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Back to Work

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Community

So many in our community have lost jobs since the onset of lockdown. We are publishing their details to help them find work. This is the last group for this year. We will resume in 2021.

Name: Fran Lurie

Experience: Sales Consultant

Education: Matric

More information: I have worked in the exhibition industry for 20 years, and because of COVID-19 this was the first industry to go. I was retrenched and now seek new employment. I am driven, enthusiastic and ready to take on a new venture.

Current location: Johannesburg

Willing to relocate: No

Email address: franlurie@telkomsa.net

Name: Nicole Williams

Email address: nmoskovitch@gmail.com

Experience: National Key Accounts Manager/PA/Secretary

Education: Matric (Herzlia); Travel and Tourism diploma (Travel and Tourism Academy)

More information: I’d like to work for a company which will allow me to grow professionally and as an individual. I’m eager to work in a team structure and am happy to travel. I enjoy new challenges, and having a proactive mindset has helped me achieve success. I’m creative, energetic, and pay attention to detail. I’m committed, loyal, enthusiastic, and give 101% in everything I do.

Current location: Cape Town

Willing to relocate: No

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Jews around the world call for Moshiach

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For 3 000 years, Jews have been praying for Moshiach (the messiah) to come, but this weekend, the Jewish world is upping its game with a communal prayer demanding that “G-d send Moshiach now”.

So says Rabbi David Masinter, who heads up Chabad House in Johannesburg, and who is behind the prayer to be said at 18:00 (South African time) on Sunday, 21 February.

“One thing COVID-19 has taught us is how vulnerable we all are,” says Masinter. “It’s been a time of introspection. It’s a time of realisation that we need Moshiach. This is how this worldwide Moshiach project was borne.”

According to Masinter, a businessman in Miami came up with the idea, and a universal prayer was formulated.

“Two powerful ways to hasten the coming of Moshiach is through unity of our nation and charity. Therefore, we are encouraging everyone to stop what they are doing, say this worldwide prayer together, and give a little charity at the same time. When Jews all around the world band together for a shared goal, the power is immeasurable.”

Masinter says belief in the coming of Moshiach is a fundamental principle of the Torah, and that we have to yearn for him to come. “This is one of the fundamental principles of our faith,” he says.

“We believe that one day, Moshiach will come, and g-dliness will be revealed on earth. There will be no more war, no more suffering. There will be peace among nations.”

The following prayer should be said at 18:00 on Sunday, 21 February:

“Master of the universe

We, your beloved children

United together around the world at this moment

Are crying out to you in prayer

Please accept this prayer with grace and kindness

We sincerely thank you for all your daily blessings,

But we implore you from the depths of our hearts

To send Moshiach immediately to redeem us with mercy,

From this long exile and suffering

And to bring peace to the world

We can’t wait anymore!

We desire your great name to be revealed

Your dominion in the entire world

And your presence returned to the Beit Hamikdash – the Holy Temple – now!”

“SHMA YISRAEL AD-ONAY EL-O-HAYNU AD-ONAY ECHAD

HEAR OH ISRAEL, THE L-RD IS OUR G-D, THE L-RD IS ONE”

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Harvesting Brakpan Shul’s rich history

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Brakpan Shul was built in the East Rand almost a hundred years ago, and thanks to the efforts of Yakima Waner, it could stand for a hundred more.

At a time when several historic South African shuls have fallen into disrepair, Waner has committed to preserving the rich heritage of the Brakpan Jewish community by saving its shul from neglect.

Together with her organisation, The Harvest Project, she is in the process of securing its status as a heritage site so that it will forever stand as an icon of Judaism on the East Rand.

“This shul is an icon for Jews who entered South Africa from Eastern Europe during the early 1900s,” Waner told the SA Jewish Report. “The Jews that came to the East Rand were more labour-skilled [like merchants and cobblers], a community which used their hands and had some business skills. They weren’t as educated as the Jews that went to Johannesburg.”

Waner is the founder and chairperson of The Harvest Project, a non-profit organisation which aims to uplift vulnerable people in need (especially children) and help them to overcome the consequences of war, inequality, poverty, health issues, and abuse. The project’s main goal is to teach those in need the value of self-worth through the therapy of harvesting their own food.

