Achievers to astound and delight

  • Geoff mugshot
When you invite an eminent person to be honoured for excellence at a high-profile function like the Absa Jewish Achiever awards, and ask him to say a few words to the 600-strong audience, implicit in the invitation is that he is free to talk about things he feels strongly about, whether pleasing to the crowd or not.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Aug 27, 2014

Sunday evening’s audience at Vodaworld in Midrand, comprised decision-makers and influential people of all stripes and persuasions.

Asher Bohbot spoke as an Israeli, appealing fervently to South African Jews to continue supporting Israel, particularly in its time of trauma during the Gaza conflict. Ivor Ichikowitz insisted Jews should stop moaning about how bad things are in this country and elsewhere and seek the amazing opportunities and possibilities.

Meyer Kahn described the incredible journey his long life has been and how his success has been in no small part due to surrounding himself with people “smarter” than him. Rabbi Dovid Hazdan told a delightful parable about a little bird - a thrush - which, with its tiny song, triumphed over a lion with a loud roar for a great honour, because the bird made everyone sing with it - a tribute to the value of teamwork.

Johnny Clegg told of a tour with musicians to Syria a few years ago, the dream that Damascus would become a great cultural centre of the Arab world - and the tragedy that has befallen Syria since then.

If anyone thought the noted educationist and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, Prof Jonathan Jansen, would limit his talk to bland words about South Africa and education, they were mistaken.

He caused the most reaction when he lauded “the great humanitarians” he admired and had worked with. This included the much-loved late former Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, z”l - “Mandela’s rabbi”. He also mentioned others who are controversial in the Jewish world for their critical views on Israel: Dennis Davis, Daniel Barenboim and, most recently, King David schoolboy Josh Broomberg - to whom Jansen actually dedicated his award.

He also quoted an Arab doctor who lost family members in the Israeli bombing of Gaza, about whether Arabs should hate Israelis - and, if so, which Israelis.

An inspiring feature of the evening was the presence of many young people, in the audience and among winners. The resounding message was that as precious as the wisdom of the older “achievers” is, it is just as important to honour up-and-coming young men and women whose greatest years still lie ahead and who exude optimism and dreams.

Seeing the incredible talent and creativity in a diverse range of fields, from business to the arts and humanities, from both the young and not-so-young, was invigorating. The ability to not only have a dream, but go out and make it come true, despite the doomsayers surrounding us, and in a country hovering on the brink of a recession, in an increasingly unstable world, is remarkable.

In each category, the judges faced an unenviable task, not just regarding who to select as winners, but who to leave out.

This event has become a benchmark for celebrating excellence. The Jewish Report and SA Jewry are proud of it. The credibility and integrity of the judging process have been jealously guarded over the years and the event attracts the crème de la crème of nominees and sponsors.

Every table and seat in the house was sold, with a waiting list. It must be said that without the creative energy and dedication of the Achievers team under chairman Howard Sackstein, this event would not have been the colossal success it has been.

We are grateful to all our sponsors, including our main sponsor Absa, which has been with us for no less than 11 years . Our other sponsors are KIA, Chivas and Creative Counsel. Without them, we could not host an event of this magnitude.

A big, heartfelt vote of thanks to all of them.


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