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Getting the Jewish community back to work




So many in our community have lost their jobs since the onset of lockdown. We have invited people in this position to send in their details so we can help them find work.

Here is our first group:

Name: Andy Behr

Experience: Experienced PA/Secretary

Education: Matric at Saheti High School in 1983; Secretarial course at Commercial Careers in 1984; Basic Bookkeeping at Birnam Business College in 1991 (with distinction); Various other courses through the years

Looking for a job in: Secretary/PA, Administration

More information: I am a single Jewish lady (no kids), and have enjoyed working at senior level for managing directors and CEOs. I am highly computer literate, flexible to any role, and always eager to learn and do more. Skills include online research, international and local travel bookings, diary management, following up on tasks, and administrative duties. I have my own reliable laptop, and a full work-from-home office suite with internet access, Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, which enables me to assist you remotely as easily as in your offices.


Name: Aviva Phillips

Experience: I am a Bookkeeper up to Trial Balance. I’d love to work from home if possible or alternatively a half-day/part-time bookkeeping or admin position in Glenhazel, Highlands North, or Waverley. I have more than 20 years’ experience, and can do debt collecting too.

Education: Matric at King David. I have bookkeeping diplomas from Drake and the Academy of Learning

Looking for a job in: Admin or Bookkeeping up to Trial Balance


Name: Barbara Elion

Experience: Professional copywriter, editor, and proofreader looking for remote commissions

Education: BA (English and Psychology); Higher Diploma in Education; B. Ed from UCT

Looking for a job in: Editorial or writing services

More information: Nationally recognised educator; published author of various titles (Juta-Gariep, Oxford University Press, One Life Media); speechwriter for CEOs; editor, proofreader and indexer for various publishers.

Have broad general knowledge; loves animals; thrives on different intellectual and creative challenges; knows hard times and difficult people; and loves to be inspired, and to inspire.


Name: Barbara Elion

Experience: Experienced Language and Literature Teacher – Remote Assistance

Education: BA, HDE B.Ed (UCT)

Looking for a job in: I can inspire most students (child or adult) to improve their thinking and writing skills

More information: Over 20 years in the classroom at various high schools; a previous sub-examiner of English Literature for the WCED; a previous inspector of A-level centres in the Western Cape; a published author with Oxford University Press; a previous teacher training guide for UCT education students; and an editor and proofreader of postgraduate theses for UCT and GIBS. “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” Check out my website:


Name: Barbara Rosenstein

Experience: Experienced office administrator looking for a half-day job in the Raedene, Glenhazel area

Education: Matric certificate from Wykeham Collegiate Private Girls School Pietermaritzburg; Secretarial Finishing School Greenoaks; Cosmetology Witwatersrand Technical College; GIA Course in Gemology

Looking for a job in: Admin Assistant

More information: I am friendly, well organised and disciplined, with excellent clerical and basic computer skills. I have more than 35 years’ experience providing administrative support in different environments. My last job for 27 years was with an NGO, where I organised and administered its head office. Duties included organising national executive meetings and conferences, bursary officer and general correspondence for the national president. I have a strong work ethic and am always willing to help out where needed. I have worked effectively with managers, co-workers, and customers in my various roles. Previous employment was as the PA to the Director of Education of the Jewellery Council of SA and marketing/distribution for a number of retail pharmaceutical companies.


Name: Cheryl Epstein

Experience: Experienced educational facilitator or secretarial Cape Town

Education: HDE Commerce

Looking for a job in: Educational facilitator

More information: I am a qualified teacher, and have taught for five years. I have 20 years’ secretarial experience and seven years’ facilitation experience.


Name: Colin Kelvin

Experience: Experienced COO and General Manager for retail and consumer

Education: Damelin Matric; Diploma in Business Management

Looking for a job in: Senior Retail Executive

More information: Managed a retail store in excess of R2.4bn – multi store executive. Experience in retail store operations, controlling just under 100 stores for various groups, plus Buying Executive of a portfolio in excess of R2bn. Have also specialised in property, HR and IT, store planning and development, store design, and store leasing. General Manager of a consumer electronics company managing local and first tier international brands.