According to Waner, Brakpan Shul was officially opened in 1931, although the community itself was established in 1918. It was designed by Wolseley-Spicer, a recognised English architect who designed many landmarks in South Africa.

“The United Hebrew Institute of Brakpan [UHI] is in fact much older than the building,” said Waner. “It’s the heart of the synagogue and has kept it going all these years. It also looks after the Jewish section of Brakpan Cemetery.”

It was through partnering with the UHI that Waner strengthened her family’s bond with the shul.

“The partnership came about when we were given the opportunity to open our Blessings Eco Preparatory School on the surrounding shul grounds after we were denied the right to open the school in the community,” she said. “At the time, the shul was still running, and my father, Ernest Waner, and uncle, Jeffrey Waner, had been looking after the synagogue since 2001.

“They opened their loving arms to our project in memory of all the children that were oppressed and executed during the Holocaust.”

Jeffrey played an integral role in maintaining Jewish life in Brakpan over 15 years, assembling a minyan on Saturdays by bringing residents of Sandringham Gardens to the shul, and maintaining the Jewish cemetery. Tragically, he passed away early last year.

“Brakpan Shul has been a great part of my life since I was a child,” said Waner. “I was never regarded a Jew because my mother wasn’t, but that didn’t stop my connection with this sacred space. I will always remember my aunt, Matilda Rosowsky, speaking of its healing properties. She said the shul had healed many souls, including her own.

“For years, the UHI wanted to open a museum and convert the building into a heritage site so it could be a permanent icon that celebrated all the Jews of the East Rand, not just Brakpan,” she said. “I was honoured to look after this building in memory and celebration of all my ancestors.”

The Harvest Project has created a presence on the grounds through the school and the Harvest Centre of Judaism & Equality, promoting equality and diminishing deterioration or vandalism, said Waner.

“We keep the space clean and safe, and will be making the UHI’s dream of a museum and heritage site a reality,” she said.

“Today, there is still a caretaker who makes sure the site is clean, something which isn’t the case with other sites in the East Rand. Some Jewish cemeteries on the East Rand and in other metros in the country where Jews have left are in very poor shape. They are nothing but eye sores.”

Few Jews remain in Brakpan today, among them 93-year-old Monica Ressel, the secretary of the UHI, who still calls former Jewish residents of Brakpan to see how they are and to remind them of upcoming yahrzeits.

“There are a few Jews left from the past, but no youth have remained here,” said Waner. “During lockdown and now, The Harvest Project offers services to the elderly Jewish residents of Brakpan, and though the shul will always be a part of the Waner family, it has become sacred and precious to others too.”

Indeed, during the first lockdown in 2020, about 19 000 meals were provided to those in need from the shul grounds.

“This is what has become of Brakpan Shul,” says Waner. “It’s now a place of salvation and hope for all in the name of G-d.”

The plight of immigrants to South African and the less fortunate, often treated with hostility, isn’t unlike that of Jews who entered this country in the 19th century, Waner said.

“The Harvest Project sees every life as equal, and protecting this landmark is a step to promote equality for the formerly oppressed and the children who are oppressed today,” she said. “As long as this building stands, we won’t give up on the community which looks to us for salvation.”

With plans in place to secure status as a heritage site, Waner hopes to celebrate the building’s centenary by planting 100 fruit trees in the community via “The Harvest Plant a Tree Project” when the time comes.

“We encourage people from the East Rand to donate any artefacts to the shul museum,” she said. “Many Jews don’t understand the important of having a presence. They take it for granted. Many have criticised the UHI for keeping the synagogue open because they don’t see eye to eye with its open-mindedness.

“At the end of the day, the UHI looks after the forgotten ones. That’s a great honour in the eyes of Hashem.”

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No time for donor fatigue – poverty is worse than ever

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“The situation in South Africa is more desperate than ever. The need for food security and employment is greater than ever, and government social-support grants have become a necessity,” says Marc Lubner, the chief executive of Afrika Tikkun. “If it weren’t for the addition of the R350 per month special grant, I believe there would be rioting in the streets of the townships.”

Like many other local charities, this organisation is being stretched to the limit as the second wave of the pandemic sweeps across the country. The number of desperate South Africans continues to rise daily, and while charities are busier than ever, they’re struggling to cope with the demand.

