Jewish Achiever David on CNN this week
David Goldblatt, recipient of the 2013 Jewish Report Art, Sport, Science & Culture Award, will make a rare public appearance on CNN’s African Voices
In accepting his award David Goldblatt said that if there was any merit in what he has done in his career, it is due to the unrelenting support of his wife Lilly.
The award was introduced by struggle stalwarts Jules and Selma Browde who have been married for 65 years
World-renowned SA Jewish photographer David Goldblatt will be featured on the CNN programme “African Voices” several times in the coming week – starting today. Goldblatt was the recipient of the 2013 Jewish Report Art, Sport, Science & Culture Award.
Born in Randfontein in 1930, David Goldblatt was the third son of Eli and Olga Goldblatt who had come to SA as children.
After matriculating he worked at his father’s clothing store in Randfontein while doing his B Comm at Wits and developing his interest in photography.
The CNN International show will be screened on the following days and times in South Africa: Sunday (3 Nov) 20h30; Monday 12h30 and 17h30; and Tuesday at 07h30.
For those wanting to watch but not able to make the time-slots, it can be recorded on your FVR or viewed on the CNN website from later this week.
Who is David Goldblatt?
When David’s father died in 1962, he sold the business and followed his dream of becoming a photographer. “Gradually I built up a professional practice, specialising in work outside the studio, photographing for magazines, corporations, advertising agencies and institutions. In my personal work I have, for the most part, photographed and published essays on various aspects of SA society.”
He says he regards himself “as an unlicensed, self-appointed observer and critic of SA society which I continue to explore with the camera.” Recognising the need for a facility to teach visual literacy and photographic skills particularly to people disadvantaged by apartheid, David founded the Market Photo Workshop in 1989 and continues to serve as a member of its Advisory Committee.
Despite having been so highly recognised both locally and internationally for his work, David says that he has “never sought to win awards, they don’t mean a great deal to me.” He says that recognition is “balm to the ego, but it doesn’t figure high in my constellation.”
However, on hearing that he was the recipient of the Jewish Achievers Award, says David, he found that “very pleasant. It is pleasing to be acknowledged in one’s own community,” he said. David also recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Centre for Photography in New York and he is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
He acknowledges that “In my field I have been given major recognition for work I have done,” but, personally, he says “there are things I feel I could have done better, there is always room for improvement.”
He insists that he is “not trying to minimise what I have done,” but feels that within the context of South Africa, “as an observer and critic of this society, I believe I could have done better.”
Goldblatt says that he was exposed to anti-Semitism in his youth and growing up, but that this is not something he personally encounters now. But, he says, he realises that Jews – by virtue of our history – are required to be more observant of the nuances of anti-Semitism.
David lives in Joburg with his wife, Lily, has three children and two grandsons.
Jewish Achiever Award
PICTURED LEFT: David’s Jewish Report Jewish Achiever Award was introduced by past winners and well-known struggle stalwarts Jules and Selma Browde – who have been married for 65 years
David Goldblatt was the recipient of the 2013 Jewish Report Art, Sport, Science & Culture Award.
David is currently working on two projects. The one he has dubbed “Post-apartheid Public Art and Structures” which, he says represents expressions of our ethos. Now well into his eighties, Goldblatt says that while in the historical context “it might be a little too early,” for this project, “considering my age I might as well get on with it!”
The other project David has been working on for some time is photographing ex-offenders at the scene of their crimes. “Who are the people doing crime? How and why do they come to do it?” he asks. “I am curious to know, it is a conversation between me and myself,” which, he says, is something he does a lot of.
“I choose not to meet them while they are prisoners, he says, but rather as “ordinary citizens when they are free or on parole. I meet and tell them that I am curious about their life and what they have done.”
He pays the ex-offenders for agreeing to collaborate and does a portrait at the scene of crime and records an interview. “I do this because I am curious. I have undertaken not to make money out of this work. After paying gallery commissions the balance of any sales is given to organisations dealing with the training and rehabilitation of offenders.”
David has now done 35 people in SA and some in the UK. He has exhibited some of the work but hasn’t published it yet. When does he plan to publish it? He says he will know when the time is right.