Name: Colin Neil Miedzinski

Experience: Retail

Education: Matric Damelin

Looking for a job in: Sales, merchandiser, management, customer service

More information: I am helpful, hard working, and like to complete any task I am given. I have a lot of experience in retail selling. I am a hands-on learner, and always like to learn something new.


Name: Daniel Traub

Experience: Experienced lawyer looking for work in Johannesburg

Education: Matric (KDHL); BA LLB (Wits)

Looking for a job in: Legal Advisor / Lawyer

More information: I was admitted as an attorney and thereafter as an advocate of the high court


Name: Daniet Levin

Experience: Proofreader looking for work in publishing

Education: Matric King David High School Linksfield; BA Unisa; PGCE RAU/UJ

Looking for a job in: Proofreader

More information: I have taught before, full-time and locum teaching. I am quite creative and am currently sewing for a small company. I am 43 and would work in teaching as well. I enjoy dance and exercise.


Name: David Joffe

Experience: Business development, managing sales teams, recruitment, training, development, and mentoring. Looking for full-time employment

Education: HDip.Ed

Looking for a job in: Business Development Manager

More information: I am married with three boys. I have volunteered for Hatzolah as a responder for the last seven years. I have developed skills in business development management, including recruitment, training, management, and mentoring of sales teams. I have primarily been involved in the security industry for the past 11 years, however my skills can be utilised in any sector. I am dedicated and always open to learning new skills.


Name: Debbie Sanders

Experience: Computer – Library teacher

Education: DEd (special needs education); matric King David Linksfield

Looking for a job in: Computer, library teaching. Also happy to do part-time admin work and online work.

More information: I have been the computer and library teacher at a private school for 18 years. I have also been online tutoring and helping with admin work


Name: Debby Bear

Experience: Experienced Personal Assistant looking for a full-day job

Education: Matric Northlands Girls High, Durban; BA in Psychology Wits; Secretarial Diploma Birnam Business College; Various computer and sales courses during the course of my career

Looking for a job in: Personal Assistant, Secretarial, Admin, anything similar

More information: I have worked in sales, secretarial, and management positions, however my longest position was as PA to the CEO of a jewellery company for the last 18 years. Although my original role was PA, I soon took on any challenge that was thrown at me including sales, marketing, moving the offices twice, assisting the Financial Director, and more. I am always willing to do whatever is asked of me.


Name: Dilyse Abelman

Experience: I am a PA and administrator in office management

Education: Matric Springs Girls High

Looking for a job in: Admin or secretarial

More information: Have had vast experience in the field of secretarial and admin. Am reliable and honest and have had very few jobs in my career.


Name: Donna Arden

Experience: Experienced with a diploma in Cranio and Massage Therapy as well as years of salon work. Baby/Childcare Manager, Au Pair, Tutor

Education: King David High School; Anatomy, Physiology, Body and Beauty Therapy Diploma; Aromatherapy Diploma; Life Orientation Workshops; Creative Writing Workshops

Looking for a job in: Baby and Childcare Manager; Au Pair; Admin Assistant; Online social media content writer


Name: Gary Bolel

Experience: Looking for new opportunities in any field. Ran my own promotional gifts and importing company for 30 years before BBBEE and COVID-19

Education: BCom Wits University; Matric Highlands North Boys High

Looking for a job in: Admin, Logistics, Sourcing/Supply Chain

More information: Have been Managing Director/Owner of Hi-Lite Agencies (Pty) Ltd from June 1987 to present. Marketing and import of corporate promotional goods and advertising products to large multinational and national corporations, offering innovative and high-quality products, while at the same time providing service excellence.


