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Goldstein – my highlight

The overarching philosophy of the activities of the Chief Rabbi was governed by Torah, the blueprint for the world, covering every facet of life, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said at the Victory Park Hebrew Congregation, speaking on “Memorable Moments” since he took office nine years ago

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UOS/Congregations

Michael Belling

Pictured left; Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein after his talk on “Memorable Moments – Their Impact on SA Jewry”, with Rabbi Azriel Uzvolk.

 

 

The overarching philosophy of the activities of the Chief Rabbi was governed by Torah, the blueprint for the world, covering every facet of life, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said at the Victory Park Hebrew Congregation, speaking on “Memorable Moments” since he took office nine years ago

The meeting was arranged by the five congregations in north-west Johannesburg, Blairgowrie, Emmarentia, Greenside, Northcliff and Victory Park.

The seemingly unrelated anecdotes and incidents Rabbi Goldstein mentioned, were, however, all linked by the holistic view of Torah.

Crime has been a dominant issue in South Africa for several decades. The National Religious Council, a body comprising representatives of all faiths, had taken up the issue at the highest level, including a meeting with then President Thabo Mbeki.

One of the Chief Rabbi’s initiatives in this regard was Community Active Protection (CAP), involving patrolling security personnel. Today CAP covers several areas in Johannesburg with large Jewish populations.

CAP had brought down contact crime in these areas by between 80 and 90 per cent.

Rabbi Goldstein said that in meetings of the National Religious Leaders Council, everyone was the best of friends, but when it came to Israel in the public space, this often changed.

This was illustrated in a radio programme that featured Rabbi Goldstein and a Muslim leader at the time of the Gaza war. Rabbi Goldstein said that in spite of the differences between them on the Middle East, we as South Africans could still work together and agree to disagree on the specific issue.

The response to this was a fierce attack on Israel. He defended Israel and called upon the Jewish and Muslim communities to treat each other with respect and challenged his counterpart to do the same, but the Muslim leader did not do so. When Rabbi Goldstein wanted to shake hands with him in a photograph, he refused.

In private meetings, however, the two of them were friendly.

The constant pressure on Israel in this country bothered the Jewish community greatly. One example was the call by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim who called for a stop to visits to Israel. Rabbi Goldstein wrote an open letter to him calling on him to resign, because he had moved outside the mandate of his public office and was bringing in is own personal agenda.

Rabbi Goldstein said there was a wide variety of attitudes towards Israel in the ANC and it was not simply a case of everybody adopting the same view.

This was among the reasons that prompted another open letter, signed with several other religious leaders before the ANC Mangaung conference (in Bloemfontein) at the end of 2012, calling on the ANC not to take sides in the Middle East conflict, but to work towards peace.

Rabbi Goldstein’s Shabbos Project last year was a personal highlight for him. It was “an incredible outpouring of the community, inspiring and powerful”, drawing thousands of people. It was being repeated in October this year as an international project. 

Jews in South Africa were free to practise their religion openly and live in complete freedom, he said.

He had attended several major state events, sometimes delivering a prayer. Wrapped kosher food was provided for him at meals. While the tables were covered with the finest tableware, he was unwrapping his meal  “There I am sitting in a pile of tinfoil,” he quipped.

 

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Israeli

    Mar 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    (Paragraph deleted -ED)
    \n
    \nWhile the Rabbi deserves all the accolades for his endeavours in strengthening Judaism in S. Africa, (Removed  -ED).

    \n

    (Paragraph deleted -ED) 

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UOS/Congregations

Cemetery in sad state & no funds for repair

The Jewish cemetery in Roodepoort on the West Rand is in a sorry state of disrepair, with nearly a third of the tombstones broken or pushed over. There is also no wall to demarcate the area from the general cemetery. Unfortunately, no Jewish congregation remains to deal with the problem, nor are there funds available to carry out the necessary restoration.

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STAFF REPORTER

Pictured: The sad state of disrepair at the Roodepoort Jewish cemetery, is clearly visible in this photograph.

Currently, the Country Communities Department of the SAJBD is responsible for the maintenance of over 220 cemeteries in the smaller towns and villages around the country. What makes it possible to carry out this role, however, is the availability of funds from various trusts set up by the former Jewish congregations of the areas concerned.

In the case of Roodepoort, no provision was made for the maintenance of the cemetery while there was still a functioning Jewish community in the town and no funds remain from the sale of the community’s assets after the closure of the shul. 

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, spiritual leader to the South African Country Communities, said his department was willing to take over the responsibility for maintaining the cemeteries of other congregations in the event of their closing down. This, however, was predicated on the trustees of those congregations entering into an agreement with the SAJBD to ensure that adequate resources were available for that purpose.

This would be done, as in the case of other country cemeteries, through the establishment of a trust, set up through the sale of the community’s property and other assets. It followed that the larger the cemetery, the more funds are needed to be made available.

In the case of Roodepoort, he had met with the trustees before the congregation closed and strongly advised that they make provision for their cemetery’s future maintenance. They had taken a conscious decision not to do so, and unfortunately, there was now nothing that his department could do about the situation, he said. 

