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I Despise any Jew with Weak Knees



Leon Reich of Joburg writes:

After eight years of frustration at the Ghetto mentality of some among the SA Jewish leadership, I felt compelled to revive the Jabotinsky philosophy into the SA Jewish community.

While faith-based organisations such as the Mizrachi and B’nai Akiva movements play an essential role in the maintenance of Judaism in SA, in order to complete the full gambit of the post-Ghetto ‘New Jew’ – one has got to get the ghetto out of the Jew.

That is where the Jabotinsky movement has played a pivotal and most successful role.

After schlepping along as a vice chair of the SAZF for eight years, I came to the conclusion that if I don’t do it, no one else would do it. I acknowledged the wonderful work that the Fed does on a daily basis – I differed only on the approach.


I am eternally grateful

Make no mistake, I am eternally grateful to Avrom Krengel and the Fed for the consistent and generous support that I have received in all of my endeavours, despite the fact that didn’t always agree on issues. And also for never penalising me for my dissenting views.

But, as the great Rabbi Hillel said:
“If I am not for myself, who is for me?”
and “If not now, then when?”

And so, at the ripe old age of 78, I felt duty-bound to revive the Jabotinsky movement in SA – in the form of Likud SA and Betar SA. This required my continued association with the Fed – but without ‘cabinet’ responsibility. This allowed me the freedom of being able to express public dissent.

Over the past two years, I have managed to assemble an enthusiastic and skilled leadership of both Likud and Betar in both Joburg and Cape Town – with satellite groups around the country.

Together with this dedicated team and a small number of generous like-minded sponsors who fund individual projects, we have stepped into the breach where we perceived that the Board and/or Fed found themselves hamstrung into inactivity – often because of their positions based on outdated perceptions.

Lack of courage and/or confidence

The communal leadership all too often lacks either the courage or the confidence, or both, to act as the ‘New Jews’ need them to. Whether it is because they can’t, or because they won’t is beside the point.

The prevailing PERCEPTION within the communal leadership is that as a tiny minority of Jews within a minority white group – the best stance is one of quiet negotiation in preference to vocal confrontation.

Menachim Begin once told me that: “If there is anybody I despise, it is Jews with weak knees.” Begin also believed that Jews should always be prepared to fearlessly voice dissenting views.

Shakespeare put it across so eloquently in Julius Caesar when Calpernia is trying to persuade Ceasar not to go to the Senate on the day he was assassinated: “Shall I be afeared to tell greybeards the truth?” asked Ceasar.


Action speaks louder than words

Over the past two years of Jabotinsky activism, Likud and Betar have done themselves proud. Among their achievements have been:

  • Rhodes – where millions were spent and mega-millions of donations were blocked as a result of our efforts to protect a Jewish staffer who they were trying to dismiss, largely due to her support of Israel
    • The University’s books are now running red
    • The roll of honour of those who have departed, triggered by our resistance, includes: The chair of Council, the VC, the Dean and deputy Dean of students – all of whom defied SA Jewry for years through their support of BDS on campus and their institutional support of its annual Israel Apartheid Week
  • BDS/IAW – which is the modern version of the blood libel* of the Catholic Church. Some of the commonalities include:

Scepticism about our activities

The initial scepticism and criticism of our efforts – have ended with our being congratulated after the effect. This has been seen time and again and we still find ourselves facing off with the old order.

The latest example of this was the national director of the SAJBD’s blocking of our delegation’s access to Beyached this week where we had been invited to attend a policy discussion by a political party. 

  • It is time for SA Jewry to mature. To proudly acknowledge and stand up for themselves. To encourage dissenting views and to remember that politics is not for amateurs.
  • Stand proud. Share your views even if they differ from the communal leaders. And to change from being an armchair advisor to an active participant.  

And, in the words only Shakespeare could have framed it: Shall we be afeared to tell greybeards the truth?

* Blood Libel was the practice of the Catholic Church claiming that Jewish people murdered babies to use their blood for Pesach – hence triggering many pogroms.

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  1. Israeli

    Apr 28, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    While I agree with Mr.Reich on his support of Likud and Beitar, and the Jabotinsky movement, I wish to remind him that the primary purpose of Jabotinsky was to get Jews out of exile no matter what their ideological sentiments were. In his times he was scoffed and ridiculed by mainstream Judaism and labelled an alarmist and extremist. Tragically his warnings were unheeded, and we know of the horrific tragedy that befell European Jewry.

