Cape Board not sitting on their laurels – Chair
CAPE BOARD CONFERENCE: CITIZEN COHEN
Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies chairman Eric Marx (pictured throughout) delivered a comprehensive report to the “Citizen Cohen” conference (poster below) last Sunday. SA Jewish Report Online was at the conference and published: CITIZEN COHEN – THE LIVE BLOG.
The following is a verbatim transcript of the speech delivered by chairman Eric Marx to the 150-odd delegates attending the conference:
Kavod HaRabbanim, distinguished guests and community leaders, National Chairman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Mary Kluk, members of the Cape Board, ladies and gentlemen.
My Detailed Report has been included in your packs and covers the activities of the Cape Board generally, and specifically during the past year.
I shall now highlight a few areas:
- The Cape Board came into existence 110 years ago with its mission to represent Jews in the Cape, safeguard their civil rights, prevent threats of anti-Semitism and contribute to the enhancement of Jewish communal life
- This mission remains true today but, in addition, the Cape Board has extended its activities to include political lobbying, outreach, interfaith, and an extensive information resource.
- We also now have two new departments namely social change and young adult development
- The Cape Board has its own independent constitution and is the umbrella organization of Jewry. Its 15 members are democratically elected for a two-year term by the various constituent organizations and by ballot of the Cape Community. Various other individuals sit at the Board table by virtue of their past or present leadership positions in the community. Our funding comes from the United Jewish Campaign and we are affiliated to the National Board with whom we share common goals and have a close relationship.
In broad terms, we ensure that there are effective channels of communication to and by our community.
We collaborate with other Jewish organizations and individuals to ensure that our message is transmitted and that we focus on issues that are relevant.
We understand the need to grow and encourage future leaders and young adult participation.
We network with international communal organizations as well as with local NGOs.
We facilitate conversations and initiatives to play our part as agents of positive change in SA.
We have established extensive networks and friendships through interfaith initiatives.
I recognize that our core mandate is to protect and defend the civil rights of Cape Jewry.
The fact is that, here in the Cape, we have a huge Muslim community who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The ANC under Fransman is in political opposition and COSATU has a strong and vocal presence. This all combines to make our community particularly vulnerable.
We support our Jewish students through SAUJS (the Union of Jewish Students) particularly during Israel Apartheid Week (or as we call it Israel Awareness Week) at UCT. I have pledged, together with the SAZF Cape Council, to renew our efforts to advise and support SAUJS.
REPORT CONTINUES BELOW PICTURE…
Operation Protective Edge in Gaza has resulted in an unprecedented onslaught of anti-Semitic incidents, particularly on social media.
During the period January to August 2014, the Board and the CSO, recorded 144 incidents classified as Anti-Semitic, nearly 90 during July alone. Unlike in other Diaspora communities, our anti-Semitism is non-violent, but the huge onslaught has been a cause for concern and, correctly, has occupied a great deal of our time.
I am, and we are vigilant and committed to act speedily and where necessary in all matters affecting Cape Jewry.
We partner with the National Office to act decisively where there is anti-Semitism or where our civil liberties require defending.
It is noteworthy that, at a meeting of Board leadership, which I attended with President Zuma on Thursday, he emphasized the government’s abhorrence of anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance
SOCIAL CHANGE DEPARTMENT
Our Social Change Department takes its mandate from a key strategy in our mission statement which is “working for the betterment of human relations between Jews and all other peoples of SA based on mutual respect, understanding and goodwill.”
It directs us to build relationships within and outside of the Jewish community by engaging with issues of concern to all South Africans, increase the credibility and reach of the Cape Board and build the brand of the Jewish community.
This work is both strategic and an authentic expression of our Jewish values and tradition
The Gender Based Violence and Abuse Education and Awareness campaign is a joint initiative of a large number of communal organizations and aims to raise the profile and awareness of GBV inside the Jewish Community. The campaign has included a number of workshops for youth movements, CSO, EZRA and Herzlia teachers, counsellors and support staff.
Gina Flash is the professional running this department and she has been elected to the board of the SA Faith and Families Institute, which assists faith leaders to support their communities in regard to GBV.
We are now in the third year of our Peer 2 Peer Mentorship program at UCT. In partnership with the HCI Foundation, Jewish third and fourth year students mentor first year students from disadvantaged backgrounds to ease them into university life to combat the 40% first year dropout rate.
An exciting development is the creation of a Social Change network called “Mensch.” The Cape Board has brought this much-needed network of Jewish individuals and organizations engaged in social change and community building to fruition and there will be a launch in November. This will comprise an on-line internet based network as well as off-line networking meetings creating a map of Jews working in the field of social change and facilitating access to others in similar fields.
Under the social change department we continue to promote recycling, assist in emergency relief and participate in the annual One to One festival for the physically and mentally challenged, as well as various other initiatives.
GENERATION NEXT DEPARTMENT
I think that the most significant initiative of the Cape Board this year was the creation of the Generation Next Department with Lauren Kessler as the lead professional.