Name: Gay Ayache

Experience: Team Manager, general organiser,typing, editing, and proofreading

Education: Matric Good Hope Seminary High School; first year BA; diploma in Librarianship UCT

Looking for a job in: Manager of staff of elderly people who have no children in South Africa, organiser of homes, relocation

More information: I live in Cape Town and am a divorced mother of two adult sons. I worked at UCT Jagger Library, and then Medical Library on the Groote Schuur Hospital Campus for seven years. In Israel, I worked at what was then the Beilinson Hospital Medical LIbrary in Petach Tikvah. When we returned to South Africa, I assisted my ex-husband in establishing his jewellery manufacturing business.

I have managed three guest houses for many years. I organised and catered for the conferences at one of the guest houses. In the last four years I managed the team of a staff of 11 for an elderly patient with dementia.


Name: Gideon Rodgers

Experience: Experienced primary school teacher looking for part-time and permanent employment in Johannesburg

Education: Matric National School of the Arts; BMus University of Pretoria; PGCE (Intermediate and Senior Phase) Unisa

Looking for a job in: Intermediate phase teacher, class music teacher, primary school teacher

More information: I am a certified educator, and have been teaching since 2015; I’ve taught class music at Wendywood Primary, Saxonwold Primary, Sandhurst Pre and Preparatory, and in 2019 I taught at Pridwin Preparatory, fulfilling the practical requirement for my PGCE.


Name: Ilana Tatz

Experience: Experienced and very efficient office administrator looking for half-day job in the northern suburbs

Education: Matric Carmel College Durban 1984; Secretarial Studies

Looking for a job in: PA or Administrator

More information: My work experience ranges from Personal Assistant to Office Administrator, with years of experience in managing small to medium offices. My talent lies in observing existing structures, analysing what needs to change, and implementing it in order to maximise organisational effectiveness. My accomplishments include enhancing turnover and streamlining and improving administrative procedures.


Name: Jonathan Davis

Experience: Experienced CA for part-time/temporary and consulting opportunities

Education: B.Acc (Wits); CA(SA)

Looking for a job in: Looking to assist with process improvements and to drive profitability in small to medium sized businesses

More information: 58 years old, married. Many years experience in senior financial positions in both listed and unlisted environments. Focus on analysing businesses, IT systems, and improving efficiencies.


Name: Jonathan Swartz

Experience: Experience in warehousing and managing a retail shop

Education: Matric at Eden 1992

Looking for a job in: Warehousing or managing a retail store

More information: I’d like to work in a warehouse or manufacturing environment.

My skills include: Operational Manager; general warehouse routine; interpersonal skills; retail sales; conflict resolution and application of labour law; and attaining objectives through teamwork.


Name: Julio Woznica

Experience: Sales, business, management, tourist guide

Education: Varsity and diplomas

Looking for a job in: Tourism, management, agent, sales rep

More information: Had my own business for 25 years, and have been in tourism for the past two years


Name: Justin Benatar

Experience: Looking for a full-time or half-day position in an organisation that is affiliated to or associated with, but not limited to, the tourism and travel industry, hotel management, general operations, sales and/or event/poject management.

Education: National Diploma: Tourism Management (Unisa);

Diploma in Reception Operations and Services (City and Guilds of London Institute); Diploma In Food and Beverage Service (City and Guilds of London Institute); Matric with Exemption

Looking for a job in: Event management, operations and logistics, project management and/or sales

More information: Most of my working life has been involved within the tourism, event management and project management Industry. I have also worked in general operations and sales.


Name: Kira Wolf

Experience: Experienced Film Production Manager and babysitter/aupair looking for full-time job in Sandton and surrounding areas

Education: BA Live Performance from AFDA Johannesburg

Looking for a job in: I am very happy to be an Admin Assistant or a Personal Assistant. I would love to be involved with something to do with film, television, or theatre. I am also an experienced baby sitter and aupair and am looking for a new aupair family!

More information: Right now I am babysitting and looking for a new family who needs my assistance, but my absolute passion in life is film, television, and theatre. I am an actress, freelance Production Manager, and Producer with three years’ experience. I was a Production Manager for a local radio station’s social media team for a year and a half, and last year I was a producer on an Academy Award Winning student film.


