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Achievers to astound and delight

When you invite an eminent person to be honoured for excellence at a high-profile function like the Absa Jewish Achiever awards, and ask him to say a few words to the 600-strong audience, implicit in the invitation is that he is free to talk about things he feels strongly about, whether pleasing to the crowd or not.

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Achievers

GEOFF SIFRIN
 

Sunday evening’s audience at Vodaworld in Midrand, comprised decision-makers and influential people of all stripes and persuasions.

Asher Bohbot spoke as an Israeli, appealing fervently to South African Jews to continue supporting Israel, particularly in its time of trauma during the Gaza conflict. Ivor Ichikowitz insisted Jews should stop moaning about how bad things are in this country and elsewhere and seek the amazing opportunities and possibilities.

Meyer Kahn described the incredible journey his long life has been and how his success has been in no small part due to surrounding himself with people “smarter” than him. Rabbi Dovid Hazdan told a delightful parable about a little bird – a thrush – which, with its tiny song, triumphed over a lion with a loud roar for a great honour, because the bird made everyone sing with it – a tribute to the value of teamwork.

Johnny Clegg told of a tour with musicians to Syria a few years ago, the dream that Damascus would become a great cultural centre of the Arab world – and the tragedy that has befallen Syria since then.

If anyone thought the noted educationist and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, Prof Jonathan Jansen, would limit his talk to bland words about South Africa and education, they were mistaken.

He caused the most reaction when he lauded “the great humanitarians” he admired and had worked with. This included the much-loved late former Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, z”l – “Mandela’s rabbi”. He also mentioned others who are controversial in the Jewish world for their critical views on Israel: Dennis Davis, Daniel Barenboim and, most recently, King David schoolboy Josh Broomberg – to whom Jansen actually dedicated his award.

He also quoted an Arab doctor who lost family members in the Israeli bombing of Gaza, about whether Arabs should hate Israelis – and, if so, which Israelis.

An inspiring feature of the evening was the presence of many young people, in the audience and among winners. The resounding message was that as precious as the wisdom of the older “achievers” is, it is just as important to honour up-and-coming young men and women whose greatest years still lie ahead and who exude optimism and dreams.

Seeing the incredible talent and creativity in a diverse range of fields, from business to the arts and humanities, from both the young and not-so-young, was invigorating. The ability to not only have a dream, but go out and make it come true, despite the doomsayers surrounding us, and in a country hovering on the brink of a recession, in an increasingly unstable world, is remarkable.

In each category, the judges faced an unenviable task, not just regarding who to select as winners, but who to leave out.

This event has become a benchmark for celebrating excellence. The Jewish Report and SA Jewry are proud of it. The credibility and integrity of the judging process have been jealously guarded over the years and the event attracts the crème de la crème of nominees and sponsors.

Every table and seat in the house was sold, with a waiting list. It must be said that without the creative energy and dedication of the Achievers team under chairman Howard Sackstein, this event would not have been the colossal success it has been.

We are grateful to all our sponsors, including our main sponsor Absa, which has been with us for no less than 11 years . Our other sponsors are KIA, Chivas and Creative Counsel. Without them, we could not host an event of this magnitude.

A big, heartfelt vote of thanks to all of them.

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Achievers

Nominations are now open for Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2021

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ABSA BUSINESS ICON AWARD

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved iconic status within the business community.

ABSA BUSINESS LEADERSHIP AWARD – FROM COVID TO HOPE

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has played a critical leadership role in business during this period.

ABSA PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE – FROM COVID TO HOPE

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved national recognition and acclaim in their profession during this period.

ENTREPRENEUR AWARD

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has a proven track record in entrepreneurial ventures.

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has served the Jewish community with remarkable distinction.

EUROPCAR WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AWARD

  • Honouring the leadership, success and overall contributions of distinctive Jewish women in business or in the broader South African community.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
in honour of Helen Suzman

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has contributed in an extraordinary manner over a long period of time.

ARTS, SPORTS, SCIENCE AND CULTURE AWARD

  • Awarded to a Jewish person who has excelled in any of these spheres.

HUMANITARIAN AWARD
In honour of Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris

  • Awarded to a Jewish or non-Jewish person who has contributed substantially to the betterment of the lives of the people of South Africa.

To nominate visit this page.

Nominations close at 17:00 on 3 September 2021

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Achievers

Build hope by reaching out and nominating

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As the sun rises through the darkness of the pandemic and looting in South Africa, we begin to renew our hope for the future, and with that, we start our search to celebrate our Absa Jewish Achievers in 2021. Nominations are now open.

This year, we will celebrate on 7 November with great ‘hope’, the theme of this year’s event that so perfectly fits our growing sentiments.

The past 18 months have been so incredibly tough on our community, our country, and our world. What with more than 200 Jewish people dying from the COVID-19 pandemic in Johannesburg alone, we have really felt the coronavirus to our core.

We haven’t been able to be at loved one’s funerals, and have sat shiva alone. We have isolated from our loved ones to protect them. We have put much of our lives on hold because of this illness. Many have lost businesses and livelihoods.

But the end of this pandemic is in sight. We have “hope” again. As we vaccinate en masse, we move towards a new tomorrow.

We survived the wholesale looting and violence of the past month, and people have gone to great lengths to help each other make it through.

As a community, we work best together. We support each other, making us stronger and more resilient.

The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is all about our community putting heads together and coming up with those unique individuals who stand head and shoulders above others.

We will pull out all the stops to celebrate our 2021 achievers on 7 November. Once again, we’ll keep it online to avoid any potential COVID-19 risks. But in so doing, we’ll bring your international fantasies to life with our annual revelry. And in so doing, we will enable far more people to participate than can fit in a large hall. Last year, we took our numbers from 1 000 to 60 000 viewers.

It’s time to look around and find those unique individuals, those gems within our community who have performed in their own areas like no other. You know who they are, and they will be given the kavod only if you nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. It’s up to you.

“The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is so important as it allows us as a community to take stock and celebrate our disproportionate contribution to the people of South Africa,” says Howard Sackstein, Absa Jewish Achiever chairperson.

“It allows us to create role models for everyone to emulate as we celebrate the extraordinary. In so doing, we encourage others to find greatness in their own fields.”

Though we will once again be looking for lifetime achievers this year, a humanitarian champion, and those who have gone way beyond the call of duty for the community, we are also focusing on those who have excelled in the past year.

We want to find those outstanding individuals who have distinguished themselves over this past year with its unique challenges.

We are looking for nominees in the following: women in leadership; business award; entrepreneurship; business icon; professional excellence community award winner; a lifetime achiever; a winner in sport, science and culture; and a humanitarian award winner (who doesn’t have to be Jewish).

It’s up to you to nominate these people. Without your nominations, they won’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Although there are judges involved, we need your nominations and online participation in the public vote.

This is a communal event, focusing on our magnificent community, to find the individuals that will become icons for the rest of us. “As you all know, we work best as a community, and in this, we encourage each other to take pride in the achievements of others,” says Sackstein.

Nominations are open from today, until 17:00 on 3 September.

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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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