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Holocaust play becomes anti-Semitic drama

“They were chanting Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler. I was shocked and disgusted. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”





These frightened words could have been scripted for young Alic Gluch, a 14-year-old King David Victory Park grade 9 learner, who had just performed the role of a little Jewish boy who perished in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

But they weren’t in the script, they were part of a real life anti-Semitic incident to which he and his fellow actors were exposed. He was referring to chants of teenagers from other high schools in the audience while they were performing “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”, a highly emotive play staged by King David Victory Park as part of the Grads One Act Play Festival at Waterstone College, Kibler Park, last Thursday evening. 

The incident did not stop there and went on to people chanting at the Jewish pupils, their teachers and parents, when they were in the dressing rooms and as they were packing up early to leave to get away from the volatile situation.

By all accounts, the teenage ringleaders behind the incident are from Edenvale High School, which was also participating in the Festival.

Gluch played the title role of Shmuel who befriends Bruno, the son of the concentration camp commandant, and together these two little boys perish in the gas chamber. It was during this final smoke-filled scene when the mother looks for her dead son, learners at the back of the hall started mocking the performance and shouting “Heil Hitler”, “Bruno Bruno”.

“I felt quite nauseous,” said Gluch. “I realised that the world hasn’t changed much since the Holocaust. People still think it’s fun to mock Jews and stereotype them, which is exactly what happened during the war. This episode made me feel insecure.”

The ugliness started when the King David performers were walking to the hall in their costumes and they heard loud chants of “Heil Hitler” from the Edenvale dressing room, which was next to theirs.

Renos Spanoudes, who is head of drama and arts & culture at King David Victory Park, did his best to keep the actors calm, telling them before they went on stage “to be strong and to present a powerful production, because these stories of the Holocaust need to be told because if we, as a Jewish day school don’t, who will?”

He told Jewish Report that other than the chanting during the performance, learners in the gallery laughed and applauded through this very serious and poignant play.

After the performance – that was nominated for five awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Gluch – a high school pupil apprehended a King David actor who played a Nazi in the show and gave him the Nazi salute, shouting “Heil Hitler”.

Then outside the dressing room, where Victory Park was, teenagers again chanted “Heil Hitler, Heil Hitler,” Spanoudes said.

One of the King David fathers, Gary Goldberg, arrived to fetch his son and heard what happened. He tried to sort things out. He confronted one of the Edenvale High boys concerned, demanding he called his teacher. Goldberg said she didn’t seem to see the seriousness of the situation.

A verbal altercation ensued between Goldberg and the teacher, who said she had once taught history, and “knew about this type of thing”, adding that a distant relation of hers was Jewish.

Said Spanoudes, in an emotional WhatsApp group voice message he sent to fellow theatre people while driving away from Waterstone: “It was a very volatile situation. I made the immediate decision to pack up, we loaded the truck.

“I went to the adjudicators and told them what they were doing and they (the Edenvale pupils) said they were very, very sorry,” said Spanoudes. “They were very, very impressed with the play. It is astounding and heartbreaking, they told us. They gave us our nominations certificates.”

Spanoudes described the intense waves of emotion that swept over him before, during and after the event. “We were shattered and the incident threw us badly for the next 48 hours,” he said. “It was traumatic and terrifying for all of us.”

In his voice message, he described the school involved as “one of those schools that put swastikas on the knuckles of their rugby players”…

Spanoudes said in the message: “The matter is being taken up with the headmaster at the school. A woman from the Jewish Board of Deputies was also present. I am quite shaken as are the cast. This is really tragic.”

Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Board of Deputies, said the incident was reported when it happened. “We have been in contact with the various people involved and affected by the anti-Semitic incident, and conducted a thorough debriefing.

“We are aware of the identities of the perpetrators. We are taking this matter very seriously, working closely with the principal of King David Victory Park and together we will be meeting with the principal of Edenvale High to address this issue and determine a constructive way forward.

“From our investigations, it appears that the response of the teacher accompanying the Edenvale learners was unsatisfactory. This will also be addressed at our meeting with Edenvale School next week.

“From time to time anti-Semitic incidents of this nature occur during interschool events, both in the cultural and sporting arenas. We have in the past been involved in addressing these incidents. We do not believe that this is an indication of an upsurge in anti-Semitism. 

“Comparative studies with other Diaspora communities continue to show that there are relatively lower levels of anti-Semitic activity in South Africa. This is something the SAJBD will continue to monitor and respond to issues when they arise.”

Vernon Rorich, headmaster of Waterstone College, said their school simply hosted the event and the incident was between King David and Edenvale High School. “One of our teachers tried to diffuse the situation between the two groups,” he said, “but our school was not involved.”

