Johnny Broomberg: Solidarity and teamwork will see us through
When COVID-19 struck, Dr Jonathan Broomberg heeded the call.
Discovery’s chief executive of Vitality Health International, Broomberg assumed the role of head of healthcare for South Africa’s Solidarity Fund, a feat which saw him take the Absa Business Leadership in the Time of COVID award last Sunday at the virtual Absa Jewish Achiever Awards.
Colleagues and friends paid tribute to Broomberg’s efforts in video messages streamed during the awards ceremony.
“He’s one of the smartest and most effective people I’ve ever met,” said Discovery Chief Executive Adrian Gore. “His role in the fund and in our country’s fight against COVID-19 is something we should be incredibly proud of.”
The president announced the establishment of the Solidarity Fund in March, and Broomberg landed at the centre of it all. The fund has raised more than R6 billion in its six months of existence, and has helped to acquire much of the critical care and personal-protection equipment (PPE) used in the country as well.
Business and government came to an agreement that South Africa needed a single, independent body that would unite everybody in the face of COVID-19. Broomberg was one of the first people to be called on to weigh in on the crisis, applying his business mind to devising workable solutions in response to the pandemic.
“Johnny is an incredible South African citizen,” said Nicola Galombik, the head of disbursement strategy at the Solidarity Fund. “Nothing has demonstrated that as much as his response to this pandemic.”
Said Gore, “This award is significant, substantial, and very well deserved. I’m proud to be associated with him.”
Broomberg said he was humbled and grateful to receive the award, admitting that he didn’t expect it.
“It really came as a surprise,” he said. “One of the hallmarks of the work I’ve done in dealing with COVID-19 through the fund, something true of everyone who has worked in some way to deal with this pandemic, is that it has really been a question of teamwork.”
Broomberg stressed that it’s not a question of recognising individuals, but about how well our community has come together, how government has worked with business and the broad private sector.
“That’s certainly been true of the work I’ve done,” he said. “As many of you know, the fund was set up very quickly after it became clear how significant the pandemic was going to be.
“It raised more than R3 billion quickly, and then deployed R2.5 billion of that largely in the health response to the pandemic, providing PPE when there was none in the country, acquiring thousands of ventilators, and supporting testing across the public-health system.”
A huge amount of good work was done, said Broomberg, by more than 200 individual volunteers at the Solidarity Fund and tens of thousands of individuals and companies who provided donations.
“It’s no surprise that South Africa’s coming together this way has meant that our country has coped better with this pandemic than almost any other country in the world in spite of our enormous challenges,” Broomberg said.
“In accepting the award, I don’t accept it for myself but on behalf of all my colleagues at the Solidarity Fund and at Discovery, which has worked tirelessly as a corporation. Truly, everyone in this country deserves a pat on the back for their enormous patience and effort in dealing with this pandemic.
“We aren’t at the end yet, and there’s plenty more patience and effort required. I’m deeply grateful and thank you very much for recognising me in this way.”
Nominate achievers who bring us hope
Remember when you were raving about the incredible work someone in the community had done? Well, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. You don’t have much time…
Last year, the focus was on what winners did over and beyond COVID-19 and through the toughest part of the pandemic.
This year, it’s all about hope, as we see the end of the pandemic in sight, death rates are dropping, people are vaccinated, and we are looking towards a brighter future. Who is enabling this? Who are the people who have brought us hope? Who’s bringing us hope right now, and will continue to inspire us in the future? Who are our winners?
“We are looking for those people who brought us hope in professional excellence and business leadership during these tough times,” says Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards and the board of the SA Jewish Report.
“Nominate those who showed true leadership and went way beyond the call of duty when there was looting and rioting in the country as well as a spike in the pandemic numbers.”
Sackstein admits that the judges’ decisions will be tough this year as many heroes have risen to the challenges of community and country. “It’s essential to create a record of these times, and those who have stood out when life was at its most challenging,” he says.
Professor Barry Schoub last year won the Kia Community Service Award for his awesome contribution to the Jewish community through COVID-19. The emeritus professor in virology at the University of the Witwatersrand and the former director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases came out of retirement to help the community, going on to become chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. Since his award, he has led South Africa through the process of acquiring vaccines and getting vaccinated.
