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ABSA ACHIEVERS 2014 THE LIVE BLOG

Last post at at 10,23pm – LISTED WINNER Braudo speaks. This live blog will begin on Sunday 24 Aug – follow the 2014 sixteenth annual Absa Jewish Achiever Awards brought to you by SA Jewish Report.

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Achievers

ANT KATZ

  • As with any live blogging, users have to respect the fact that speed is often given preference over accuracy and that typographical errors can and will occur.
  • Similarly, it is important to note that – with regard to speeches – this blog is a paraphrasing of what is said, and not a verbatim account.
  • Anything that is, in fact, verbatim will be clearly denoted within quotation marks.

USERS PLEASE NOTE:

  • As each new post is updated, the time will be reflected on the top of the home page of the website, users are required to “refresh” the page to update new posts –simply press the F5 key on your computer
  • Updates will be posted between five and 20 minutes apart and may include links to other PDF documents on the site, such as details of the finalists in each category. 

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Come on users, what do you think?
Share your thoughts – comment below
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>>>>> POSTED 22h40 >>>>>>>>>>>

The evening ends after mentalist Gilan Gork comes back onto the stage and pulls off another “how-the-heck-did-he-do-that?” trick . He had earlier placed his predictions of Steven Braudo’s winning and impossible random statements that members of the audience would make.

  • 2014 mag COVER - smallNow the audience are filing out to the foyer for coffee and/or Chivas. For all those who have had more than enough to drink, the Jewish Report has arranged for Uber services to deliver them safely home.

    This is the last post for the night. We hope the amazing number of people and time spent with us means that you enjoyed the offering. Watch for the video material to follow.

    Also, if you click here to READ THE FULL MAGAZINE from the event (RIGHT) it will round it off perfectly for you. There is a high res or low res option – as well as a copy of last year’s event mag to download.

    Good Night – Layla Tov!

  • >>>>> POSTED 22h23 >>>>>>>

    The Absa Listed Company Award was given to Steve Braudo of Liberty by David Hodnett, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Barclays Africa Group and David Frankel, a past winner and one of South Africa’s most successful ever venture capitalists, partner in Founder Collective based in Boston Massachusetts.

    Steven Braudo thanked Absa for their eleven-year unwavering support of the community through these awards. He thanked his wife and congratulated his fellow nominees. He said that it was amazing to be in the footsteps of giants, Meyer Kahn was a deputy chairman of Liberty in the early days.

  • PDF: LISTED COMPANY WINNER

    2014 mag Listed winner

    L

    >>>>> POSTED 22h16 >>>>>>>

    Ivor Ichikowitz says we are on the tipping point of the rise of the African continent – and that we as Jews have an obligation to assist in the development of the continent.

    He made an impassioned speech – dedicating the award to those who came before him, his grandparents and parents – and to his wife and children. He is proud to be an African, he said, but more importantly, he is proud to be a Jewish African.

  • >>>>> POSTED 22h05 >>>>>>>

    Here we go – the winner of the Absa Unlisted Company Business Award is…

  • PDF: UNLISTED COMPANY WINNER

    2014 mag Unlisted Winner

     

    >>>>> POSTED 21h59 >>>>>>>

    Okay – so let’s stay on the roll and give you a sneak peek at the ABSA LISTED COMPANY FINALISTS

     

  • Finals 2014 Listed link

  • >>>>> POSTED 21h47 >>>>>>>

    Visits now over 2 500 and average time on page for returning users is a staggering nine minutes and 46 seconds.

    The Entrepreneur category finalists are now being showcased to the audience. The winner will be getting their prize from Barclays Africa’s Steven van Koller and Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, himself a previous winner for Community Service.

    Rabbi Goldstein says it is so inspiring to see the impact that our small community is having on job creation. “Let the entrepreneurs lead the way and not the government,” he said.