Rabbi Silberhaft urged all communities outside the Greater Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban areas that had not yet made provision for the upkeep of their cemeteries, to do so as soon as possible, while they were still active and viable.

The upkeep of the final resting places of community members who had passed on, was a sacred responsibility, he stressed, and that in turn meant that the trustees of the congregations concerned needed to act responsibly when determining what to do with their community’s remaining assets.

Rabbi Silberhaft said that should they wish the SAJBD to take on that responsibility, they should contact him at thetravellingrabbi@gmail.com to arrange for the necessary legal document to be drawn up in anticipation of the community closing. Alternatively, they could contact SAJBD Country Communities Chairman Marlene Bethlehem on bhjbeth@gmail.com.  

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UOS/Congregations

Ambassadors talk about Israel and Germany

On Sunday May 29, SACRED (South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity) in collaboration with the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, Bet David Progressive Synagogue and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, was an organiser of “Ambassadors in Conversation: Dealing With a Complicated Past, Creating a Common Future”.

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RABBI JULIA MARGOLIS

CHAIRMAN OF SACRED

The ambassadors in question were Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk and German Ambassador Walter Linder.

“Today relations between the two peoples are astonishing given the recent past: the German government’s position is one of ‘unconditional support’ of Israel.

“Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that ‘Germany’s support for Israel’s security is part of our national ethos, our raison d’être’. These words have been backed up by action internationally.

“She has also been on an official tour of Israel and has addressed the Knesset. Jewish life in Germany is active and supported by the government. Israelis now flock to Berlin and Merkel enjoys high popularity in the Jewish state.

“With the Holocaust still within living memory, we were honoured to host survivors in the audience who could not possibly have imagined this state of affairs 70 years ago, at the end of the Second World War.

“This is attributable to determined efforts by both countries to keep the doors of communication open without ignoring the terrible events of the Holocaust. Both ambassadors agreed that although relations between the two states will never be ‘normal’, they had been able to make significant progress in the last 70 years and that this should serve as an example to other countries and peoples dealing with painful pasts.”

The setting for the discussion was the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, whose director, Tali Nates, herself the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, was the moderator.

 

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UOS/Congregations

Remember those who refused to be mere victims

For Yom Hashoah 2016, the international theme chosen by Yad Vashem is remembering those victims of the Holocaust who resisted being brutalised by the horrific circumstances in which they were placed, but instead strove to maintain and preserve their essential humanity.

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DAVID SAKS

The SAJBD, which organises the ceremonies in the seven main Jewish centres countrywide, is this year putting a particular emphasis on educating the next generation and providing it with the tools to carry remembrance of the Holocaust forward into the future.

An information pack specially geared towards young adults has been prepared for the many high school learners from both the Jewish and government schools, who are expected to attend the ceremonies.

Over the past decade and more, the keynote speakers for Johannesburg and Durban have been prominent Holocaust survivors from abroad, brought out for the occasion by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies. These have included Auschwitz prisoner Eva Schloss, whose mother later married Anne Frank’s father, Otto, Wallenberg survivor John Dobai and Ben Helfgott, who went on to become an Olympic weight-lifter.

This year’s speaker, Veronica Phillips, is from Johannesburg. Born in Budapest, Hungary, she survived years of internment in the international ghetto in her home city, the Ravensbruck, Penig and Johanneorgenstadt concentration camps and the Death Marches.

The Johannesburg and Durban programme will also include a presentation by SAJBD National President and Director of the Durban Holocaust Centre Mary Kluk, who will focus on the specific lessons that the Holocaust has for South Africa today.

The traditional Yom Hashoah programme includes alternate Hebrew-English reading of “To everyone, there is a name/Lechol ish Yesh Shem”, lighting of six memorial candles by survivors, Holocaust poetry readings and renditions of the Hazkara, Partisan Song, Ani Ma’amin, Shiviti and Hatikvah.

Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk, will deliver a message on behalf of the State of Israel and Lt Hilton Kaplan, the Soldiers’ Tribute on behalf of the SA Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s League. 

In addition, the Johannesburg ceremony will feature violinist Waldo Alexander playing the theme from the film Schindler’s List and Redhill High School pupil Gemma Davies reading an extract from her poem “Brother”, the prizewinning entry in the Writing, Poetry & Art Competition held by Chapman University, US.

Ceremonies will be held in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth on Thursday, May 5 and in Durban and Bloemfontein on the following Sunday (May 8). The date of the East London ceremony is still to be confirmed.

SAJBD Gauteng Council Chairman Shaun Zagnoev will preside over the proceedings in Johannesburg which will take place as usual at the Martyr’s Monument in West Park Cemetery, at 12:30.

* For further information on the Yom Hashoah ceremonies around the country, contact (Johannesburg) Shirley Beagle, (011) 645-2583; (Cape Town) Gwynne Robins, (021) 464-6700; (Durban) Roseanne Rosen, (031) 335-4452; (Pretoria) Diane Wolfson, (012) 346-8792; (Port Elizabeth) Michael Simmons (041) 373-7433; (Bloemfontein) Leah Chabas, (051) 436-2207, and (East London) Ellen Ettinger, (043) 748-4481.

 

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