A selection of the Prizes and Awards David has been given:
- Camera Austria Prize 1995
- Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, University of Cape Town 2001
- Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography 2006
- Honorary Doctorate of Literature, University of the Witwatersrand 2008
- Henri Cartier-Bresson Award 2009
- Lifetime Achievement Award, Arts and Culture Trust, 2009
- Lucie Lifetime Achievement Award, 2010
- Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award (with Ivan Vladislavic) 2011
- Infinity Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography, New York, 2013
- Jewish Report Art, Sport, Science & Culture Award, 2013
Works of David’s are housed in public collections such as:
- South African National Gallery, Cape Town
- Johannesburg Art Gallery
- University of the Witwatersrand
- University of Cape Town
- Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf
- Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
- Museum of Modern Art, New York
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London
- The French National Art Collection
- Huis Marseille, Amsterdam
PICTURED RIGHT: Despite all the awards he has won, David became emotional both when mentioning how important it was to be recognised by one’s own community, and when he thanked his wife, Lily, for her years of support
Selected publications of David Goldblatt include:
- On The Mines with Nadine Gordimer, Struik, Cape Town, 1973
- Some Afrikaners Photographed, Murray Crawford Johannesburg, 1975
- In Boksburg, Gallery Press, Cape Town, 1982
- The Transported of KwaNdebele with Brenda Goldblatt and Phillip van Niekerk, Aperture and Duke University, New York, 1989.
- South Africa: the Structure of Things Then, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, and Monacelli Press, New York, 1998
- Particulars, Goodman Gallery Editions, Johannesburg, 2003 [Awarded Arles Book Prize 2004]
- Intersections Intersected, Museum Serralves, Porto, 2008
- Kith, Kin and Khaya, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2010
- TJ with Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic, Contrasto, Rome, 2010
- On The Mines, with Nadine Gordimer, new edition, Steidl, Göttingen, 2012
Some of David’s better-known solo exhibitions:
- Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998
- Modern Art, Oxford, 2003
- Johannesburg Art Gallery 2005
- Arles Rencontres, 2006
- Serralves Museum, Porto, Portugal 2008
- New Museum, New York, 2009
- Jewish Museum, New York, 2010
- Jewish Museum, Cape Town, 2010
- Amherst Art Museum, Massachusetts, 2010
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 2012
Yochanan’s gamble: the controversial move that saved Judaism
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, known as the father of rabbinic Judaism, saved Judaism from complete and utter destruction during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. However, his methods weren’t without controversy. He was crafty, practical, and pragmatic, and history has questioned his behaviour ever since.
Limmud@Home on 22 August 2021 featured Marc Katz, the author and rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid in New Jersey, United States, who discussed Ben Zakkai’s controversial gamble that saved Judaism, and the lessons that can be learned from it.
The zealots, a group of religious fanatics in Jerusalem, wanted to fight the Romans. When the sages refused to engage in battle, the zealots burned wheat, deliberately causing starvation to make the people desperate and have no other option but to fight.
“Show me a method so that I will be able to leave the city, and it’s possible that through this, there will be some small salvation,” Ben Zakkai told Abba Sikkara, the leader of the zealots.
Heeding Sikkara’s advice, Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead. In a coffin, he could possibly travel outside the city to seek a solution with the Romans.
Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua successfully carried Ben Zakkai past the guards, who were of the faction of the zealots, by telling them that they were burying the coffin outside the city.
When Ben Zakkai reached the Roman camp, he spoke to Roman leader Vespasian. Ben Zakkai helped Vespasian cure his swollen feet. Vespasian offered something in return, and Ben Zakkai asked for certain Jewish lives to be spared and doctors to heal Rabbi Tzadok.
Why didn’t he ask the Romans to spare Jerusalem? He maintained that Vespasian might not do that much for him, and there wouldn’t be even this small amount of salvation. Therefore, he made only a modest request in the hope that he would receive at least that much.
Katz said several lessons could be learned from this story.
He drew a comparison to US President Abraham Lincoln at the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s, who freed slaves.
“One of the things he’s famous for is that he surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him in order to build the best coalition and understand that he didn’t have all the right views in a time of discord,” said Katz. “So, many of his secretaries – like his treasury secretary, his war secretary – were people who were actually his political rivals but he brought them in because it was really important for him to listen to them. It was pragmatic because he knew the social capital he was going to gain from it. It was also hopeful because he wasn’t so caught in his ways that he couldn’t hear them out or heed their warnings. That is exactly what Ben Zakkai is doing. Not only is he creating this plot of land where he is going to save Judaism, but he is the kind of guy who tends to think about politics in the way he governs.”
Another lesson is to try to seek compromises, just like Ben Zakkai did with Sikkara.