    And the winner is…

    PDF: ENTREPRENEUR WINNERS

    2014 mag Entr - winner

     

    >>>>> POSTED 21h29 >>>>>>>

    Jeez folks – you really are enjoying this. You have now visited over 2 000 times and as predicted the average time on page has climbed rapidly to over seven minutes and forty seconds. So, I can’t think of any reason to keep you waiting while everyone here eats up a storm. We are seeing more and more North Americans joining in and the Aussies are also waking up and joining us.

    So, allow me to be naughty and give you a heads-up at the Absa Unlisted Business Award finalists. By now you have all eaten, one supposes, The Aussies are having their morning serial and the ‘Mericans are just leaving office. So, while those who have paid R3 000 a plate are making the most of it and still waiting to see who the Entrepreneur finalists are, we are already going to give you the next category. Shhh – I need this job… But we can’t have you going to sleep on us now, can we? It should be all said and done by 22:30 SA time.

  •  

  • PDF: UNLISTED COMPANY FINALISTS

     

     

  •  

    Finals 2014 Unisted link

    >>>>> POSTED 21h06 >>>>>>>

    map of usersJust to give followers a heads-up – this live blog has had over 1 500 visits with each visit averaging around five and a half minutes. That time on page number is climbing fast now that we have posted the Absa Entrepreneur Finalists.  Keep checking back, we will shortly be posting the other two business category finalists for you.

    The map at right from Google Analytics is interesting. Someone off the west coast of Africa keeps popping in. I suspect they are on something that floats as there are no islands I can identify there.

    Why not tell us who you are and what you are doing in the middle of the ocean?

    >>>>> POSTED 20h47 >>>>>>>

    So, while everyone is eating their sumptuous main course to the sounds of the Marimba Band – I thought I’d break the rules a bit and give our growing flock of live blog followers a head start on the finalists for the Absa Jewish Entrepreneur finalists for 2014. Look through them and you will see what a tough job the judges had to choose among them. Who would you cast your vote for?

    The audience will only be introduced to the Entrepreneur finalists in about 30 minutes – but at the risk of getting shot – here they are for you… 

    Finals 2014 entrepreneur link

  • PDF: ABSA ENTREPRENEUR FINALISTS

  • >>>>> POSTED 20h24 >>>>>>>

  • Ran: It was just over a year ago that we stood here as winners. We have had a year to realise the honour of being recognised by our community. Any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you of the many hurdles, says Ran – it’s a tough place to be.

    We are truly blessed to be part of a community where entrepreneurial spirit is the bedrock of our society.

    Gil: So, with this in mind, we are proud to put back into the community. We decided to create an award for under 28s – no minimum age. The list of candidates was impressive. The judges had their hands full.

    While all the candidates displayed such potential – at the end of the day there can be only one:

    WINNER - YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR

  • The winner is just 18 years old, currently writing his matric and is also a finalist in the Absa Entrepreneur category.

  • >>>>> POSTED 20h12 >>>>>>>

  • The new Creative Counsel Young Jewish Entrepreneur of the year

    2014 mag Young finalistsb2014 mag Young finalistsa

    >>>>> POSTED 20h00 >>>>>>>

    Professor Jonathan Jansen, vice chancellor of the University of the Freestate, delivers the keynote address:

    He has just discovered that Chivas is a whisky. He doesn’t drink. Thank you for this. He says he once told Justice Dennis Davis at a shul in Gardens that his father’s name is Abraham, his mother Sarah and his brother Isaac.

    Professor Jansen’s eloquent speech will be posted on this website in text and video during the week. 

    He dedicates the award to Joshua Broomberg – who said that criticism is not betrayal.

