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Chief Rabbi addressed mixed faith over ‘Shalom’

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NICOLA MILTZ

This, they say, can only happen in South Africa.

And so it did last Sunday at the National Day of Prayer organised by the Motsepe Foundation, together with religious and faith-based organisations. A day of unity and prayer, called in response to the “serious and grave challenges and problems of the time”.

In a rousing address, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, called for “peace in our land”, which he said can only come with “honesty and integrity, with compassion and with decency”.

“The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. I want to pray for peace because our country, South Africa needs peace, we need shalom,” he said.

He encouraged the audience to sing and clap along and pray together for peace, stirring the crowd with chants of “shalom” and “peace” which they echoed enthusiastically.

Teenager, Shmuli Brill, 15, a grade 9 pupil at Hirsch Lyons Boys’ High School, held the capacity crowd captive with his moving rendition of Oseh Shalom – “May He who makes peace in the heavens, grant peace to us and to all our people; and let us say amen.”

The youngster had only a short while to prepare for his debut and to get his head around the idea of standing in front of literally thousands of eager worshippers, having been asked to perform only a few hours prior to the event.

“I was shocked at first when my manager phoned and asked me how I would feel about singing in front of thousands of people. I had to process it,” he said humbly.

One of his first thoughts was how he was going to learn for his mathematics exam the following day.

And then the nerves kicked in and the adrenalin started pumping and before he knew it, he was standing alongside the Chief Rabbi with a microphone in his hands.

“I loved it, dancing to the rhythm and feeling the audience with me. When I sing, I go into a different world and when I stop I come back down to earth.”

Afterwards he was treated to a kosher meal in the VIP room with a host of well-known religious leaders and prominent politicians and other familiar faces, to keep him distracted from the maths books he had schlepped along.

Said Rabbi Goldstein: “The crowd really took to the Hebrew prayer and got into it. They were clapping and singing along and it shows the goodwill in the country that the Jewish community here is a treasured part of society. It was more than acceptance; there was genuine warmth, excitement and joy; there was a real connection.”

South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe and his Foundation hosted the day for all South Africans, with the purpose  to “pray for the unity of all South Africans of all races and languages; to pray for the poor, unemployed and marginalised; to pray for guidance, leadership and blessings for a bright future.”

As part of a prayer week leading up to Sunday’s gathering, Motsepe and members of various religious and faith-based organisations visited and prayed at numerous venues.

Motsepe together with other Christian leaders, attended the Friday night Shabbat service at the Gardens Synagogue in Cape Town where Rabbi Goldstein delivered the sermon.

“Patrice and I have known each other for many years. He is a visionary businessman and a philanthropist who I’ve worked with. He is a good friend of mine and of the South African Jewish community.”

Rabbi Goldstein said the timing of the National Day of Prayer was significant in that it made a “statement about the importance of faith and unity during this critical time in South Africa’s history. We are at a crossroads.”

 

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