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David Bernstein – the FA’s ‘Mr Clean’

In 2011 the English Football Association (FA) voted David Bernstein, a Jew, in as chairman. His nomination was met with surprise, with many expecting David Dein (also Jewish) to be elected chairman.





Pictured Former FA Chairman David Bernstein (left) with the man he promoted to the position of England coach, Roy Hodgson.

 It somehow seems strange to imagine a Jewish chairman as top man in the FA, but Bernstein held the position with aplomb until his retirement last year. 

Analysts pointed to Bernstein’s business acumen in the revival of ailing companies such as French Connection, Manchester City FC and Wembley Stadium Limited.

His main claim to fame was the resurrection of Manchester City and his tenure at the club is fondly looked upon by City supporters who credit Bernstein – a lifelong City supporter – with preventing the club from ending up languishing in the lower divisions.

Bernstein’s election as chairman of the FA followed the failed 2018 World Cup bid in December 2010. Bernstein aimed to foster better relations with the Fifa executive committee with a view to increase English influence at the top of the world football body.

However, accusations of bribery and members suspended on suspicion of corruption at Fifa, meant the FA and Bernstein took a tougher stand on Fifa, with a demand of reform.    

The issue of the 2022 World Cup being awarded to Qatar, was at the top of his agenda.

Ultimately, the FA abstained from the 2011 Fifa presidential election between incumbent President Sepp Blatter and Mohammed Bin Hammam. The latter was later suspended by Fifa, days prior to the election and the English FA demanded that the election be postponed as there would only be one name on the ballot paper with two days to go until the election.

The day before the election was due to take place, Bernstein managed to get 17 football associations to support the FA demand. Other football associations, such as Germany’s, also voiced their concern at the events unfolding at Fifa, as did Fifa sponsors.

Bin Hammam was the subject of an exposé published by the British Sunday Times in June this year. The newspaper published leaked e-mails which showed that Bin Hammam had paid members of other nations’ football associations in the run-up to his Fifa presidential election campaign and prior to the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cup bids decision that took place in December 2010.

Bernstein has remained a supporter of Israeli Football and in June last year was one of the people who insisted the World Under-21 tournament went ahead in Israel, despite calls from some other countries demanding it be moved elsewhere.   

Under his tutelage, the senior England squad visited Auschwitz prior to the European Championships last summer and even had Israeli coach, Avram Grant, who lost family in the Holocaust, accompany the team.

Bernstein, at the age of 70, retired from his FA post last year and was replaced by Greg Dyke. He was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours list for services to football.

However, he came under fire for the appointment of Roy Hodgson as the national coach and that could still come back to bite him. 



Legendary Gordon’s innings comes to an end at 103



Pictured:Norman Gordon, the oldest Test cricketer in the world, has passed away aged 103.


Just four weeks after his 103rd birthday, legendary South African cricketer Norman Gordon, passed away last week Tuesday.  

“He died peacefully at around 02:00 in his Hillbrow flat where he had lived for over 60 years,” close friend and former test cricketer Ali Bacher told Sapa.

“He was a person who lived a very full life. His passion was for cricket and then golf and he always felt so privileged and appreciative of the wonderful people he had met.”

It was in 1934 that Norman was first called up to play for Transvaal, but it was an inauspicious beginning. It was his first time on a grass pitch and Norman had a bad game.

“It was not until 1937 that he was recalled to the Transvaal team and in that year they won the Currie Cup. There was no money for them in those days, but Norman did not care. As he pointed out: ‘I just wanted to play cricket.’”

In 1938 he was called up to the South African team to take on the touring England team and he played in all five of the Tests. After the opening Test, legendary England batsman Len Hutton referred to him as the best South African bowler he had ever faced. Norman got Hutton’s wicket in both innings. 

In the final Test Norman took match figures of 1/256 and was not out in each innings, scoring 0 and 7. That match in Durban was the famous Timeless Test, which took 10 days and was eventually drawn by agreement. It was 1939 and the threat of war was looming in Europe and as the tourists had to go home by boat, the match was called off with England needing just 42 runs for victory, with five wickets standing.

Norman set a record which still stands today. He bowled 92.2 eight-ball overs. Translated into simple numbers that means he bowled 738 balls in a single Test match. Nobody has ever come close.

He is survived by his son, Brian, who took care of him until his death.

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Yochanan’s gamble: the controversial move that saved Judaism



Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, known as the father of rabbinic Judaism, saved Judaism from complete and utter destruction during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. However, his methods weren’t without controversy. He was crafty, practical, and pragmatic, and history has questioned his behaviour ever since.

Limmud@Home on 22 August 2021 featured Marc Katz, the author and rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid in New Jersey, United States, who discussed Ben Zakkai’s controversial gamble that saved Judaism, and the lessons that can be learned from it.

The zealots, a group of religious fanatics in Jerusalem, wanted to fight the Romans. When the sages refused to engage in battle, the zealots burned wheat, deliberately causing starvation to make the people desperate and have no other option but to fight.

“Show me a method so that I will be able to leave the city, and it’s possible that through this, there will be some small salvation,” Ben Zakkai told Abba Sikkara, the leader of the zealots.

Heeding Sikkara’s advice, Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead. In a coffin, he could possibly travel outside the city to seek a solution with the Romans.

Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua successfully carried Ben Zakkai past the guards, who were of the faction of the zealots, by telling them that they were burying the coffin outside the city.

When Ben Zakkai reached the Roman camp, he spoke to Roman leader Vespasian. Ben Zakkai helped Vespasian cure his swollen feet. Vespasian offered something in return, and Ben Zakkai asked for certain Jewish lives to be spared and doctors to heal Rabbi Tzadok.