Jewish Report made several attempts – phone calls and an e-mail – to get comment from Dr Larry Harmer, headmaster of Edenvale High School, but he had not responded or returned calls by the time of us going to press.

Andrew Baker, headmaster of King David Victory Park, said he was having a meeting with Wendy Kahn next week and would release a statement afterwards. He did say he believed a programme was needed at the school to address this issue and prepare children for the reality they will face after they leave school.

“I have spoken to the head of the school concerned and set up a meeting together with Wendy to address and resolve this.”

He referred Jewish Report to his weekly newsletter in which he wrote: “It is ironic that during a week in which we are celebrating diversity, tolerance and deep understanding of one another, some of our students and parents were exposed to a nasty incident involving anti-Semitic behaviour… We sadly live in a world in which we are exposed to hurtful and insensitive things that are said, actions and gestures from people who either want to intentionally cause pain and suffering or who know no better. Most of the time, the school is able to shield our children from this behaviour, but sadly not always.”


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  1. Someone Else

    May 25, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    ‘One hopes that the SAJBD treats this seriously and brings charges of hate speech and incitement to racial hatred against the pupils and teacher at Edenvale High.’

  2. Caron Meyerowitz

    May 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    ‘My children all matriculated at Edenvale High . This never happened during their years at the school . This article breaks my heart’

  3. Menachem Berk

    May 25, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    ‘I grew up in Cape Town where antisenitism in the 70 s was around .

    Today it it far worse and nauseatting. Call the police . Kick them out. Treat them as we modernJews will . No mercy.’

  4. Marie Bickof (Canada)

    May 29, 2017 at 2:00 am

    ‘So  sad to hear that this is still going on.  I am an ex-King David parent and remember in the 1980’s also at Edenvale High School, KD Linksfield had gone to play rugby and the Edenvale youngsters also started with their anti-semitic remarks, so much so that it almost became a fist-fighting incident and the coach of the KDL team quickly got the KDL boys off the field and if I remember correctly the bus driver in fact nearly drove the bus on to the field to pick up the KDL players and they left.  It appears that Edenvale still have the same shocking element of students who go there – nothing has changed, unfortunately.  ‘

  5. Barbara Geer

    May 29, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    ‘This is deplorable and disgusting and unacceptable. As I have already stated on FB the learners concerned should go to KDVP to an assembly, face learners from KDVP and make a public apology.  They should also do some charity work for underprivileged children. This is a \”hate crime\” and those responsible should be dealt with accordingly. U ‘

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SA warmly welcomes Palestinian foreign minister



Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor, warmly welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine Dr Riad Malki to South Africa last week – hospitality certainly not offered to Israelis.

Malki was in the country from 7 to 9 October, and was hosted by Pandor on 8 October for bilateral talks, according to a media statement made by department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

In reiterating their commitment to each other’s causes, “both sides agreed to exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”, according to a joint post-talks communiqué. The ministers also agreed to a planned a state visit in which South Africa would host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

South Africa is also going to host a conference for Palestinian heads of missions in Africa this year to deliberate Palestine’s policy towards Africa.

“South Africa attaches great importance to its relationship with Palestine, which is underpinned by historic bonds of solidarity, friendship, and co-operation. South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause conforms with the basic tenets of its foreign policy,” Monyela said.

“The international community has an obligation to find a comprehensive and just resolution to the Palestinian issue,” he said. “South Africa calls for international support and increased efforts for the just cause of the Palestinian people to address their legitimate demand for an independent state alongside a peaceful state of Israel. The visit aims to further strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Palestine.”

In their joint communiqué, the ministers “expressed their satisfaction with the cordial relations that exist between the two countries, which is to be further augmented by Abbas’s visit and the Palestinian leaders’ conference to be held in Cape Town in November this year”.

The South African government committed its support for initiatives that would refocus the international agenda on Palestine and the Middle East peace process. South Africa reiterated its support for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The two ministers agreed that “they would continue to work to achieve peace for the Palestinian people”, and “in the absence of sustainable peace in the region, there could be no global peace, stability, and economic prosperity”.

In their communiqué, the ministers insisted that “security and stability in the Middle East is being undermined by continued occupation of Palestinian territories and the aggressive actions of the Israeli regime”. Having said that, they called on the international community to “further strengthen their support for the return of all parties to the negotiation table without pre-conditions”.

They agreed to “exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”. They also expressed support for “the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action” which they say “remains a clarion call for anti-racism advocacy and action worldwide”.

The Durban Declaration was the document that emerged out of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, also known as the infamous “Durban Conference” held in South Africa in 2001.