Dr Mervyn Mer, who won the award for professional excellence in the time of COVID, has gone on to save many more lives from this dreaded coronavirus. He also almost singlehandedly reopened the COVID-19 ward at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital after the medical facility was closed following a fire. As the numbers of people getting desperately ill due to COVID-19 rose during the third wave, he did what he believed he needed to do to save lives.
Our other winners, Johnny Broomberg, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Liran Assness, Michael Katz, Wendy Fisher, Jody Scheckter, and Sir Sydney Kentridge have gone from strength to strength since then.
You have until the close of business on 3 September to make your nominations. Don’t wait, do it now. Go to https://www.sajr.co.za/absa-jewish-achiever-awards-2021/
Nominations are now open for Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2021
ABSA BUSINESS ICON AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved iconic status within the business community.
ABSA BUSINESS LEADERSHIP AWARD – FROM COVID TO HOPE
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has played a critical leadership role in business during this period.
ABSA PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE – FROM COVID TO HOPE
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved national recognition and acclaim in their profession during this period.
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has a proven track record in entrepreneurial ventures.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has served the Jewish community with remarkable distinction.
EUROPCAR WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AWARD
- Honouring the leadership, success and overall contributions of distinctive Jewish women in business or in the broader South African community.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
in honour of Helen Suzman
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has contributed in an extraordinary manner over a long period of time.
ARTS, SPORTS, SCIENCE AND CULTURE AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has excelled in any of these spheres.
In honour of Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris
- Awarded to a Jewish or non-Jewish person who has contributed substantially to the betterment of the lives of the people of South Africa.
Nominations close at 17:00 on 3 September 2021
Build hope by reaching out and nominating
As the sun rises through the darkness of the pandemic and looting in South Africa, we begin to renew our hope for the future, and with that, we start our search to celebrate our Absa Jewish Achievers in 2021. Nominations are now open.
This year, we will celebrate on 7 November with great ‘hope’, the theme of this year’s event that so perfectly fits our growing sentiments.
The past 18 months have been so incredibly tough on our community, our country, and our world. What with more than 200 Jewish people dying from the COVID-19 pandemic in Johannesburg alone, we have really felt the coronavirus to our core.
We haven’t been able to be at loved one’s funerals, and have sat shiva alone. We have isolated from our loved ones to protect them. We have put much of our lives on hold because of this illness. Many have lost businesses and livelihoods.
But the end of this pandemic is in sight. We have “hope” again. As we vaccinate en masse, we move towards a new tomorrow.
We survived the wholesale looting and violence of the past month, and people have gone to great lengths to help each other make it through.
As a community, we work best together. We support each other, making us stronger and more resilient.
The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is all about our community putting heads together and coming up with those unique individuals who stand head and shoulders above others.
We will pull out all the stops to celebrate our 2021 achievers on 7 November. Once again, we’ll keep it online to avoid any potential COVID-19 risks. But in so doing, we’ll bring your international fantasies to life with our annual revelry. And in so doing, we will enable far more people to participate than can fit in a large hall. Last year, we took our numbers from 1 000 to 60 000 viewers.
It’s time to look around and find those unique individuals, those gems within our community who have performed in their own areas like no other. You know who they are, and they will be given the kavod only if you nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. It’s up to you.
“The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is so important as it allows us as a community to take stock and celebrate our disproportionate contribution to the people of South Africa,” says Howard Sackstein, Absa Jewish Achiever chairperson.
“It allows us to create role models for everyone to emulate as we celebrate the extraordinary. In so doing, we encourage others to find greatness in their own fields.”
Though we will once again be looking for lifetime achievers this year, a humanitarian champion, and those who have gone way beyond the call of duty for the community, we are also focusing on those who have excelled in the past year.
We want to find those outstanding individuals who have distinguished themselves over this past year with its unique challenges.
We are looking for nominees in the following: women in leadership; business award; entrepreneurship; business icon; professional excellence community award winner; a lifetime achiever; a winner in sport, science and culture; and a humanitarian award winner (who doesn’t have to be Jewish).
It’s up to you to nominate these people. Without your nominations, they won’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Although there are judges involved, we need your nominations and online participation in the public vote.
This is a communal event, focusing on our magnificent community, to find the individuals that will become icons for the rest of us. “As you all know, we work best as a community, and in this, we encourage each other to take pride in the achievements of others,” says Sackstein.
Nominations are open from today, until 17:00 on 3 September.