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Chief rabbi should consult before speaking out

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Letters/Discussion Forums

The chairperson and executive of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) would like to clarify the organisation’s response to the SA Jewish Report’s interview with Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and last week’s editorial (8 July). Both referred to the chief rabbi’s article in Business Day, (29 June).

South Africa is teetering in the face of the enormous double challenge of a rampant COVID-19 third wave while parts of our country have been set alight. Now more than ever is the time for visionary and responsible leadership.

The SAJBD is the democratically elected representative leadership body of South African Jewry. When issues of concern arise with our government, we have no qualms in raising them. We live in a constitutional democracy, where everyone has the opportunity to air their views.

But, in the SA Jewish Report, the chief rabbi’s call for President Cyril Ramaphosa to “repent” and “atone” for “his sins” was presented as the equivalent of speaking out against apartheid. This is an offensive and objectionable analogy.

The tone and content of the article in the Business Day was also inappropriate and ineffectual.

We wrote to the chairperson of the United Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) to engage on this issue, and were dismayed that the UOS responded that it has no oversight over the chief rabbi’s communications.

It’s critical that any representative of a community purporting to speak on its behalf is accountable, and that they fully consult on issues of strategic importance. This is a fundamental principle of good leadership.

The chief rabbi criticises the elected leadership of the Jewish community, and separates himself from it, in spite of the fact that he sits on the SAJBD national executive committee and has every opportunity to discuss strategy for engaging with government.

The notion that a single leader can know what’s best for his community and can act unilaterally is outdated and dangerous.

Our community is suffering and frustrated. Now is the time to come together and find constructive ways of rebuilding.

The SAJBD remains committed to a productive relationship with the chief rabbi that serves the best interests of our community and country.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Tribute to a man who embodies Judaism at its best

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As the Torah observant manager of a busy food establishment and as a member of the Jewish community, I wish to give thanks and recognition to a pillar of righteousness.

Rabbi Yossi Baumgarten joined the United Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) kashrut department more than 40 years ago, and gave the prime of his life to serve the community.

No factory was too far. No mashgiach question was turned away, even if called at 01:00.

Baumgarten addressed kashrut matters with integrity and honesty, and with a zest and energy that motivated and inspired all those who had the privilege and honour to work with him.

I once had the privilege of going on a trip with Baumgarten. The man is utter Judaism. From the way he treats others, to the way he ties his shoes and walks. His greatness is in his kindness, humility, and truthfulness.

The UOS kashrut department has been internationally recognised for decades as a result of the sterling input of Baumgarten, and this is evident by the many calls and messages he would field throughout the day from people all over the world. Whether it be a call from the Orthodox Union or the OK or Star K certification agencies, or a mashgiach or local housewife, the Jewish local community and the kosher world at large owe Baumgarten a debt of gratitude.

On behalf of the Mashgiach Association, we wish Baumgarten much strength and success in all his future endeavours.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Deafening silence about Afghanistan, hue and cry about Israel

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Tali Feinberg’s excellent piece in the SA Jewish Report (2 September) titled Africa4Palestine Compares Israel to Nazi Germany, offers sufficient expert academic opinion to totally discredit this narrative that is the backbone of the organisation’s campaign. That crusade together with the continuous use of the apartheid canard has one goal only: the total destruction and delegitimisation of Israel. Both apartheid and Nazi myths carry powerful emotive connotations.

While these falsehoods are somewhat over-played and over-used, Israel’s defensive operations are what elevates the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions organisation’s attack to a crescendo. Just months ago, the world erupted in a show of anger, with hordes filling the streets of capital cities, admonishing only Israel during a conflict with the Hamas terror group.

Contrast that to the recent get together in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad poured congratulations on the Taliban for the takeover of Afghanistan and broke bread together. These Sunni terror groups, including Al-Qaeda, share an ideology of gender violence and misogyny, and support each other in multiple ways. Of course, the Taliban’s unmentionable barbaric treatment of women has been well documented and condemned by most of the world.

Those throngs of protesters voicing thunderous support for Hamas, the blood brothers of the Taliban, now manifest a deafening silence. Where is “the squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib? Not forgetting Jewish college students on the left, who all had much to say in their condemnation of the only country in the region able to stand up to terrorism of this kind.

Are those protesters oblivious to the plight of Afghan girls and women?

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Letters/Discussion Forums

US left’s outrage over Kabul bombing smacks of hypocrisy

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As the deadline for the evacuation of those desperate to flee the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan approaches, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) detonated two deadly suicide explosions in the airport precinct of Kabul, killing more than 60 civilians together with 13 United States (US) military personnel.

This tragedy as the events in Afghanistan unfold bought home the reality of having to contend with these types of contemptable and despicable atrocities that aren’t foreign to the Middle East – not to forget where suicide bombing originated more than 20 years ago.

The untimely deaths of the 13 US servicemen has had a profound effect on the psyche of the American public, whose outrage is expressed in most prominent press reports, and is a stark reminder of the dangers of foreign assistance to unstable areas around the world.

Why should American boys die while defending freedom and democracy, is a question on everybody’s lips.

Most Americans, from Democratic liberals to the Republicans, are outraged and incensed – about the only time that the two agree on anything. Even those high-profile celebrities, with the likes of “The Squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. Not to forget Trevor Noah and the Hadid girls, and of course, the left Jewish college students, who all had much to say in their condemnation of the only country in the region able to stand up to terrorism of this kind.

Just a short while back, these good folk were singing the praises of another organisation, the actual founders and inventors of suicide attacks, in fact showing no remorse whatsoever that such attacks are perpetrated against other democracies. In those cases, the perpetrators are the heroes, and the victims condemned by this coterie. Would this set be accused of hypocrisy? Surely not, given the outrage demonstrated today in the US.

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