According to the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa Facebook page, Malki also met with a group of African National Congress leaders in Pretoria, and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) groups Africa4Palestine, Palestinian Solidarity Alliance, and the South African BDS Coalition, amongst other meetings.

Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says the visit shows that South Africa’s support for the Palestinians “continues to be vocal and loyal. The hot issue, however, is the granting of Israel’s observer status at the African Union. The two pledged to work together to overturn it. Relations with Israel will remain tense. There has been no change from South Africa towards the [Naftali] Bennett government.”

He says the visit “reinforces ties [with the Palestinians] and puts South Africa squarely in the Palestinian camp. It has shed all pretensions of being an ‘honest broker’ in this conflict, and for a long time, has chosen sides. The key thing to watch is what happens at the African Union. Israel has its fair share of African opponents, but also many African friends. Will they stick their necks out for Israel? We will see. South Africa has been lobbying against the [observer status] decision, and has influenced southern African states to oppose it.”

Gruzd maintains there’s “virtually no chance” of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid being invited for a similar visit. “Relations remain tense, and South Africa won’t be seen to reward Israel for its policies and practices,” he said.

Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), says, “The SAJBD believes that for South Africa to play a meaningful role towards a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, it would need to engage with both Israelis and Palestinians. Without speaking to the Israeli leadership, it’s not possible to truly understand the situation and to gain trust in order to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

“The dogged campaign by South Africa to exclude Israel from the African Union is antithetical to our international-relations policies of conflict resolution through negotiation and talking,” she says. “This action only seeks to push peace building and the attainment of a sustainable two-state solution even further away.”

“The South African Zionist Federation [SAZF] has noted the comments of Minister Pandor and Palestinian Minister Malki. It seems the entire focus of the engagement was to undermine Israel’s admission as an observer to the African Union,” says SAZF National Chairperson Rowan Polovin. “We believe this is a foolhardy and hypocritical approach to international relations.

“Israel has had a mutually beneficial relationship with African states for more than 70 years. It has been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some of the most important developmental challenges on our continent, including in the areas of health, agriculture, youth development, water, education, and energy,” Polovin says.

“The admission of Israel as an observer to the AU, alongside more than 70 other countries, is a historic and welcome development. The South African government remains out of step with the rest of the continent who are moving swiftly ahead with relations with Israel,” he says.

“The new Israeli government’s prime minister and foreign minister have been warmly welcomed in the major capitals of Europe, the United States, Africa, and the Arab world. It’s not Israel, but South Africa, that’s the odd one out. We would encourage the South African government to take the opportunity to reach out to Israel to engage for the mutual benefit of both nations and as a means of making a positive, proactive contribution to finding further peace in the region.”

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Jeweller’s senseless murder leaves community reeling



The hearts of a Johannesburg family have been ripped apart after the senseless murder this week of well-known jeweller Mark Kopelowitz, who was shot in cold blood during an armed robbery outside his store.

Kopelowitz’s tragic death on Monday, 11 October, has sent shock waves through the community. Hundreds of people are struggling to come to terms with the untimely passing of this much-loved father of four who “lived for his family”.

“He was my everything, the absolute love of my life,” said his devastated wife, Linda, who told the SA Jewish Report she was “battling to make sense of it all”.

“I cannot believe it. I’m still waiting for him to come home,” she said.

The couple were childhood sweethearts and soulmates from the moment they met in their teens. “We went out for ten years and have been happily married for 25. How am I going to get through this?” asked Linda, who said their young son and three older daughters, one of whom writes her matric finals in two weeks, were heartbroken.

When Kopelowitz, 54, left home on that fateful Monday morning he was filled with renewed optimism about work. Earlier that morning after attending shul, he and his son, Cole, 13, made coffee for all the congregants present at the minyan. The third wave of the pandemic was over, and retail business was picking up. Tragically, Kopelowitz arrived at his Kays Family Jewellers in Centurion Mall while the armed robbery was in progress. He was fatally shot while robbers were fleeing the shop with stolen goods.

Linda received an urgent and dreaded phone call from Michael Phillips, Kopelowitz’s cousin, who was there to meet him at the store. The rest is a blur as Linda frantically hurried to be by her husband’s side.

“I got there after they had already covered his body. It was a crime scene,” she said in disbelief.

Police arrested two suspects that night in Hillbrow in connection with the robbery, and are on the hunt for a further four suspects who are still at large.

As news of Kopelowitz’ passing rippled through the community, heartfelt tributes come pouring in from close friends and family who described Mark as a “true mensch”.

He was a devoted and committed son, husband, father, and brother, described by all who knew him as “thoughtful, kind, caring, and generous to a fault”, someone who would literally give the shirt off his back.