Name: Lara Osrin


Education: Didn’t get a matric, but was at school at Herzlia High School

More information: I love children. Would love to get married one day. I have worked with young children.


Name: Marc Lazarus

Experience: IT support, looking for full-time job in Johannesburg

Education: Matric; N+; Business Administration; Business Psychology in the workplace (short course); Started studying MCSE

Looking for a job in: Support engineer, manager, supervisor, senior staff

More information: 30+ years experience in computers of which 12 years was in a corporate IT department.

Full load of computer knowledge, including film making, vb.Net, and Cobol programming, etc.


Name: Mark Tankle

Experience: Restaurateer looking for catering or sales opportunities

Education: Matric Northview High

Looking for a job in: Caterer/restaurant manager

More information: I have had 40 years’ experience in the industry, working in and managing restaurants, canteens and corporate catering.


Name: Martine Abrahams

Experience: Experienced project and events manager looking for full-time work

Education: Herzlia; degree in fashion design from CPUT

Looking for a job in: Event manager, project manager, fashion designer, interior stylist

More information: I have been fortunate to have had a career in many aspects of design from fashion, home, events and project managing. I am honest, driven, and have the capacity to work on various things.


Name: Monique Leibowitz

Experience: Experienced Bookkeeper looking for work from home job in Dowerglen

Education: Matric Studywell College; Diploma Birnam Business College

Looking for a job in: Bookkeeper or Assistant Daycare Teacher

More information: Had my own business doing books for the legal sector. I also have experience working with children with special needs.


Name: Penny Swisa

Experience: Librarian/copy-editor/proofreader seeking suitable position

Education: Yeshiva College Glenhazel; BA English, Psychology and Hebrew Wits; Library diploma Wits; Honours in Information Management UJ; Short course in copy-editing and proofreading UCT

Looking for a job in: I am ideally looking for work as proofreader, but have many transferrable skills.

More information: I am an active member of the Jewish community. I worked for 27 years as a librarian for a corporate media company. The past few years I have been doing content writing for an Israeli website, as well as editing and proofreading, primarily university theses. I am open to new work opportunities and challenges. I am a team player.


Name: Robin Meyerowitz

Experience: Database administrator looking for work in Cape Town

Education: Matric

Looking for a job in: Database administrator/capturer

More information: I worked for the Holocaust & Genocide Museum and the SA Zionist Federation in Cape Town to set up their bulk email, to migrate from MailChimp to Everlytic, and to collate data from various databases.


Name: Ronit Sher

Experience: Looking for a teaching job in Johannesburg

Education: Matric King David High School Victory Park 1995; Child Care and Psychology Diploma Intec College; Bachelor of Education Foundation Phase, Unisa.

Looking for a job in: Education (teaching)

More information: Divorced,with three sons. Ten years’ experience mainly in a pre-school environment.


Name: Vacelia Goodman

Experience: I’m looking for work from home because I’m disabled due to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Fibromyalgia; Expressive Speech Dysphasia; IBS and Osteoarthritis; Urinary Incontinence.

Education: UEC Matric at Greenside High School; Diplomas for Microbiology Technology and Medical Microbiology from Witwatersrand Technikon; Certificates for Typing; Reception, Speedhand, and Switchboard from Anchor College; Uncompleted Admin Assistant Course

Looking for a job in: Legitimate work – non-telephonic work from home. I may need upskilling e.g. access to a computer because of my circumstances. I cannot work full day because I’m ill and desperately need the money, both here and in Israel when my aliyah comes through.


