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A positive turn

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To be a realist is usually interpreted as the ability to acknowledge where things are going wrong without sugar-coating matters, but the opposite can also be true. Sometimes, being realistic also means recognising the positive aspects of one’s situation, which are no less relevant. For South African Jewry, the positives were very much on display over the past fortnight in the high levels of community participation in all three annual commemorative gatherings that take place during this period, when Yom Hashoah is followed by Yom Hazikaron, and immediately thereafter by Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Well-attended ceremonies took place in all the main regions, and for the first time, Yom Hashoah and Yom Ha’atzmaut events were held under the auspices of the Small Jewish Communities Association, which was founded about four years ago to continue the work previously carried out by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ (SAJBD’s) Country Communities Department. It wasn’t just the high turn-out for the three events (including for the once relatively neglected Yom Hazikaron) that impressed, but the commitment and enthusiasm shown by those in attendance.

Whether in celebration or solemn commemoration, from the elderly to the very young, the Jewish community continues to be as active, identifying, and involved as ever in all major events on the Jewish communal calendar. Amidst all the doom and gloom that inevitably confronts us, it’s just as important to recognise where our strengths are and take encouragement from it. That, too, is being a realist.

Jewish Affairs journal

A tangible sign of the vitality of communal life in any Jewish community is the presence of an active, well supported Jewish media. Many different publications have appeared over the decades, with new ones regularly coming out to replace those that have come to the end of their natural life. Perhaps the oldest Jewish publication still in existence is Jewish Affairs. The journal has been produced under the auspices of the SAJBD continuously since 1941, and has become the go-to resource for anyone interested in Jewish history and heritage, in particular relating to our own community. Jewish Affairs is now published online, and is freely accessible at The latest issue features a broad range of articles on themes ranging from late Biblical times, the Medieval-era, and the birth of modern-day Israel, to the story of our own community, including the impressive growth of Orthodox Judaism in Johannesburg and interesting new insight into the Jewish role, both as medical personnel and patients, in the first successful heart-transplant operations in late 1960s Cape Town.

In addition to the latest articles, the site provides easy access to all material published since 2009, grouped under categories such as Jewish History – South Africa, Israel, and Zionism; Antisemitism and the Holocaust; and Fiction and Poetry. I encourage everyone to visit the site and browse through the more than 600 articles that have appeared over the past 15 years. You can also sign on to the mailing list to receive regular updates by writing to the editor, David Saks (

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

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