    Today the only weakness we see in Diaspora Jewry is the \”weakness\” of being unable to realise where their true destiny, and that of their children really lies.

    What use is there of being a member of Betar, or Likud, or Mizrachi, or Chabad, or any Jewish group, if at the end of the day our young people remain in the ghetto of exile.

    If Jabotinsky were with us today, he would have told us that only in Eretz Yisrael can you be  true Likudniks or Betarim. The same applies to Bnei Akiva , and other religious groups.

    As an (Israeli) octonegarian who made Aliyah at the age of 75, I would like to tell Mr. Reich that to be true to the ideals the great Jabotinsky  , he should put pressure on our lay leaders, and especially our religious leaders to strongly encourage our young people to go home to the one and only country they have. Anything less is weak-kneed, and perpetuation of the exile

    Only then will S.African Jewry become mature in the true sense of the word. THE YOUTH MUST BE EDUCATED, not by becoming Likudniks or Chabadniks but by becoming true Zionists – those who love the Land of Israel with the full intention of settling there.

  2. Joel Dotan

    May 29, 2014 at 9:01 am

    ‘There is some common ground , where ultimately , to be a true and complete Zionest, one should live in Israel, however, we need the dedicated would be Zionest that never fullfil their dreams , to help others to do so, we also need these supporters of the state of Israel to make the great efforts they have and hopefully will still make in the future.

    I was brought up in the Betar enviroment, attended 14 Camps in PE, made Aliyaj with my Family in 1988, changed my name from Cowan to Dotan, as my brother did before me in 1967.

    My family on my mothers side are the Kolnicks of Port Elizabeth , a more Zionist and Betar supporting family , I have yet to meet. Despite this background,  from our generation of 18 cousins , only 8 of us made Aliyah and from them, 3 remain in Israel. 

    I grew up in Rhodesia (The old Zimbabwe) where all my madrichim in Betar that influenced my life, all but 6 of them left for other countries besides Israel.

    So what of the people that stayed behind? If they have carried on in their ideology and have managed to assist Israel , so be it and at least from me, a heartfelt thanks for the work they are doing.

    Joel Dotan’

  3. Myron Robinson

    Jun 12, 2014 at 9:53 am

    I agree to a large
    extent what Leon Reich has written.


    As an aside I was a member of Habonim from the late 1960’s through to the late
    1970’s & went to several Habonim Machanehs & seminars & have fond memories
    of those that I attended. Most, if not all the Madrachim & channies were
    ardent Zionists many of whom made Aliyah. I include this for info purposes only
    as from what I read and hope is incorrect, is that Habonim is now seen as more pro-Palestinian
    than pro-Israel.

    I have for several years maintained & have been granted that audience in
    the SAJR by way of published letters that our current SAJBD & SAZF have a
    policy of appeasement to the current Government as their predecessors had to
    the Nat. Government. This policy is dangerous as can be seen by the Pro
    Palestinian stance adopted by the ANC and perforce its anti-Israel Stance.

    I have spoken to my ANC
    connections who state that it is due to the extra ordinary influence of a
    minimal of Muslim ANC members that RSA has taken its current stance in the
    Middle East without admonishing the Human Rights abuses in Egypt, Syria, Iraq,
    Iran & by the Palestinians.

    Prior to 1967 Israel
    had positive relations with most African States & a cold policy to the RSA
    as Golda Meier & most Israelis were sympathetic to the plight of the
    disadvantaged South Africans due to their own plight in the holocaust & in
    the Soviet Union. This however changed when Africa turned against Israel being
    influenced by the Arab petro dollars. As Countries act in their own interests
    Israel became a pariah to Africa & allied & closer to the RSA having
    been boycotted by its former African allies. I am pleased to say that this is
    changing as several African Countries have now realised that Israel is a better
    friend than their petro dollar former allies, using technology to advance the
    local populations in agriculture etc. without only enriching their leaders.

    It is for these reasons
    that I state as Jews we have a moral obligation to do what is right & to
    take issue with the SA Govt. when they are wrong on matters that concern not
    only us SA Jews as well as other South Africans, but also their slanted stance when
    dealing with the international community.

    Also the SAJB/SAZF
    decision to compromise on the defamatory & hate filled (Lotus?) Radio
    program belies belief as the Radio station and its apologists are now claiming

  4. Dave

    Jun 19, 2014 at 1:06 am

    ‘Self hating Jew…’

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