Name: Yariv David Kohaly

Experience: Safari tour operator looking for a creative position

Education: Yeshiva College Matric; honours in Investment Management

Looking for a job in: Chef or anything interesting

More information: Love a challenge and enjoy applying my mind creatively to problem solve


Name: Yaron Keizan

Experience: BSc Honours graduate

Education: Matriculated at Yeshiva College, BSc and Honours in Animals, Plants and Environmental Sciences from Wits

Looking for a job in: Open to many opportunities

More information: After my honours degree, I worked at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases working on malaria research for a year


Name: Zilla Woznica

Experience: Medical Practice Manager/Medical Receptionist

Education: Diploma in Diagnostic Radiography

Looking for a job in: Would like an admin/receptionist position

More information: Happy to submit my CV


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From searching for Sugarman to seeking out a ‘barmi boy’



Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman once successfully searched for Sugarman (also known as the musician Sixto Rodriguez) and found him, so what are the chances of him finding an equally evasive Barmitzvah boy?

As depicted in the Oscar-winning 2012 documentary, Segerman isn’t one to give up. But he’s now setting his sights on a mystery a little closer to home: the identity of a Barmitzvah boy who appears in a photograph he found at a market in Cape Town a few years ago.

Writing to the SA Jewish Report, Segerman explained how he came across the photo. “I’m originally from Johannesburg, but have been living in Cape Town for the past 25 years. Over the past few years, it has become a tradition for us to go to the Milnerton Market on a Sunday morning to browse through the many different stalls that comprise this huge weekend flea market. There, we can find records, books, magazines, curios, and many other weird and wonderful bric-a-brac and tsatskes, all at reasonable prices.

“One Sunday morning, I was browsing through a stall, and I saw a framed picture of a Barmitzvah boy, seemingly from around the time when I had my Barmitzvah (late 1960s to early 1970s) judging from the suit, thick tie, siddur, haircut, and so on. There weren’t any other Jewish items at that stall so it was just sitting there on its own. I bought it for a few rand.

“It was still in good condition, but had no identifying features on it, apart from the name of the studio where the picture was taken, but the guy in the picture looked strangely familiar. I’m far more familiar with the Jewish community in Joburg, but I did mix with Cape Town Jewish children at Bnei Akiva machaneh, so maybe I had met this guy there.

“Anyway, we put the picture up on the unit in our dining room where all the other pictures of our family members are, and it fitted in perfectly. So much so, that over the years, whenever people came for a meal, they would ask who it was, and we would make up all kinds of different stories about who he was, and then we would tell them the story of how we found the picture. We gave him a few different names over the years. Someone once said he looked like a ‘Milton’, so that stuck for a while, but generally, he was known simply as ‘the Barmitzvah boy’. We told people different stories, like he was a distant cousin or a friend of the family, it changed every time, but we always then told them how he came to be on our unit.

“But, more recently, it has been bothering us, and I decided to try and find out what his name is, where he is, and what his story is. But, in spite of putting the picture on various relevant websites and Facebook groups, I haven’t had any success.” He hopes the SA Jewish Report can help him with his search.

Segerman sees parallels between this search and the search for Rodriguez, “but, contrary to popular reports, I’m not nor have ever regarded myself as a ‘musical detective’ or any other kind of detective. How the Rodriguez story began and evolved is still a source of amazement to me as it wasn’t planned or plotted, it just happened.

“I have always been naturally curious, and enjoy finding things like rare LPs, books, or tiny diamonds that accidentally dropped onto the floor of the jewellery factory in Johannesburg where I worked for many years with my father – but never missing people. But, may I add, that once I start looking for something, I don’t usually stop until I find it, no matter how long it takes.”

It was this natural curiosity that drew him to the market. “Since moving down to Cape Town, I always enjoyed browsing through Greenmarket Square and Greenpoint markets for music, books, and magazines for my own collection. But when I got involved with [his renowned Cape Town record store] Mabu Vinyl in 2003 [which has since closed down], I started looking around more seriously for second-hand LPs, 7-inch singles, CDs, books, and DVDs for our shop. Someone suggested that I try the Milnerton Market, and initially I went occasionally, but it soon grew into a regular Sunday morning tradition.

“Over the years, the market grew as more and more private sellers began to set up their little stores as a way to sell off spare stuff from home alongside regular stalls. Because a lot of people enjoy taking a stroll around this large market, it’s quite lucrative for these sellers, so they look for more and more stuff to sell. That’s why one can find such a disparate range of stuff, like this picture.”