The family are stalwarts of the Linksfield Senderwood Hebrew Congregation, with just about the entire shul present at Tuesday’s funeral. Rabbi Levi Avtzon described the family as “royalty in the community”, being one of the oldest members of the shul.

A religious and observant man, Kopelowitz attended morning and evening prayers with his son every day, and the two had recently started wearing black hats.

“Every one of us standing here felt like somebody had stuck a hand into our hearts and removed a part of it,” said Avtzon, describing Kopelowitz as “one of a kind in so many ways”.

He recalled a day when Kopelowitz stripped off his clothes to hand to a beggar who was without trousers and shoes.

“In good Mark style, he doesn’t give him money, he takes off his pants, takes off his shoes, hands it to the beggar and goes home early without pants. And it happened more than once,” he said.

There were no half measures with him, said the rabbi.

“I have never seen a father so obsessed with his kids. Each night he would come home, talk to each one of them individually, lie down with them, ask them how their day was. His biggest dream was to have naches from his children.”

Addressing Linda, he said, “He was obsessed with you, and you were obsessed with him. Everybody knew it, it was no secret, and he did whatever he could to bring joy to his family.”

To the four Kopelowitz children, Amber, Ruby, Aurah, and Cole, he said, “The biggest way to honour your father is by living life to the fullest. I can only imagine Mark saying, ‘Please don’t sacrifice your happiness and dreams for me.’”

Kopelowitz was born and raised in Witbank. He matriculated from King David Linksfield, and attended the University of the Witwatersrand, where he completed his LLB degree.

“He was a qualified lawyer, but business was his passion,” said Linda.

According to friends, Kopelowitz was a natural entrepreneur and retailer. He sold jewellery in flea markets in his early twenties before going on to make a name for himself in the mainstream retail sector as MK Jewellers, with a handful of stores in upmarket shopping malls.

Friends this week said Kopelowitz had a great sense of humour and was a sociable person who was exceptionally goal driven and ambitious. He loved beautiful things like décor, spending time with his family, and hiking when time allowed.

His two older sisters, Maxine Jaffit and Robyn Sher, said their brother was “a deep thinker who was the embodiment of compassion and kindness”.

“Mark loved business and always wanted to do well. He was an extremely hard worker and never stopped trying. He did everything for us,” said Linda.

Police said the arrested suspects were found in possession of the vehicle which was allegedly used to flee the scene of the robbery. Both suspects are expected to appear in court shortly.

The police are appealing to the public to come forward with any information that can assist with the investigation on the Crime Stop line 08600 10 111.

CAP update

Subsequent to the murder on 11 October of Mark Kopelowitz during a robbery of a jewellery store in Centurion he owned, the SAPS Gauteng Provincial Head Office Serious and Violent Crimes Unit (PHO SVC), mobilised a multi-dimensional team, including CAP security departments, to collect information and assist in identifying the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

While these operations are ongoing, CAP can report that team of which it is a part has been responsible for apprehending four suspects believed to be involved in Mark’s murder. Two firearms have also been recovered with other exhibits used in the commission of the crime. Additional suspects are being traced. CAP will not stop until all those responsible are located and brought to justice.

The arrests were all processed by the PHO SVC team, and CAP’s legal division will be following through on the prosecution of these suspects. While these acts will never compensate for this loss, we are hopeful that they bring some closure to Mark’s family, and pray for them to find solace and peace.

Baruch Dayan Haemet

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Desai “dismissive and unapologetic” about breaching code



The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) this week called for former High Court Judge Siraj Desai to be held accountable for contravening the judicial code of conduct for his anti-Israel views and support of terror organisation Hamas.

“As a citizen, he has every right to be an ardent pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist advocate,” the SAZF said in its replying affidavit submitted on Tuesday, 12 October, to the Judicial Conduct Committee (JCC). “As a judicial officer, he is constrained by the code, yet he plainly continues to conduct himself without restraint in advocating against Israel and in support of Palestinian causes.”

In the affidavit, the SAZF again accuses Desai of continuing to politicise the judiciary with inflammatory comments that run contrary to the judicial code of conduct. By allegedly doing so, the organisation accuses Desai of undermining the separation of powers between government and the judiciary.

The JCC is part of the Judicial Services Commission which is responsible for dealing with complaints against judges.

The matter goes back to July, when the SAZF lodged a complaint with the JCC accusing Desai of action and conduct “entirely unbecoming of a judicial officer”. The SAZF charged that Desai had, over many years, breached the code of judicial conduct, and accused him of being a politicised judge. It also questioned his recent appointment as legal services ombudsman in which his role is to safeguard the integrity of the legal profession.

