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Celebrating real heroes



In times of crisis, heroes emerge. It’s our duty to acknowledge those in our midst, and ensure that they get the recognition they deserve for their acts of selflessness in trying circumstances.

These are the people this year’s Absa Jewish Achiever Awards seeks to celebrate.

COVID-19 has given rise to a harsh new reality, putting everyday people under extraordinary strain. However, it serves as a litmus test to identify those everyday people who have achieved the extraordinary by rising above the challenges to help those in need.

“Ordinary people assume the mantle of leadership and provide inspiration and motivation to all of those around them,” says Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the SA Jewish Report.

“The same is true in business and in our professional lives. This period of COVID-19 has brought out the best in many people, and created heroes who have risen to lead, uplift, and inspire our nation.”

These personalities are the ones deserving of recognition by being nominated for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards, he says.

“We are living in very troubling times,” says Sackstein. “Beyond COVID-19, racism and inequality in society have become dominant topics which have changed our lives tremendously.

“This is a time when people have a choice,” he says. “They can choose to pretend that nothing has changed or is happening around them, or they can take the decision to make a difference in the world when we need it most.

“We want to celebrate the people who are standing up and making a difference.”

Heroism can be truly recognised only by adjusting the award categories to reflect our changed circumstances, says Sackstein. For this reason, certain awards have been adapted to recognise leadership and accomplishment specifically in current circumstances.

“We want to make sure the awards are relevant for the times we’re in,” he says. “For example, instead of recognising a person for purely business-related accomplishments, we want to recognise the leadership people have shown in business at this very moment, those individuals who have stood up, led by example from a position of values, left a mark on people, and made a difference during these times. It’s not a purely financial award anymore.”

The same holds true in the professional excellence category, now the Absa Professional Excellence in the time of COVID award. “While we’ve always had accountants, lawyers, and doctors who have achieved the incredible, we want to find those who have specifically risen up and been counted, helping us emotionally, mentally, and in other atypical ways. These are our true heroes at the moment.”

We don’t have to look hard to find heroes, Sackstein says. “Children have given their pocket money to help others, philanthropists have funded protective equipment, businesses have seconded their staff to the Solidarity Fund, doctors have fought the COVID-19 battle on the frontline, epidemiologists have planned and built capacity, nurses have worked till they collapsed, and neighbourhoods have turned themselves into feeding schemes. Each day brings a new tale of awe-inspiring upliftment.”

Sackstein concludes, “At the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2020, we want to celebrate our heroes, recognise those who have led and inspired us during these impossibly difficult times, and motivate others to join them in the charge into the unchartered waters of our future.

“Within each of us is a hero waiting to be revealed.”

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