Subscribe to our Newsletter

click to dowload our latest edition



In the mood for Limmud

Avatar photo



At the time of writing, we were looking ahead with much anticipation to this coming weekend’s annual Limmud festival in Johannesburg. Each year, Limmud offers our community an unrivalled array of outstanding local and international speakers presenting on every conceivable topic of Jewish interest. Its audiences have been similarly diverse, the common denominator being a shared passion for exploring and learning more about Jewish heritage in all its facets. It’s this as much as the quality of the speakers that contributes to the general sense of excitement, buoyancy, and good fellowship that is one of the hallmarks of Limmud.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has always been a staunch supporter of Limmud, whose commitment to the values of inclusivity and respect for diversity mirrors our own mandate to be as representative of the Jewish community as we can. Board representatives, both lay leaders and professional staff, also feature regularly on its programmes. This year, I will be moderating and National Director Wendy Kahn will speak in a panel discussion on trends in global antisemitism.

At Limmud in Cape Town over the past weekend, our Cape colleagues organised an “immersive session” enabling those present to “see what it feels like to sit around the Board table and tackle community challenges”. Using a theoretical incident loosely based on recent events at the University of Cape Town, audience members were given practical insights into the process the Board follows in addressing such matters, and asked to consider how they themselves would react in the same circumstances if they were in a leadership position. It was a most innovative and effective way of conveying not just the what, why, and how of the Board’s work, but in helping participants better understand the complexities involved and to appreciate that whatever we do as the community’s representative voice has implications that must always be taken carefully into account.

HIAS and the SAJBD

Earlier this year, we met a delegation from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which was visiting to assess the situation regarding refugees in this country. We also helped to organise its programme, including facilitating meetings with local refugee organisations. The refugee community comprises the most vulnerable sectors of our society. Since 2008, when South Africa experienced what to date is still its worst outbreak of xenophobic violence against foreign migrants, the Board has regularly involved itself in initiatives on its behalf. Much of the relief work we co-ordinated on behalf of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, for example, was in this area, where not having citizenship prevented many from accessing government-relief programmes. We were thus happy to learn that following its visit, HIAS has decided to establish an office in South Africa. Originally established to assist Jewish refugees from persecution, HIAS today is a humanitarian and aid agency that assists all displaced people around the world. The Board has always had a close working relationship with HIAS, particularly over the past decade. The projected opening of a local office will doubtless provide many further opportunities for building on this.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *