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Goldstein – my highlight



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


    (Paragraph deleted -ED) 

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