    >>>>> POSTED 19h46 >>>>>>>

  • This one you get before the audience…. Johnny Clegg, a past winner, announces the winner of the Chivas Humanitarian Award in honour of late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris – Professor Jonathan Jansen

  • PDF: WINNER Prof Jonathan Jansen

    2014 mag Jansen

    >>>>> POSTED 19h42 >>>>>>>

    “To be honoured in this way by one’s own community is amazing,” says Valerie. I am proudly Jewish. These awards are not for individuals, they are for a community we work with. She has trained over 50 PhDs over the years. We are tackling the diseases of Africa, in Africa, as Africans,” she says of her UCT research institute.

    >>>>> POSTED 19h35 >>>>>>>

    The Jewish Report Art, Sport, Science & Culture Award is to be awarded by a previous winner of the same award himself, one of the doyens of South African sport, Dr Ali Bacher.

    He spoke of enmity and poison within the Jewish community. “I am unashamedly a supporter of Israel.”  But, said Bacher, he endorsed what Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said in The Star recently – denying someone their opinion is undemocratic,  PDF: WINNER Prof Valerie Mizrahi

  • 2014 mag Mizrahi

     

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    >>>>> POSTED 19h27 >>>>>>>>>>

    Rabbi Dovid Hazdan’s speech was like the man, humble. He has just returned from Cycalive – where he learned the lyrics of Aveinu Shalom Aleichem in Zulu. “I stand here tonight,” he said, so aware of those around him, his family, Rabbi Lipskar of the Lubavitch Foundation who trusted him enough to bring him back to SA at the age of 25. “I thank Bertie and Marc Lubner of Afrika Tikkun who have given me the opportunity to share in their giving.”

    He thanked the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Hashem for giving him the opportunity to “meet the dreams of tomorrow”. As he arrived in SA with his young wife and baby daughter they were travelling in a caravan. Stopped over in Oudshoorn for Shabbos as it was the only place in the area with a minyan. 

    >>>>> POSTED 19h13 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Clive Blechman comes on stage to present the KIA Community Service Award. He delivers the speech on behalf of Ray Levin who is in Korea. Kia Motors SA works with Shout, KIA Street Soccer – the award goes to Rabbi Dovid Hazdan

PDF: WINNER Rabbi Dovid Hazdan

2014 mag Hazdan

 

  • >>>>> POSTED 19h07 >>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • Meyer Kahn video made by Mark Kline for SAJR plays – to be posted later this week on this website – it is brilliant! What comes through, so clearly, is the humbleness of the man. If you didn’t know who he was, you’d take him for just another boykie. He gets an absolute standing ovation from the room.

    I am so tempted to say: “My name is Meyer Kahn and I am mental.” He says he is delighted and proud to be here tonight. Thanks the judges for their kindness. To Mark Kline, who made the video, thank you for finding pictures going back to my barmitzvah. I am proud to be associated with Helen Suzman.

    “I have a confession to make,” says Kahn, I was successful only because of the team I had. “I am what I am,” because of my family, his “sleeping partner” of 46 years and his four children and two grandchildren.

    I wish you all a very happy, prosperous, peaceful and tranquil (Jewish) new year.

    >>>>> POSTED 18h53 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Barclays Africa’s Steven van Coller says that Jewish talent, accomplishment and achievement. This is the eleventh year they have sponsored, he said, not only for Jewish business but for the entire Jewish community.

    MC Chris Forest comes on and tells some very good jokes, even if the audience was a bit slow to catch his humour on the last one.

    Gilan Gork, world renowned mentalist, takes the stage – after a great trick he shows a locked and suspended box in which he has predicted the winner of the listed business award as well as some other things people will do tonight.

     

    Past winner Eric Sampson (founder of MasSteel) announces this year’s winner of the Lifetime Achievement award to Meyer Kahn 

    PDF: WINNER Meyer Kahn 

    2014 mag Kahn

     

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    >>>>> POSTED 18h36 >>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • After tributes to Nadine Gordimer and Madiba and a very funny event video which we will post tomorrow, some entertainment as starters are eaten, Jewish Report non-exec chairman, Howard Feldman talks of the “winds howling” but it is here, he says, that we can be reminded of what is good. And of our Jewish media. At a time when the world is raising its voice against us, we have media, he says, that sets records straight.

