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Jewish achievers demonstrate what’s possible



The annual Absa Jewish Achiever Awards held last Sunday showed once again how even in the most trying times, Jewish community members from across the age and gender spectrum continue to build, contribute, and innovate in multiple areas, whether in the economic, communal, cultural or human-rights fields.

Fittingly, this year’s awards celebrated the heroes of COVID-19, and “how a small Jewish community rose to the challenge of our generation”. Those honoured, along with the various nominees, demonstrated how even in the unprecedentedly difficult circumstances that have confronted us this year, much can be accomplished through innovation, creativity, and a willingness to accept the risk of failure in order to succeed. It’s encouraging indeed to see how Jewish South Africans go about making their dreams a practical reality. Rather than being discouraged by obstacles, they are finding new and creative ways to deal with them. Equally inspiring is how much these individuals are contributing to the broader society as well as our own community.

Democratic Alliance meeting

As reported in previous columns, an important part of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ (SAJBD’s) work consists of building relations with government, policy and opinion makers, and political parties across the spectrum. Such relationships are essential to fulfilling our core mandate of representing the interests of South African Jewry, upholding its civil rights, and bringing any concerns it might have to the attention of those in a position to make a difference. Last week, a SAJBD delegation headed by National President Mary Kluk met Cape Town Democratic Alliance (DA) interim party leader John Steenhuisen along with other representatives of the party. The main issue was certain Holocaust analogies recently made by DA spokespeople, which the SAJBD felt to be inappropriate and misleading. Steenhuisen sincerely apologised for any hurt caused, and in general, the meeting was a warm and constructive one in which our delegation felt its concerns had been heard.

Meeting with Chinese community

Establishing relationships in the political sphere goes hand in hand with forging ties of friendship and understanding with other communities. This week, Gauteng Council Vice-Chairperson Danny Mofsovitz and other council members met the leadership of the Chinese Association. The initiative followed Mofsovitz’s attendance of the recent World Jewish Congress’s Jewish Diplomatic Corps annual conference, the aim of which was to get members of the corps to reach out to local minority groups in their home countries to take a united stand whenever they or other minority groups are discriminated against. It was an opportunity to learn more about our Chinese fellow citizens, who likewise regularly come up against negative stereotyping and hate speech on social media. Our delegation was thanked once again for the solidarity shown by the SAJBD to the Chinese community in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. In turn, we thanked them for reaching out to our community when Simone Kriel published antisemitic social-media posts. We agreed to stand together on these issues, and the meeting ended off with both groups looking forward to sharing in each other’s calendar of cultural events.

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

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