So, although he’s not sure if he has a greater or lesser chance of tracking down the barmi boy than Sugarman, “at least with Rodriguez, we had plenty of information and clues from his records. With the barmi boy, all we know is that he was probably from the Cape, and the name of the studio where this picture was taken, which is ‘Brigda Studio’. But I can’t find any reference to it on Google, and even if I did, I doubt it would still be in existence. If it was, I doubt they would remember who this was after more than 50 years. So, that seems like a dead end, and I really have nothing else to go on apart from the fact that my son-in-law said that the siddur that the Barmitzvah boy is holding looks very similar to the one he was given for his Barmitzvah by his shul [in the 1990s].

“But, having said all that, I must admit that if we could find Rodriguez, then we can probably find anyone, including this barmi boy. I think it’s fair to say that, for me, the thrill of the chase, or the challenge of the search, is as important and exciting as the joy of finding what one is looking for.”

Leila Bloch of the South African Jewish Museum’s (SAJM) Jewish Digital Archive Project (JDAP) says that the archive exists for exactly this kind of material to be preserved and hopefully to trace the boy in the photograph or his family. “In fact, we were once given a bunch of letters found at the Milnerton Market, and we traced them back to a famous fashion designer who had written them to his family while he was studying in London. His whole family came down from Israel, and as they pored over the letters, they were so emotional.

“There is so much potential in finding and sharing such material. We collect photographs, film, and other material that is often discarded, and it finds a home in the archive. That’s the beauty of this ongoing archive – we are always discovering new connections. With enough time, we can try help trace the mystery Barmitzvah boy.”

SAJM director Gavin Morris adds: “The sad reality is that a large proportion of our community have left the country, in many cases leaving their parents behind. As their parents age and downsize, many of their treasured family memorabilia are discarded as the cost or hassle of sending it to their children abroad is prohibitive. These items find their way into all manner of junk shops, curio stores and markets.

“Stories of items such as this one are more common than you’d think. The SAJM is constantly contacted about some or other item of Judaica that has been unearthed. Unfortunately the museum is not in a position to purchase, or even safely store these items. For this reason we have launched our website (which includes JDAP), so at least digital copies of these items will still exist for future generations.”

  • To share any information about the mystery Barmitzvah boy, email Stephen Segerman:
  • To contact the Jewish Digital Archive Project, email

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Focus on Yom Hashoah turns to family



There is a new international initiative to start a family tradition on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), in which families will gather to light six memorial candles and recite a pertinent poem and prayer to remember the 6 000 000.

This initiative, called “Generations light the way”, encourages families to recite the traditional mourner’s prayer, Kel Maleh Rahamim, and/or the poem, Nizkor – Let us Remember, by Holocaust survivor Abba Kovner, to impart the memory of the Shoah to the next generation. It is a collaboration between Yad Vashem and Tzohar Rabbinical Association.

“Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads,” said acting Yad Vashem chairperson Ronen Plot. “As the last generation to be personally acquainted with Holocaust survivors, we have a great responsibility to ensure that what we saw, what we heard, and what we learned is passed on to future generations.”

“The Shoah shows us how important every Jew is,” said Rabbi David Stav, the founder and director of Tzohar Rabbinical Association. He recalled an incident when an entire unit of Nazi soldiers stayed on a small Greek island for more than two weeks just to find one Jewish family.

“We need to realise how precious a Jewish life is. So much of our history has been forgotten. From the crusades to the pogroms of 1648 to 1649, to the Spanish Inquisition,” he said.

“We cannot let that happen with the Holocaust. It’s not just because the Holocaust is recent history, it’s important to remember because it teaches us that it doesn’t matter how you label yourself, we are all am echad (one people).”

Tali Nates, the director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, agrees. “We need to be aware of the past and how evil is allowed to grow if we hope to prevent more atrocities. And we need to recognise it quicker,” she said.