    Tonight is one that we can sit back and be grateful for our supporters, advertisers and sponsors.

    Howard Sackstein, the chairman of this event, is one on the most uniquely talented members of our community, says Feldman. (Cheers!) 

    >>>>> POSTED 18h24 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Sorry folks – I had to take a break to send some details to the night editor of The Star – check us out there. We’ve also had some difficulty formatting but hope to be back on track now.

    The Chief Rabbi opened proceedings by referring to how the word “disproportionate” is being used in such a bad context of late. But it applied tonight, he said. The people in this room are responsible for a disproportionate contribution to the success of South Africa. We do this because we do it with humility. Humility is the key to it. Quality vs quantity. Israel, too, as a tiny country, has made a contribution that is completely disproportionate to our numbers.

    Former -Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni asked Chief Rabbi Goldstein once how many Jews there are in SA. How many do you think? replied Rabbi Goldstein. 900 000 to a million came the reply, based on how Mboweni perceived the contribution of SA Jewry to the country.

Users are welcome to post comments and predictions below

______________________________________

 

>>>>> POSTED 17h46 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I’m back. Try walking through 700-odd people – at least half of whom I know – a 10-minute smoke break isn’t quite that, is it. Now they are all crossing the length of the venue to move from schmoozing to action.

It’s odd when one knows who the winners are going to be and chatting with them nonchalantly.

I have to take my hat off to Howard Sackstein, Dina Diamond and Mark Kline for the great videos they produced for the evening. Unfortunately they were tweeking well into the night so we can’t bring them to you until tomorrow or Tuesday. But they are good.


>>>>> POSTED 17h26 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I am going to take a smoke break while I still can. Let’s see some user posting by the time I get back in ten.

Barry Spitz, a finalist in the Entrepreneur category, just passed by and greeted, as did Joel and Adelle Back from KosherWorld.


>>>>> POSTED 17h14 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

VodaWorld is really buzzing now, folks are coming past me to say hello at such a pace that it gets hard to keep writing. But, users, fear not – once the activities of the evening get going I will be safely tucked away from sight overlooking the event from a perch.

 

Board national director Wendy Kahn just passed and greeted. We have all of the essential event activity pre-loaded for you and so you will see it as the guests at the posh event do. In fact, in some cases, maybe a bit earlier – so don’t start tweeting them and spoiling the fun.

What is so amazing about the Internet is that I can see that we have 55 users following this page at this moment. A while ago it was 88.

Stop being boring!

Interact! Post your own comments, predictions, questions below. Who do you think will win what? Do you care?

Is it a good idea to hold these annual fundraisers? Heck, yeh!

Apart from being the most celebrity-studded event on Jhannesburg’s Jewish calendar, and recognising members of the community for excellence, it is the lifeblood of the SA Jewish Report and SAJR Online. Without the income generated from this event SA Jewry certainly would not be able to sustain a weekly free newspaper and website.

 

>>>>> POSTED 16:59 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

It’s time to start talking about the main reason behind all this glitz and glamour… the Awards themselves.

This is the sixteenth annual Absa Jewish Achiever Awards will be presented at a gala dinner at VodaWorld this evening (24 August). There are three Absa Business Awards – considered among the most prestigious and credible in SA – a new Young Entrepreneur Award sponsored by The Creative Counsel, and four Humanities Awards. One of the latter has also been taken up by a new sponsor, KIA-SA

2014 mag COVER - smallAll the winners will be on hand to accept their awards at the multi-million rand gala event with guests and winners travelling from all over SA and the world to attend. Among those who jetted in to receive their Awards last year were Patrice Motsepe, Natie Kirsh, and Jane Raphaely.

