Achieving in the year 2020
In the days following the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards, I feel like a heroin junkie, coming down after an orgasmic high, at least that’s what I understand from watching the movie Trainspotting one time too many.
But as the high inevitably wanes, I keep reflecting on why the awards this year were such a massive success, with more than 30 000 people watching from around the globe, and why the SA Jewish Report webinars have been so successful, with nearly 700 000 people watching our 65 webinars to date.
I think the answer lies in one simple idea.
We didn’t take the real world and move it online, we completely reinvented the way we looked at everything. In our world view, the SA Jewish Report wasn’t a newspaper with a website, it was a community media company in a new multimedia, multi-channel world.
New media wasn’t about one-way communication, it was about a two-way conversation, it was about relevance and engagement. Community wasn’t something you found, but something you had to work to create.
We set about building a digital town square for our community to join people online and recreate the community in a different format but as strong and vibrant as before.
We didn’t just take the newspaper online, we completely reinvented the way we engaged with our audience. We made people chat, contribute, and answer questions, and by doing these simple things, we created the most successful alternative TV channel in South Africa and the Jewish world.
We reinvented the concept of community at a time of crisis which forced us all into the digital era.
We cannot go back to the ways of February 2020, we need to continually reinvent ourselves, innovate, develop new channels, learn how to speak to our community in a meaningful and engaging fashion, and make sure that everyone is invested in the outcome.
At the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards, we democratised the process and involved thousands of people. More than 12 000 people voted for 291 nominees, nominated by 594 members of the public. We gave our community a say and a stake in the outcome, and it supported the awards with exuberance and passion.
We took advantage of technology to reach across borders and oceans, to involve a wider audience, and to create a platform for a celebration that tugs at the heartstrings and makes you proud to be Jewish. We stitched together 71 videos, conducted 134 interviews, and showcased the most remarkable awards ceremony and variety show ever seen in South Africa, all free of charge to our community.
Therein lies the lesson for communal leadership for the post COVID-19 era.
I don’t know how we will go back to normality when the vaccine is here and people are willing to emerge slowly from their dungeons. The world has changed profoundly, as have our expectations as a community and our view of leadership.
Over the past few months, we on the board of the SA Jewish Report have started the process of re-imagination. We believed that we, like all communal structures, would be judged by how we served our community during this impossibly difficult time.
As we start to shut the door on 2020 and hope for better times ahead, I put my hand on my heart and say – sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but dammit, we wouldn’t fail for lack of trying – and that’s the great lesson for me of the pandemic of 2020.
Trying needs to become part of our DNA, a habit and in the immortal words from Trainspotting, “We called him Mother Superior on account of the length of his habit.”
- Howard Sackstein is the chairperson of the SA Jewish Report and the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards.
Nominate achievers who bring us hope
Remember when you were raving about the incredible work someone in the community had done? Well, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. You don’t have much time…
Last year, the focus was on what winners did over and beyond COVID-19 and through the toughest part of the pandemic.
This year, it’s all about hope, as we see the end of the pandemic in sight, death rates are dropping, people are vaccinated, and we are looking towards a brighter future. Who is enabling this? Who are the people who have brought us hope? Who’s bringing us hope right now, and will continue to inspire us in the future? Who are our winners?
“We are looking for those people who brought us hope in professional excellence and business leadership during these tough times,” says Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards and the board of the SA Jewish Report.
“Nominate those who showed true leadership and went way beyond the call of duty when there was looting and rioting in the country as well as a spike in the pandemic numbers.”
Sackstein admits that the judges’ decisions will be tough this year as many heroes have risen to the challenges of community and country. “It’s essential to create a record of these times, and those who have stood out when life was at its most challenging,” he says.
Professor Barry Schoub last year won the Kia Community Service Award for his awesome contribution to the Jewish community through COVID-19. The emeritus professor in virology at the University of the Witwatersrand and the former director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases came out of retirement to help the community, going on to become chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. Since his award, he has led South Africa through the process of acquiring vaccines and getting vaccinated.
Dr Mervyn Mer, who won the award for professional excellence in the time of COVID, has gone on to save many more lives from this dreaded coronavirus. He also almost singlehandedly reopened the COVID-19 ward at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital after the medical facility was closed following a fire. As the numbers of people getting desperately ill due to COVID-19 rose during the third wave, he did what he believed he needed to do to save lives.
Our other winners, Johnny Broomberg, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Liran Assness, Michael Katz, Wendy Fisher, Jody Scheckter, and Sir Sydney Kentridge have gone from strength to strength since then.
You have until the close of business on 3 September to make your nominations. Don’t wait, do it now. Go to https://www.sajr.co.za/absa-jewish-achiever-awards-2021/
Nominations are now open for Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2021
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.
- 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.
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.
Nominations close at 17:00 on 3 September 2021
Build hope by reaching out and nominating
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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