A further lesson is to have love and kindness, not regret and hatred. Katz discussed what happened when Ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem with Yehoshua, and they witnessed the destruction of the Temple. “Don’t be bitter, my son, for we have another form of atonement which is as great, and this is [an] act of love and kindness [gemilut hasadim],” Ben Zakkai told Yehoshua.
An additional lesson is not to be afraid of people. If they kill you, you won’t be dead for eternity as there is life after death. But the supreme king of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, lives and endures forever and all-time, and if he kills you, you are dead for eternity.
“Yochanan doesn’t know if he is going to heaven or hell,” said Katz. “I truly believe that’s because he doesn’t know whether he made the right call or not – he doesn’t know if the pragmatic decision he made was better than going for broke and asking for Jerusalem to be saved.”
The dispersal of the Bukharian Jews
The story of the Bukharian Jews, a community with deep roots in Central Asia, is sadly coming to an end, but the community’s legacy lives on in the United States and Israel, where most of the remaining Bukharian Jews now live.
Uzbekistan-born Bukharian Jew, Ruben Shimonov, told of this little known Jewish group which emanates mostly from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, countries in the heart of the Asian continent.
Speaking to a virtual audience via Zoom at Limmud@Home last Sunday, 22 August, Shimonov said the different layers of culture, cuisine, music, and language in the region were an amalgamation of all the different cultures of Central Asia, and were also reflected in the small but deeply-rooted community of Bukharian Jews.
The Bukharian Jewish story begins with the Babylonian conquest of the ancient land of Israel, Judea, and subsequent exile of Jews east of the land of Israel to other regions of the Babylonian Empire, namely present-day Iraq and Iran.
The Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. “Under the Achaemenid Empire, the king was a more benevolent king and he allowed Jews to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash,” said Shimonov. “But many Jews stayed as they now felt safe and secure under this new reign and moved even farther east of this new large Achaemenid Empire. This, folks, was Central Asia.”
Shimonov believes that the Bukharian Jews were more integrated with the local non-Jewish communities in Central Asia than, for example, the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe.
“Even though Bukharian Jews for a large part of their history lived in quarters [maḥalla], there was constant interaction with the dominant societies amongst which they lived,” said Shimonov. “For example, the shashmaqam musical tradition is influenced by Sufi Islam, but many Bukharian Jews became the gatekeepers of this tradition.”
According to Shimonov, there are 250 000 Bukharian Jews in the world. Most of them now live in Israel or the United States, primarily in the New York City borough of Queens.
“In Uzbekistan, there are fewer than a thousand Bukharian Jews left – mainly elderly folk who are staying behind because it’s harder for them to emigrate,” said Shimonov. “Jews in Uzbekistan are highly protected; their safety is preserved. And Jews do go and visit Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, where there is one kosher restaurant and a couple of synagogues. But our story is quickly coming to an end in our place of origin.”
In the Tajikistan city of Khujand, where Bukharian Jews once enjoyed a rich communal life, the last remaining Jew, Jura Abaev, died in January this year. Zablon Simintov, a carpet trader who is the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, is reportedly safe as the country comes under the control of the Taliban.
Shimonov, who emigrated from Uzbekistan three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said the main reason for the low numbers today was the struggle of the Bukharian Jews living in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
“State-sanctioned antisemitism and dispossession or marginalisation of Jews was part of that story even though there were more ups than downs. And then, the subsequent new instability of the newly formed independent republics – whenever new countries are formed after the colonial past there is more often than not a lot of political, social, and economic instability,” he said.
“As a democratic minority, we felt that even more. So, the urgency to leave was clear and present. In the decade of the late eighties to mid-nineties, we went from having the majority of our community living in this place where we had lived for centuries to the majority of our community living in a new diaspora. In Uzbekistan, the real impetus to leave was more about everything I mentioned than antisemitism coming from our Muslim neighbours.”
“Our Muslim neighbours were our friends, and we baked bread with them,” Shimonov said. “This is different to Jews coming from the Arab world, where Arab nationalism and Zionism came to a head in a way that the Jews were sadly caught in the crossfire.”
In contemporary times, Uzbekistan-born billionaire Lev Avnerovich Leviev and Israeli Dorrit Moussaieff are two of the Bukharian Jews who have made an impact. Known as the “king of diamonds”, Leviev annually sent large quantities of Passover food to Chabad emissaries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to distribute to Jews in these communities. Moussaieff, the former First Lady of Iceland, promoted Icelandic culture and artistic productions in the international arena.
Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi
More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.
Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.
Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.