RIGHT: The theme of the 2014 event is “Where Great Minds Meet” – beautifully depicted by designer Danielle Rovetti in this year’s magazine cover. Once all of the cats are out of the bags and all the winners announced – we will put the complete mag up for users. In the meantime, we will drip-feed it out on a category by category basis on this live blog over the next few hours.

In all 664 guests will turn out for the black-tie, R3 000-a plate fundraiser. Seats were sold out weeks ago.

“I think the SA economy has come to a standstill with all of you in the room,” said Roy Ross, head of Business Banking Africa for the Barclays group at a recent breakfast the bank hosted for the business finalists.

The 2014 Business Awards are:

  • Absa Listed Company Award
  • Absa Unlisted Company Award
  • Absa Entrepreneur Award
  • The Creative Counsel Young Jewish Entrepreneur Award

The 2014 Humanities Awards are:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award in honour of Helen Suzman
  • Chivas Humanitarian Award in honour of late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris
  • Jewish Report Award for Art, Sport, Science & Culture
  • KIA Community Service Award

In all there were 280 nominees. The business award judges said they were “astounded” at the quality of the nominees.

All business award finalists attended personal interviews in a marathon 14-hour-long session. The eminent panel of judges is arguably the most heavyweight of any business award event in SA and included: Steven Blend – a Johannesburg-based international entrepreneur with global tentacles; Banie Claasen of Barclays Africa Group; Dr Len Konar – serial businessman and, among many others, chairman of Exxaro, Mustek and Steinhoff; and Geoff Rothschild – Head of Government and International Affairs at the JSE, director of Nepad Business Foundation and patron of Education Africa and Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

The judging panel was presided over by convener, Jewish Report non-executive chairman Howard Feldman and all under the watchful eye of an auditor from Grant Thornton.

Previous winners

BUSINESS CATEGORIES: Among the captains of industry and innovation who have won Business Awards in the past are: Brian Joffe, Adrian Gore, Raymond Ackerman, Jeff Zidel, Michael Katz, Roland Sassoon, Nathie Kirsh, Ray Levin, Ran Nue-Ner and Gil Oved, Marc Wainer, Ben Schwartz, Brett Levy, Mark Levy, Stephen Koseff, Clive Zulberg, Philip Krawitz, William Kirsch, Eric and Sheila Samson, the Krok Brothers, Arthur Gillis, Rob Sussman and Herschel Mayers.

HUMANITIES: Winners in the “Humanities” sections, which includes all non-business Awards, include then-President Nelson Mandela, William Kentridge, Patrice Motsepe, David Goldblatt, Dr Ali Bacher, Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Gill Marcus, Prof Phillip Tobias, Ina Perlman, Johnny Clegg, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Justice Albie Sachs, Dorianne Weil, Jonathan Kaplan, Jules and Selma Browde, Marc Lubner, Danny K and Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft.

 

>>>>> POSTED 16h33 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

VenueThere are also several TV crews and four photographers (professionals – today everyone with a phone is a photographer) and the guests that the interviewers want to get to the media walls have started being queued up.

Pictured is a stunning-looking Dina Diamond interviewing Michael Rudnicki of KPMG, a finalist in the Absa Unlisted Award category.

Guests at the annual Jewish Achievers’ fundraising event are used to schmoozing and boozing before the main event, and this year is no different. Two hours have been set aside for those arriving early to socialise – and the schmoozing venue sure looks big enough to accommodate them.

Venue 2Vodaworld’s bars are filling up with guests.

The Marimba Band is a-playing and, with Chivas Regal being one of the sponsors, the whisky and cocktails flow – all served up by the famous Chivas Girls.

Entertainment for the night will be provided by Chris Forest, Silvaine Strike and Gilan Gork.

The Field Band Foundation, an initiative Afrika Tikkun, is playing people in downstairs and will also entertain at the main event.