“Our charity efforts are more active than ever before,” says Lubner. “In fact, we’re targeting a 12% increase in our 2021 budget over our 2020 budget.”

Yakima Waner, founder and chairperson at non-profit organisation (NPO) The Harvest Project, says that the organisation has doubled in size and scope in the past six months.

“We have reached the maximum that our NPO can, and still we are pushed further,” she says. “All our initiatives are active at the moment, and we have started some more. All souls have been affected.”

A preparatory school, children’s feeding scheme, and animal rescue which fall under The Harvest Project’s umbrella are constantly in need of resources and struggle to cope with demand.

“During COVID-19, I saw how the virus brought everyone to their knees,” says Waner. “In many cases, money did still protect you, but at the same time it also became obsolete. We deal with a community which is completely hand to mouth – it works and recycles today, and will eat tonight.”

In the time that has passed since the first wave, charities have also increased their range of initiatives in order to help people in different ways. Angel Network founder Glynne Wolman says the organisation has gone beyond provision of food.

“We have learnt how to handle the food crisis more effectively and have partnered with suppliers so that everything runs far more smoothly,” she says. “We also have a much better idea of who we are helping, which saves time and makes it easier.

“We aren’t just focusing on hunger relief anymore. We’re getting involved in bringing solar-powered geysers to communities, sanitising pit toilets, and developing vegetable gardens to make communities self-sustainable.

“The need is sadly relentless,” Wolman says. “Far more people are without jobs and support, and often they have nowhere to turn, unlike our community which offers an enormously wide net of support.”

The second wave has also brought with it the threat of fewer donations, with people giving less to charities than they did during the first wave last year.

Says Lubner, “There were a number of really remarkable high-net-worth individuals and foundations that gave considerably during the first wave, and it’s not clear whether they will continue their support or at what levels.”

It’s concerning that this generosity might not be available during the second wave, where the need is actually greater, he says.

“We must remember that many companies paid out retrenchments, which would have been utilised by the end of the first quarter of 2021,” says Lubner. “Now, millions who have lost their jobs will be without an income and much hope as there doesn’t seem to be a game plan for the rebuilding of the economy.”

Waner agrees, saying that during the first wave, food distribution was a problem, and the role of larger organisations such as the South African Jewish Board of Deputies was pivotal in helping the charity reach more people.

“Without it we would never have been able to bring salvation to so many,” says Waner. “We will forever be grateful because it’s a tough sight to see grown men cry of hunger.”

However, the situation is more challenging now.

“The position we find ourselves in now is daunting because it’s the aftermath of war. After growth, you have further to fall,” she says. “We have many lives that rely on us for aid, and now you have made them a promise that they will never go hungry again.

“To keep to that promise is tough, especially now that the funding that was meant to help a pandemic which no one thought would last this duration has begun to dry up. People donated large, life-changing amounts of money, and it was used in the moment to make a difference, but we didn’t think for the future.”

Wolman, however, says that her organisation hasn’t experienced any donor fatigue.

“We are extremely fortunate in that we have been able to build up a reputation in the past five years so that donors know and trust us,” she says. “We haven’t really felt the effects of donor fatigue, but what has changed is that many corporates are now approaching us to get involved, something that has never happened before.

“I think people want to make a difference, and are aware of how hard life can be for so many.”

As South Africa continues to battle the pandemic, Lubner predicts that many charities will fall away due to lack of funding in the coming year and there is likely to be a merger or strategic alliance between a number of NPOs.

“A strategic collaboration between nongovernment organisations (NGOs), government, and private sectors can have a material impact as service delivery can be optimised,” he says. “For far too long, these entities haven’t worked in a co-ordinated manner and there has been duplicity and redundancies. If the commercial and private sector were to plan with NGO service delivery partners, there would certainly be a better utilisation of corporate social investment funding.

“The collaboration between private sector, government, and NGOs could have a far greater impact on South Africa’s destiny. We can turn this terrible crisis to good if we realise that we are more effective working together than apart.”

Lubner, Waner, and Wolman have urged the community to continue to support those in need, whether by donating to existing initiatives or just offering support where needed.

“Just show someone that you are there for them,” says Waner. “Show that support, that no one is alone in this crisis.

“If every one of us helps another person in whatever way, it will spread love and compassion that will automatically change lives.”

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