Why didn’t he ask the Romans to spare Jerusalem? He maintained that Vespasian might not do that much for him, and there wouldn’t be even this small amount of salvation. Therefore, he made only a modest request in the hope that he would receive at least that much.

Katz said several lessons could be learned from this story.

He drew a comparison to US President Abraham Lincoln at the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s, who freed slaves.

“One of the things he’s famous for is that he surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him in order to build the best coalition and understand that he didn’t have all the right views in a time of discord,” said Katz. “So, many of his secretaries – like his treasury secretary, his war secretary – were people who were actually his political rivals but he brought them in because it was really important for him to listen to them. It was pragmatic because he knew the social capital he was going to gain from it. It was also hopeful because he wasn’t so caught in his ways that he couldn’t hear them out or heed their warnings. That is exactly what Ben Zakkai is doing. Not only is he creating this plot of land where he is going to save Judaism, but he is the kind of guy who tends to think about politics in the way he governs.”

Another lesson is to try to seek compromises, just like Ben Zakkai did with Sikkara.

A further lesson is to have love and kindness, not regret and hatred. Katz discussed what happened when Ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem with Yehoshua, and they witnessed the destruction of the Temple. “Don’t be bitter, my son, for we have another form of atonement which is as great, and this is [an] act of love and kindness [gemilut hasadim],” Ben Zakkai told Yehoshua.

An additional lesson is not to be afraid of people. If they kill you, you won’t be dead for eternity as there is life after death. But the supreme king of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, lives and endures forever and all-time, and if he kills you, you are dead for eternity.

“Yochanan doesn’t know if he is going to heaven or hell,” said Katz. “I truly believe that’s because he doesn’t know whether he made the right call or not – he doesn’t know if the pragmatic decision he made was better than going for broke and asking for Jerusalem to be saved.”

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The dispersal of the Bukharian Jews



The story of the Bukharian Jews, a community with deep roots in Central Asia, is sadly coming to an end, but the community’s legacy lives on in the United States and Israel, where most of the remaining Bukharian Jews now live.

Uzbekistan-born Bukharian Jew, Ruben Shimonov, told of this little known Jewish group which emanates mostly from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, countries in the heart of the Asian continent.

Speaking to a virtual audience via Zoom at Limmud@Home last Sunday, 22 August, Shimonov said the different layers of culture, cuisine, music, and language in the region were an amalgamation of all the different cultures of Central Asia, and were also reflected in the small but deeply-rooted community of Bukharian Jews.

The Bukharian Jewish story begins with the Babylonian conquest of the ancient land of Israel, Judea, and subsequent exile of Jews east of the land of Israel to other regions of the Babylonian Empire, namely present-day Iraq and Iran.

The Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. “Under the Achaemenid Empire, the king was a more benevolent king and he allowed Jews to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash,” said Shimonov. “But many Jews stayed as they now felt safe and secure under this new reign and moved even farther east of this new large Achaemenid Empire. This, folks, was Central Asia.”

Shimonov believes that the Bukharian Jews were more integrated with the local non-Jewish communities in Central Asia than, for example, the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe.

“Even though Bukharian Jews for a large part of their history lived in quarters [maḥalla], there was constant interaction with the dominant societies amongst which they lived,” said Shimonov. “For example, the shashmaqam musical tradition is influenced by Sufi Islam, but many Bukharian Jews became the gatekeepers of this tradition.”

According to Shimonov, there are 250 000 Bukharian Jews in the world. Most of them now live in Israel or the United States, primarily in the New York City borough of Queens.

“In Uzbekistan, there are fewer than a thousand Bukharian Jews left – mainly elderly folk who are staying behind because it’s harder for them to emigrate,” said Shimonov. “Jews in Uzbekistan are highly protected; their safety is preserved. And Jews do go and visit Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, where there is one kosher restaurant and a couple of synagogues. But our story is quickly coming to an end in our place of origin.”

In the Tajikistan city of Khujand, where Bukharian Jews once enjoyed a rich communal life, the last remaining Jew, Jura Abaev, died in January this year. Zablon Simintov, a carpet trader who is the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, is reportedly safe as the country comes under the control of the Taliban.

Shimonov, who emigrated from Uzbekistan three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said the main reason for the low numbers today was the struggle of the Bukharian Jews living in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

“State-sanctioned antisemitism and dispossession or marginalisation of Jews was part of that story even though there were more ups than downs. And then, the subsequent new instability of the newly formed independent republics – whenever new countries are formed after the colonial past there is more often than not a lot of political, social, and economic instability,” he said.

“As a democratic minority, we felt that even more. So, the urgency to leave was clear and present. In the decade of the late eighties to mid-nineties, we went from having the majority of our community living in this place where we had lived for centuries to the majority of our community living in a new diaspora. In Uzbekistan, the real impetus to leave was more about everything I mentioned than antisemitism coming from our Muslim neighbours.”

“Our Muslim neighbours were our friends, and we baked bread with them,” Shimonov said. “This is different to Jews coming from the Arab world, where Arab nationalism and Zionism came to a head in a way that the Jews were sadly caught in the crossfire.”

In contemporary times, Uzbekistan-born billionaire Lev Avnerovich Leviev and Israeli Dorrit Moussaieff are two of the Bukharian Jews who have made an impact. Known as the “king of diamonds”, Leviev annually sent large quantities of Passover food to Chabad emissaries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to distribute to Jews in these communities. Moussaieff, the former First Lady of Iceland, promoted Icelandic culture and artistic productions in the international arena.

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi



More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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