 

>>>>> POSTED 16h13 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

After several hours of frenetic activity, everything is in place and guests have started to register. There are two media walls, which are being hosted by Dina Diamond, Wayne Sussman, Reeva Foreman, Howard Sackstein, Howard Feldman and the ever-dapper Herbie Rosenberg.

It took dozens of staff to https://www.sajr.co.za/images/default-source/events/achivers-2013/venue.jpg” class=”sfImageWrapper”>Venue

Pretty cool.

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Achievers

Achiever Awards reimagined

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It’s official: not even a pandemic can stop the South African Jewish community from paying tribute to the heroes in its midst.

Against a background of social distancing and sanitisation, thousands came together last Sunday for the most iconic iteration of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards in its 22-year history.

Instead of gathering in person at a decked-out venue, guests participated in an evening of glamour and fine dining from the comfort of their own home for the first ever online version of the annual awards ceremony.

Other than hundreds of paying and invited guests, between 30 000 and 60 000 people from around the world also watched the spectacular event on YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Zoom.

No effort was spared to ensure that the evening was as enthralling online as it would in person. In the run-up to Sunday night, couriers shuttled staggering numbers of cocktail packs to each individual guest’s home, making sure that the annual Achievers magic wasn’t lost.

Gin, tonic, and prosecco flowed freely in homes across South Africa as participants prepared to watch a livestream of the awards ceremony, ready to raise a l’chaim as they cheered the winners.

As if this wasn’t enough, many guests who would otherwise have reserved a table at the live event also had a lavish three-course gourmet kosher meal delivered to their doorstep. Arriving in a sleek cylindrical box, the spread included tantalising entrees, a mouth-watering main course, and even an array of sweet treats to accompany the evening’s viewing.

The meals were catered by Maxi Kosher Discount Butchery and styled by Dolores Fouche under the strict supervision of the Johannesburg Beth Din. Added to the food, there were beautiful fabric placemats, napkins, face masks, and even the traditional Achiever kippa for participants. Each featured the artwork of renowned South African artist Kim Lieberman.

The evening began with an exclusive red-carpet event presented by Dina Diamond, with various nominees joining her virtually to chat before the ceremony got underway. Excitement mounted as the red carpet concluded at 18:00 when the Awards ceremony began.

“For the past 21 years, we have gathered in hotel boardrooms and convention centres to celebrate the remarkable and disproportionate contribution made by the Jewish community to the development of post-apartheid South Africa,” said Howard Sackstein, chairperson of the SA Jewish Report and the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards.

“When we started planning tonight’s event more than a year ago, we didn’t expect to be playing hide and seek with a virus. We didn’t predict that the world would be gripped in the vice of a worldwide pandemic that has so sadly claimed the lives of so many in our community.

“This year, we cannot just recognise nine winners. We as the board of the SA Jewish Report feel the need to pay tribute to literally hundreds of South Africans who have been an ohr lagoyim [a light unto the nations].

“Tonight, we announce our roll of honour to recognise and pay tribute to the many South Africans who have sacrificed so much for a better South Africa during the pandemic of 2020.”

That list was both extensive and illustrious. This year’s winning personalities included seasoned entrepreneur Liran Assness, the chief executive of holding company Sekta and recipient of The Kirsh Family Entrepreneur Award; Ferrari icon turned cheese aficionado Jody Scheckter, who received the Art, Science, Sports and Culture Award; as well as Wendy Fisher, acclaimed sculptor and philanthropic powerhouse, who took the Humanitarian Award in honour of the late Chief Rabbi, Cyril Harris.

Title sponsor Absa’s award categories recognised the accomplishments of renowned lawyer Professor Michael Katz with the Absa Business Icon Award. Professor Mervyn Mer, the principal specialist and head of intensive-care at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital received the timely Absa Professional Excellence in the Time of Covid Award, and Discovery’s Dr Jonathan Broomberg walked away with the Absa Business Leadership in the Time of Covid Award.