Jewish continuity and ensuring involvement by Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 is an imperative and the Cape Board has taken this on.
Lauren has undertaken extensive research both locally and internationally to provide young adults with relevant programming and platforms to express themselves Jewishly and communally. The aim is to foster young leadership, research trends and identify interests, issues and agendas in the community, network and reach the unaffiliated
Moishe House is an international project, which has now been established as a country first here in Cape Town. A Moishe House is now in Vredehoek and residents are expected to arrange Shabbat dinners, shiurim, films, learning and outreach – to attract young people to be part of a young adult Jewish Community
A new brand “cool Jews doing cool things in cool places” has been established aimed at attracting young Jews to hear interesting ideas and perspectives.
Ignite is an innovative project to develop future young leadership where participants attend an 8 week leadership development course. I am pleased to be able to welcome some of this years’ participants to this conference.
We have also continued with our Mini Nachum Goldman program where we provide a safe environment to develop members in an independent setting outside of the formal community structure
POLITICAL LOBBYING DEPARTMENT
The Political Lobbying Department is a vitally important part of the Board’s activities. We pro-actively lobby and engage local politicians, journalists, business and influential people, not only to establish a line of communication should we need it, but also to educate and promote the Board brand.
This department, under professional, Craig Nudelman, serves as a media contact and strengthens the Board’s Brand, and therefore the profile of the Jewish community.
The National Board takes the lead role in lobbying Government and has established good relationships with key politicians. So much so that the Government has been clear in its support for our community, has contradicted and clarified statements made by certain ANC members, and have resisted the call to expel the Israeli Ambassador. The Government recently sent Envoys to the Middle East, and they returned with a balanced view. Government sees itself as a role player for a peaceful two state solution.
B Jen has been an amazingly successful initiative where we have partnered with SABEF (SA Black Entrepreneurs Forum) and Investec to bring together Jewish and Black Entrepreneurs to network with each other. We have had five events in Cape Town, bringing together over 250 entrepreneurs. The Board Councils in Johannesburg and Durban have picked up the project.
I firmly believe that we should increase our efforts to reach out to the Black community, both to understand each other and to play our part in the broader SA Society as agents of positive change.
This department also holds so-called “Think n Drink” sessions where Board and invited Community members meet influential and interesting people.
We held two “Transformation Conversions” which are events open to everyone on subjects addressing SA issues.
These high profile events were well attended, the speakers were experts in their fields, and it showed the commitment of Jews to address wider issues and be part of civil society.
Events held were
- Immigration policy in SA
- 20 years on – reconciliation in SA and Rwanda
- We continue to co-ordinate the annual Yom Hashoah event
The Cape Board is in touch with organizations overseas and Leaders and Staff attended a number of seminars and events. Substantially all of the funding for international travel was subsidized by outside organizations or personally.
I regard interfaith dialogue and events as crucial to our mandate and would like the Cape Board to increase its profile in this area. We also must not take our relationship with the Christian community for granted as they are committed supporters.
Through the often behind the scenes work down by people such as Gwynne Robins, Gina Flash, Lester Hoffman and Mickey Glass, bridges with other faith groups are built and enduring relationships established. 58
We recognize that effective communication with our constituency is crucial, having due regard to the diverse nature of our community.
We continue to insert regular articles in the monthly Chronicle, we have a monthly on-line publication “Yada Yada” which reaches over 1600 people, our Facebook page has more than 3600 likes, we actively Tweet and, of course, we email whenever necessary.
I want to make special mention of Bursaries, co-ordinated by Jodi Goldberg, where, for the 2014 academic year, we awarded over R1,5m to 85 tertiary students from funds that we administer
Staffwise is chaired by Board Member Bev May and here there has been renewed energy.
We also enjoy a good relationship with the CSO headed by Jacques Webber and I thank them on behalf of us all for protecting Jewish Life and the Jewish Way of Life.
TALK TO US
The Board strives to not only react to issues that have affected our community, but to take the lead in regard to our obligation of tikkun olam, to bring transformative light to the societies in which we live.
Ultimately, we are accountable to you, our Affiliates and community, so please contact us with your concerns and suggestions, or to get involved.
Like our Facebook page which will ensure that you are kept up to date, or visit our website.
I want to acknowledge and thank
- Our amazing professional staff comprising David Jacobson, Gwynne Robins, Gina Flash Craig Nudelman, Lauren Kessler and Jodi Goldberg who have achieved so much under difficult circumstances during these past few months. I thank them as well for arranging this conference;
- The members of the Cape Council. We meet every two weeks and many members are involved in Departments and get together more often. A special mention of my Executive, Michael Donen, Lester Hoffman, Viv Anstey and Li Boiskin for their incredible support and commitment, often under battlefield conditions; and
- Finally, it remains for me to wish you and your families Shana Tova. May this Rosh Hashana bring peace in Eretz Yisrael and everywhere else, health, happiness and success to us all.
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The poster for the Citizen Cohen confernence