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Community members come out fighting for Rav Silberhaft

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TALI FEINBERG

“This cannot happen. He is one of our greatest assets… our leaders must come up with a plan to retain Moshe,” said Benzie Joffe. “The work Rabbi Silberhaft does is even more important at this time in South Africa than in earlier years,” said Dave Apter. Johnny Amoils wrote, “One needs to live in a country community to truly understand the significance and importance of having someone such as Rabbi Silberhaft to turn to whenever he is needed. It’s a very complex and often difficult task to keep our doors open.”

Ida Horwitz said that Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, “has worked for years to keep the lights on in shuls across the country. To negate his importance and the importance of Jewish communities outside of the bounds of Glenhazel and Sea Point is not okay. Please G-d, those without an appreciation of what he does will decide to consult those who do.”

Said David Shill, “The board should have put a process in place which would allow all stakeholders, especially country community residents, to give their input. It makes me wonder if this decision somehow has been affected by the state of the trust funds that were turned over by the communities, the purpose of which was to ensure that cemeteries and congregant needs were looked after in perpetuity. Even if this is financial, removing the position of Rabbi Silberhaft, in no way, shape, or form solves the real issue, which is to have a dedicated human being that lives a life of service to his congregants.”

Jason Shapiro said that Silberhaft united people, and supported individuals in believing that they were included in the global Jewish community. “He is the voice of the silent, and the keeper of the forgotten,” he said.

Others questioned what had happened, and was going to happen, to country community funds, and demanded answers from the SAJBD. Ivor Blumenthal was just one of the people who called for “solid and accountable forensic work to be done here”.

Rabbi Silberhaft encouraged community members not to panic, saying that he had faith that the board would find a solution.

Shaun Zagnoev, the National Chairperson of the SAJBD, said that “certain misconceptions had arisen”. He wants to “allay concerns that community members have expressed about the future of country communities”.

Zagnoev stressed that the SAJBD did not intend to abandon Jewish community members still living in the smaller towns and rural areas of South Africa. “We are committed to ensuring that the services provided by the country communities department continue to be performed under whatever new system is ultimately put in place.”

Silberhaft was involved in the planning and discussion process, Zagnoev said. “It is more than likely that whatever new system is put in place, he will be intrinsically involved in it.”

Zagnoev said that an important part of the department’s work was to assist individual communities to safeguard their residual assets through the establishment of trust funds in the name of the defunct congregation.

“These trusts are administered by Beyachad [an independent organisation] on behalf of the defunct congregation, and some of them are regularly audited. While individual trusts may differ from one another in certain details, the basis of the arrangement is that the capital base of each remains untouched, save for the annual increments necessary to keep up with inflation.

“In accordance with each trust deed, the accruing interest is used to maintain the cemetery of that particular town, helping to fund the work of the department in general, and sometimes assisting former members of the congregation still living in those areas, or supporting other Jewish communal bodies.”

Aside from the country communities department, he said the SAJBD received no portion whatsoever of the funds. “In terms of how the trusts operate, Beyachad provides an administrative service and the SAJBD plays a facilitating role, but the actual core business of each trust is the responsibility of the trustees themselves. To date this year, meetings have been held for ten of the twelve trusts that the board oversees, and meetings for the two remaining will be taking place shortly.

“All trustees participated in these meetings, and decisions were taken regarding disbursement for the upcoming year. We are satisfied that the trusts are being run in full compliance with the terms of the various trust deeds. The relevant documentation is available for inspection by those, such as present and former congregants, who have a genuine interest in the matter.”

Zagnoev said that the restructuring process would entail consultation with country communities. He said regional boards were fully involved in the process.

Zagnoev said that the possibility of the department becoming a separate, financially self-sustaining body was also being considered.

“We are exploring a range of possible options, among them having the needs of country Jewry dealt with on a regional rather than a national basis. This structure already exists, and runs to a large extent independently for certain country communities in the Western Cape. This might serve as a possible model for other regions.

“Certain of the country communities have historically fallen under the jurisdiction of the Cape Board. These communities are an important and unique part of the tapestry and history that make-up the South African Jewish community,” said Cape Board Chairperson Rael Kaimowitz.

“The work the Cape Board does in maintaining the cemeteries of these communities and reaching out and including them in our activities wherever possible will continue, and is likely to be unaffected by any developments nationally,” he said.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Eric Frenkel

    Feb 28, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    ‘Have these people gone mad, even to think of doing this is a disgrace, this man does wonderful work, shame on you.

    Eric Frenkel’

  2. Eric Krebs

    Feb 28, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    ‘Although I am not affected direstly by Rav Siberhaft, I have followed his work with interest on FB. Reaching out to a long forgotten (by most) communities. I have travelled the breadth of SA for many years and have met many of the families he is reaching out to. It would be a shame to abandon the ageing country folk as most of their offspring have left for greener pastures and safer climes in search of Jewish partners. ‘

  3. Hadassah Swanepoel

    Feb 28, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    ‘Rav Silberhaft should continue his outstanding work for our community !! ‘

  4. Benzie Joffe

    Mar 1, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    ‘For those who have read Moshe’s book "The Travelling Rabbi" you would have seen Rabbi Lord Sacks words on the front cover and I quote."his work knows no bounds……he has helped enhance individuals and communities’ sense of Jewish identity and heritage."

    These are the words of a great man,the ex Commonweath Chief Rabbi who recognised Moshe’s services.So please SAJBD dont let this courageous man go. He must be retained at all costs.’

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