The Europcar Women in Leadership Award went to Pick n Pay group’s Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, and Professor Barry Schoub, retired expert in vaccinology and virology, was recognised for his contribution to humanity with the Kia Community Service Award.

Ninety-eight-year-old Sir Sydney Kentridge, whose lifetime in service of the law is nothing short of legendary, received the Lifetime Achievement Award in honour of Helen Suzman for his decades of service. Even Sackstein received a surprise award – the Lawrence and Karen Abrahamson Family Award for his efforts to connect the Jewish community with an array of webinars during the lockdown period.

Not even the annual event’s signature entertainment was dispensed with this year. Jewish comedian Gilli Apter kept guests giggling as compere, and the musical performances screened between each presentation were spectacular.

These included the melodies of singer Danielle Bitton and opera aficionado Yudi Cohen, whose performance of The Prayer shook the speakers in every home. They were joined by the toe-tapping yiddishe music of Caely-Jo, and even international Jewish-music sensation the Maccabeats.

Completing the line-up of musical magic was Choni G and six-year-old Bibi Shapiro (whose Avinu Malkeinu previously took YouTube by storm), and Jonathan Roxmouth of Phantom of the Opera fame.

In true Achiever Awards style, this once-in-a-lifetime event delivered an evening that not only paid tribute to the heroic personalities among us, but also provided a much-needed dose of positivity and joy.

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Wendy Fisher: looking for the light

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“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

The words of the late Leonard Cohen never fail to invigorate Wendy Fisher. An avid artisan and philanthropic powerhouse, she seeks out the light in the bleakest of times, striving to uplift not just herself, but those who are struggling most.

For this reason, Fisher received the Humanitarian Award in honour of the late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards this past Sunday.

Those who have witnessed her passion for philanthropy lauded her via video, including her father, the renowned Natie Kirsh.

“As a father, I’m expected to talk well of my daughter,” he said. “But I have something to say beyond what can be expected of a father.”

Kirsh said that Fisher wasn’t just a respected president of the Guggenheim Art Museum in New York, but also someone who had made a difference in the lives of thousands through an online university lecture programme she piloted earlier this year. Called Lockdown Academy, the project has given 3 000 people from around the globe a range of free and fascinating lectures every day.

“Wendy, I congratulate you on this award,” Kirsh said. “As your father, I’m proud of your achievements, and I believe that all your university listeners around the world join me in celebrating you receiving this honour. Well done Wendy.”

Fisher’s family and friends praised her commitment to others, listing her exhaustive array of philanthropic ventures aimed at uplifting and supporting the less fortunate.

“Wendy is South African, and her heart lives in South Africa,” said clinical psychologist, Dr Dorianne Weil. “She and her family found themselves in South Africa over the lockdown, and she offered herself and her resources in helping to uplift the many who were being affected by COVID-19.”

Fisher said she was humbled to receive an honour in the country where she feels most at home.

“Receiving this award made me reflect on my work over the past four decades, and how I’m directing my energy going forward,” she said. “This opportunity comes as we endure a global pandemic and the broader existential concerns it brings.”

In looking for inspiration to lead us forward, Fisher said she reflected on her youth, how she was raised, and how that influenced the path ahead.

“Coming of age in Swaziland was pivotal to who I am today. I remember our solitary house on the hill, the uneven dusty roads, and the bright starry nights. We didn’t have electricity in the early days, and had a fresh water tap in the garden.

“Our family values have always been to help others, so it was only natural that villagers came to retrieve fresh water from our tap. There are countless examples like this that left a lasting impression on my siblings and me, compelling us to continue to invest in community and philanthropy.”

Her parents’ values are imbedded in the family DNA, said Fisher.

“From my energetic, generous dad, Natie, I learned what it means to be a passionate visionary and entrepreneur,” she said. “His mantra is, ‘teach a man to fish’. People can build on the support you provide and become self-sustainable.”