“The radicalisation of Nazi Germany didn’t happen in a vacuum. The world was facing an unprecedented economic crisis. Europe was still picking up the pieces of World War I. People were suffering and looking for easy answers to difficult questions. Extremism is born out of crisis.

“When people are suffering, they start looking for someone to blame. More often than not, blame falls on the Jews,” said Nates. “Today, we face another unprecedented world crisis. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. We are facing a global economic and health crisis that we have never seen before. Again, born out of this crisis, we are seeing an alarming growth of extremism around the world. The open rise of nationalism and white supremacy is now leading to an increase in violence against those that look and sound different.”

Nates said there were many lessons to take from the Holocaust. “Remembering the Shoah is so important. Starting from our young generation and going beyond just the Jewish community, to all of humanity, it has a huge educational value.

“It’s a warning for us all to be vigilant and recognise the warning signs,” she said. “When words of hate turn into discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and violence, it ends with mass murder and genocide. The first thing is education – to connect the dots and try to prevent it from happening again.

“You have to make sure you fight antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia. These are the first signs. We need to educate about the dangers of those words and actions. We need to start with ourselves, on a personal level, to be consistent when we are with our friends, family, and neighbours. We need to educate each other that racism, however casual, isn’t acceptable. And we need to be active to avoid the same mistakes made during the Holocaust and other genocides, which unfortunately are still taking place today.

“Because we are in South Africa, we should focus on how we as South Africans can remember the Holocaust,” said Nates. “I would love South Africans to spend time thinking about their own families. A lot of them come from Latvia and Lithuania, certainly they have relatives who were murdered. I would like for the Jewish community to really think about where they come from and what happened to their relatives who couldn’t come here.

“We need to try and collect those names so they won’t be lost forever. Yad Vashem has only four million out of six million names. We need to ensure the other two million names don’t become lost forever. The Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre together with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Memorial & Information Centre in Mauritius have called on our communities to collect the names by sending in the names of family members that don’t have a grave. For us, that’s a start.”

Said Stav, “The only way to ensure that we pass this on to our children is to talk about it often. I speak about the Shoah with my family and community at least once a month.

“Evil doesn’t care what we look or sound like. We have passed on the torch of faith, resilience, and morality for more than 3 000 years. The story of the Holocaust is the story of the Jewish people. We have been murdered, prosecuted, and expelled from our homes. And yet, through it all, we managed to survive. We always find a way to come out stronger. Those of us who know a survivor personally have experienced this first hand. Rebirth and resilience is our story. It’s up to us to pass this torch to our children so they can continue to light the way.”

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Beware of antisemitism in corona conspiracies, warns educator



The appropriation of antisemitic tropes, including by protestors against government policies to fight COVID-19, needs to be taken seriously, says Holocaust educator Dr Matthias Haß.

“When looking at our world today, don’t look for the big, horrific crimes, look at the smaller events and the smaller crimes. That’s why current forms of antisemitism and conspiracy narratives are so troubling,” said Haß, who serves as the educational director of Wannsee House in Berlin. This estate is the location where Nazi officials met on 20 January 1942 to agree to the co-ordinated mass murder of European Jewry. It now serves as an educational centre.

Haß was speaking in an online webinar about this meeting and its relevance, hosted recently by the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre in partnership with the Memorial and Educational Site House of the Wannsee Conference.

He cited the example of recent demonstrations against anti-corona measures by the German government as containing troubling antisemitic elements.

“Some people, who feared mandatory vaccinations by the government opposed it by marking themselves with the yellow star [originally used by the Nazi regime to identify Jews],” said Haß, who is a political scientist by training. “The protestors added in the inscription ‘ungeimpft’ [unvaccinated], very clearly minimising historical events by putting themselves in the role of the victim.”

He mentioned another situation where an anti-lockdown protestor compared herself to Sophie Scholl – a German resistance fighter who was executed for her work against the Nazi regime.

