Marcus rewrites history and wins July for Kantor
Jockey Anton Marcus is rewriting the record books of South African horseracing.
Last Saturday, when he rode Do It Again to victory in the Vodacom Durban July, he became the first jockey to have won South Africa’s premier race on five occasions.
Going into the race, he was one of only four jockeys to have ridden four winners. The other three were Harold “Tiger” Wright, who retired some 50 years ago, Piere Strydom and Anthony Delpech. Delpech was injured so he did not ride, but Strydom also took part in the R4.25 million race over 2 200m at Greyville Racecourse.
Marcus’s other winners are Dancing Duel (1993), El Picha (2000), Dunford (2005) and Hunting Tower (2007). Do It Again ran in the colours of Investec’s Bernard Kantor (who steps down from his managing director post in October). Kantor has had winners of big races all over the world. He recently had a horse compete in the UK Derby, which was sponsored by Investec. However, this is the first time he has managed to win the Durban July.
Kantor owns Do It Again with Nick Jonsson and Jack Mitchell. This horse was a strapping individual at the National Yearling Sales of 2016. Jonsson made him his pick of the sale, but bloodstock agent John Freeman had also selected him in unison with Mitchell. Kantor was also interested in the horse as he is a shareholder in Klawervlei Stud farm where Twice Over, the sire of Do It Again, stands.
Instead of bidding against one another, they agreed to go in as a partnership and secured the colt for R1.1 million. They recovered their outlay in one swoop as the winner’s cheque for the Durban July is R2.5 million. Do It Again is trained by Justin Snaith in Cape Town, and he ended up with the amazing achievement of having trained the first three horses past the post.
Kantor was still enjoying the victory long after the race was over. “What an experience,” he said. For Marcus, this victory was more than just a record fifth Durban July. He also believed that his Durban July win brought up his 100th Grade 1 victory.
Every feature race is categorised, with the highest rated being Grade 1. Every horse is given a merit rating based on its performance, and for a race to be declared of Grade 1 standard, the average merit rating has to be of a particular level. If it drops below that level, the race will be reclassified as Grade 2 or Grade 3, depending on how far the average merit ratings go down.
However, Marcus discussed all the Grade 1 races that had been demoted to Grade 2s and 3s. “I just remembered,” said Marcus, “that I also won the Gold Cup in 1991 on Icona. That was a Grade 1 race at the time and I never included it. So, I’ve actually ridden 101 Grade 1 winners.”
That means his 100th Grade 1 winner came in this year’s L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate horseracing event at Cape Town’s Kenilworth Racecourse in January, when he rode Legal Eagle to victory for the third time over the 1 600m track.
While the record for Grade 1 victories of 393 is held by riding legend Lester Piggott in a career spanning almost 50 years, Ryan Moore, who is currently rated the world’s best jockey by most pundits, has only ridden 116 Grade 1 winners.
Speaking about his record fifth Durban July victory, Marcus said he never really thought about it, maybe because he believed he was lucky to win the race. “This was more about luck than anything else. It was jockey Grant van Niekerk’s decision to take (favourite) African Night Sky around the field and into the lead that won it for me.
“Had he not done that, Jeff Lloyd, who was riding Made To Conquer, would have been able to control the pace and probably could have gone clear in the straight and won the race by five lengths. Had Grant not gone, I doubt I would have been able to run a place because the pace was so slow.”
For the record, Marcus’s first Grade 1 win came on Blue Cossack, which he rode as an 18-year-old in the Mainstay International at Durban’s Clairwood Racecourse for Cape trainer Alan Higgins. Three of his Grade 1 wins were achieved overseas.
Marcus injured his wrist in May and battled to get fit in time for the Durban July. “I’m now going to give my wrist more time to heal and I doubt I will ride before the Gold Cup meeting on 28 July at Greyville.”
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.
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