From her mother, Frances, Fisher said she learned to prioritise family and look for opportunities to come together and really see each other.

“My mum’s wisdom is simply that when people sit and break bread together, their shared humanity is what’s felt, not their differences. Together with my siblings, we have carried the legacy of our parents forward, and I share this honour with them.”

Fisher encouraged others to seek their own inspiration as we look to the future.

“Teach a man to fish, to bring light where there is dark, to come together and build strong, vibrant cultures, and step up to help people in need,” she said.

“I hope you are inspired in your own journey to embrace our shared humanity for the benefit of all.”

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Michael Katz: trusted advisor who hardly sleeps

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When legal stalwart Professor Michael Katz begins a sentence with the words “with respect”, those who know him understand that respect is the last thing on his mind.

“He has an expression which those who know him means the very opposite of what he’s saying,” says Miranda Feinstein, senior executive of ENSafrica. “It starts when he says, ‘with respect’. And if he thinks you are behaving like a real nincompoop, he will say, ‘with great respect!’ and everybody around knows that there is no respect intended at all.”

Feinstein was one of many South Africans who paid tribute to Katz when he received the Absa Business Icon Award at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards last Sunday.

Katz, a highly regarded and sought-after corporate lawyer, was this year asked by the president of South Africa to be a board member of the national Solidarity Fund, set up to support the medical response, contribute to relief efforts, and mobilise the country in the fight against COVID-19.

Two years ago, he was called to work on the Nugent Commission, set up to sort out the South African Revenue Service. Katz is also the person behind reforming the country’s tax policy.

“His success doesn’t lie in any one particular case, but in that he has become the trusted advisor of business and public bodies who believe in him,” said Wim Trengove, the founding vice-chairperson of Thulamela Chambers. “He puts in a lot of attention at all hours, day and night.”

David Unterhalter, acting judge on the Supreme Court of Appeal, agreed. “It’s hard to know when precisely, if ever, Michael goes to sleep,” he said. “He’s not only a practitioner of extraordinary repute, he has also been a critical person for the purposes of reforming and developing the commercial law of this country, especially company and tax law.”

Katz has been integrally involved in Jewish community affairs in Johannesburg, offering guidance and advice to communal leaders in times of need. He has even played an integral part in the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre as board chairperson, said the centre’s founder and executive director, Tali Nates.

“He was so pivotal in everything we know about the Bill of Rights in South Africa and the way we look at human rights,” she said. “Michael always was our icon.

“As the idea of creating a Holocaust Centre in Johannesburg came about, there was no doubt that Michael was the right person,” Nates said. “His knowledge, love of books, and love of history of the Holocaust and genocide always enriches the conversation.”

Katz expressed his thanks, saying that receiving an honour from one’s own community was very meaningful.

“No one who has any achievement does it on his or her own. You need an ecosystem of supporters,” he said. “Mine includes my wife, a dedicated counsellor over 44 years of marriage. I have been truly privileged to have such a wonderful partnership.”

Katz paid tribute to his two daughters, and expressed his gratitude for the support he had received from his colleagues at ENSafrica.

He also offered some words of advice.

“The Jewish community is, unfortunately, a shrinking community, in a country that faces many challenges.

“What’s required? Unity. We need unity of the community. We have remarkable institutions in our community with dedicated officers and staff who care for the every need of the community, but they need our support.”

Communal unity is also fundamentally important to address poverty and inequality, Katz said.

“We need to support the country and the wider community in which inequality abound and where social justice is compromised,” he said. “We need to play a meaningful role, and hopefully, we can be agents of stability against a background of volatility.

“The SA Jewish Report has played a meaningful role in the era of COVID-19 in which people’s sense of well-being has been reduced. Howard Sackstein and his colleagues have spared no effort in endeavours to uplift the morale of the community when it really needed it,” Katz said.

“When one has the privilege of serving one’s people, one must grasp it with both hands.”

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