For many years, Desai has been an active anti-Israel lobbyist, and has openly shown support for pro-Palestine activities and lobby groups including the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Desai lashed back in a 24-page replying affidavit in which he vehemently denied the allegations calling some of them “factually incorrect” and “based on hearsay evidence”. He said the complaint “was without merit”, and requested its dismissal.

Desai submitted that his response must be considered in the context of the following principles, to which he subscribes and which are relevant to this complaint.

“First, silence by judges in the face of injustice and violations of basic human rights, particularly given the history of South Africa, is inconsistent with judicial office,” he wrote.

“Judicial officers, therefore, have a particular duty to confront injustice, promote equality for all under the law, and condemn racism in all its forms.

“Second, judges don’t exist in isolation. They don’t perform their functions in a cloistered monastery isolated from society. They are members of the community with their own beliefs, opinions, and sympathies.”

Quoting the Constitutional Court, his response said “absolute neutrality” was something of a chimera in the judicial context because “judges are human. They are unavoidably the product of their own life experience, and the perspective thus derived inevitably and distinctively informs each judge’s performance of his or her judicial duties.”

In this week’s response, Professor Anthony Arkin on behalf of the SAZF, said it was clear from Desai’s reply that he didn’t deny his conduct and the events upon which the complaint was based, accusing Desai of adopting a “somewhat insouciant and dismissive attitude towards the gravity of his violations of the code”.

The affidavit said Desai relied “heavily on background descriptions of his character and pro-human-rights work” but said that the complaint was about his conduct. All the background information amounted to “an attempt to deflect the focus from conduct that is a clear contravention of both the underlying precepts and provisions of the code”.

The response said Desai was “utterly unapologetic in his disregard for the limitations placed upon him by the code”, and accused Desai of being “rather quite brazen” in trying to justify it on human-rights grounds, “which is again an evasion of the issues at hand”.

The response said Desai’s conduct and stance was “incompatible” with the position of the law, as noted by Judge Phineas Mojapelo in the matter between Africa4Palestine and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

In that matter, Judge Mojapelo noted, “The rule is clear: South African judges are prohibited from belonging to political parties; and they are not to be involved in political controversies [debates/disputations], whether linked to political parties or not. Judges are to stay out of politics.”

The SAZF’s affidavit accused Desai of adopting a partisan view of the conflict in the Middle East, and accused him of selectively citing from the contents of the Goldstone Report by failing to mention that the report concluded that both sides of the conflict were guilty.

It said Desai’s failure to mention any blameworthy conduct by Palestinian armed groups again demonstrated that plainly, he was a partisan advocate who supported one party in the conflict.

In a statement this week, the SAZF said, “An officer of the South African court shouldn’t support an anti-Jewish extremist organisation, Hamas.

“For example, last year, during an interview with an Iranian YouTuber, Desai made inappropriate statements likening Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, an acknowledged violator of human rights, to former President Nelson Mandela. This comparison between the champion of peace, who led the struggle for the fall of apartheid, with a regime that commits gross human-rights abuses, is offensive to South African history and calls into question the moral judgement of Desai.”

The SAZF said that during the same interview, Judge Desai undermined South African foreign policy by referring to the United States, a major trade partner and supporter of our country, as a “Great Satan”.

“This is a clear violation of the code of conduct for the judiciary and the separation of powers inherent in our Constitution. Instead of apologising for these utterances, Judge Desai subsequently and unapologetically reiterated both stances at a political event in Cape Town a few weeks ago,” the statement said.

“In spite of his long-standing links to organisations such as BDS, in 2015, Judge Desai presided over a case brought by BDS activists rather than recusing himself on the basis of conflict of interest.”

The SAZF accused Desai in 2018 of entertaining Palestinian extremist group Hamas during its trip to South Africa.

“Hamas is a violent organisation whose founding charter calls for Jewish genocide and the total destruction of Israel. Using the prestige of the judicial office to promote publicly an extremist organisation is clearly contrary to the precepts underlying the judicial code of conduct, and shows an open hostility towards the Jewish community and the rights of South African minorities,” the statement said.

The SAZF said it didn’t bring this complaint to the Judicial Complaints Commission lightly, and didn’t aim to curtail freedom of expression.

“The SAZF is on record as defending the rights of judges to express their views within the ambit of the judicial code, especially when balanced fairly in the interests of justice. However, with the appointment of Judge Siraj Desai as legal services ombudsman and in the interests of justice and the reputation of the legal profession, it’s essential to hold Judge Desai accountable for his actions and violations of the code of judicial conduct which is unacceptable from a judicial officer.”

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