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that the Board and/or Fed found themselves hamstrung into inactivity – often because of their positions based on outdated perceptions.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.