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Last week, I wrote about the value that Limmud has added to the intellectual and cultural life of our community. I can now report back on the success of the latest Johannesburg event, held over the past weekend. There was again an excellent turnout, a particularly encouraging aspect being the many younger people who attended. In addition to the richness and diversity of the programme and quality of the speakers, we again saw lively and enthusiastic participation from all those present. On behalf of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), I congratulate the organisers, in particular Johannesburg Limmud Chairpersons Lara Unterslak and Ryan Davis, as well as everyone else, from the sponsors to everyone who attended, for making both the Cape Town and Johannesburg events such memorable and uplifting occasions.

With SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn, I took part in a session on trends in antisemitism domestically and globally. It was an opportunity to inform people about the impact of antisemitism locally and what the SAJBD is doing to combat it. We’re happily still able to report that though we’re regularly required to confront various instances of anti-Jewish prejudice in our country, this has consistently manifested at a considerably lower level than in other parts of the diaspora. Just as importantly, antisemitism in South Africa rarely takes the form of physical violence against Jewish individuals, nor have our communal installations been subject to the kind of malicious acts of vandalism that our counterparts in many other countries experience on a regular basis. In her presentation, Wendy stressed the effective mechanisms we have in this country to address hate crimes, such as the South African Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts. Prior to the weekend, many of the international speakers brought out for Limmud were taken on a tour of perhaps the most important of these institutions, Constitution Hill. The visit included a presentation by SAJBD Associate Director David Saks on Jewish connections, past and present, to the Constitutional Court and the precinct as a whole, from anti-apartheid activists detained in the adjoining Old Fort to the eminent Jewish justices who have served on the court and the significant cases that the SAJBD has been instrumental in bringing before it.

Changing political era

South African politics has entered an interesting new era. In various key regions, coalition government is now very much the order of the day, with extensive discussions and interactions taking place between various factions, large or small, and from established parties to those relatively new on the scene. All this has injected a renewed sense of fluidity and purpose among established and would-be leaders, leading to broader consultation and potentially significant pre-election agreements and stimulating much-needed debate.

A core part of the Board’s work is to build relations with government, policy and opinion makers, and political parties. As the representative voice of South African Jewry, we’ll meet anybody, while remaining strictly non-aligned. Such relationships are essential to fulfilling our mandate of representing the interests of our community, upholding its civil rights, and bringing any concerns it might have to the attention of those able to assist. We have already embarked on what will be an ongoing process of meeting political players from across the spectrum ahead of next year’s national and provincial elections.

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

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