its inception, and for the past six years has had its own weekly slot, an interview programme called “Jewish Board Talk” (JBT) first launched by Steven Gruzd and now hosted by our head of communications, Charisse Zeifert. In addition to reporting on some of the work that the Board is involved in, JBT looks at a wide range of activities that members of our community are involved in, including social outreach, business innovation, arts and culture, and education. Charisse’s programme helps to show SA Jewry as a “Yes we can” community whose members are continually finding new and interesting ways to succeed and contribute.

Earlier this year, Israel celebrated 70 years of statehood. Accordingly, the upcoming Rosh Hashanah issue of the Board’s journal, Jewish Affairs, will have a special Israel focus, with a particular emphasis on how South African Jews were involved in the founding and early years of the state.

Following a call for contributions, some exciting material has already come in, including memoirs of serving in the Israeli War of Independence, working on kibbutzim in the early years of the new state and how South African Jewry celebrated Israel’s formal Declaration of Independence. Those interested in contributing to this special issue, whether in the form of personal memoirs, photographs or original essays, can write to the editor at david@sajbd.org.

One of the longest-serving members of the editorial board of Jewish Affairs is former SAJBD national chairperson Marlene Bethlehem. We were delighted to learn last week that Marlene has been re-elected president of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, an organisation which, for more than 50 years, has been at the forefront of promoting the regeneration of Jewish culture around the world, together with training, supporting and developing successive generations of talented young leaders. We congratulate her on this latest vote of confidence and wish her further success in heading up this prestigious body.

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

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