“There have been other strange and disturbing comparisons. Something is going on here where current events are directly linked to the Nazi past. Antisemitism is at the ideological centre of many of these issues, no matter how constructed, absurd, and crazy the arguments are.

“To be honest, a few years ago, I would never have thought that the kind of antisemitism and conspiracy narratives that we are facing today still existed.”

It’s a “painful learning experience” to see this reality, and contemplate what it means for the work of the Wannsee House centre, said Haß.

He said he had issued a warning about seemingly “small incidents” of antisemitism precisely because of the extreme outcome of the Wannsee House meeting. This outcome was possible only because of decades of antisemitic propaganda that had seeped into German society long before the Nazi regime came into power.

As crucial as what was discussed at the meeting was that which wasn’t seen as necessary to debate. “There was no longer a need to argue why the Jews are the enemy. It was a common understanding at all levels of society. Clarity about hatred of Jews didn’t come suddenly or surprisingly, but grew over time, and was deeply engraved in the minds of these men [at the meeting] and in the minds of millions of ordinary Germans.”

Haß evoked the chilling ordinariness of the proceedings, organised by the head of the Reich Main Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich, at the luxurious villa on the lake.

“Heydrich wanted to dominate the meeting. That’s why he chose a place outside Berlin where he could show off. He served food; he served drink; it was a loose atmosphere.”

At the time, the Nazis believe they were winning the war and as such, saw the need to plan for a “racial new order of Europe. It’s not about finding compromise or a peaceful solution. [It was about] creating a new world,” Haß said.

The 15 Nazi bureaucrats who gathered discussed mass murder as a “logistical issue”.

“These weren’t people on the political level of the regime, they were the permanent secretaries in the ministry, the ones who were competent and really running the show.”

While mass shootings had already been carried out under their jurisdiction, the meeting was designed to co-ordinate these efforts into standardised practices.

“What filled their minds [when it comes to the killings] were issues of efficiency, money, time, the use of one bullet per person, the procedure after arrival [of deported Jews], and what to do with the bodies. The Nazis wanted the killings done in an orderly way.

“What do these men have in common?” pondered Haß, in detailing that the officials gathered had an average age of 42, that 10 of them had been to university, and eight had doctorates.

“What we saw was that they were pretty average, they were very young, they were well educated, and they were convinced of Nazi ideology. Other than that, there was nothing special about them.”

A year and a half ago, it was also established that a secretary attended in order to take notes. “This gave us insight into the fact that this entire procedure wasn’t something completely different. It was a secret meeting but this wasn’t so unusual. It was part of the daily work routine.”

All in all, it took just 90 minutes for the officials to agree decisively to kill the 11 million Jews that they believed to be alive in Europe at the time.

“Everybody was willing to co-operate, nobody hesitated and looked for a way not to participate in the genocide.”

Haß said that while they couldn’t openly object to the “final solution” proposal, if they had any misgivings, they could have played on notions of a lack of capacity or overworked staff. Instead, “they were all happy to be part of this”.

The language used by Adolf Eichmann in drawing up the final-protocol document of the meeting is “coded” in its euphemistic summary of the results of the discussion. Terms such as “parallelising procedures” are used in reference to extending mass murder across the continent and “natural reduction” when it comes to ensuring that they work the Jews to death.

It reflected how bureaucracies allowed perpetrators to distance themselves through language, suggested Haß. “Here, it was present in the most extreme way.”

The use of language as a key tool of power, in the case of the Wannsee House meeting, ignited a genocide. Yet language, even in very different contemporary situations, continues to play a role in prejudice and oppression, said Haß.

“Words matter. Public discourse matters. The few that start spreading hatred and lies need bystanders and enablers – those who remain silent. If nobody speaks out, their ideology can spread and conspiracy narratives gain ground.

“To engage in public debate; to call out the liars’ ideology cannot start early enough. It’s not enough to call them fools and lies. As we see in our world, there is a risk of the nonsense, the hatred, divisions, and violence becoming powerful forces in our societies.”

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