Court action: Margolis acted alone says SAUPJ

  • Kushner Alvin  - HOME
Alvin Kushner (pictured), national chairman of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ), clearly distanced his organisation from the Equality Court action in Cape Town against the SA Jewish Board of Deputies. While one of the SAUPJ rabbis has joined the action, he said, it had been instituted in her own name. Kushner acknowledged that the SAUPJ do “share the frustration felt by women who are prohibited from singing,” he said they were not part of the action against the Board.
by ANT KATZ with OWN CORRESPONDENT | Apr 15, 2016

“I wish to confirm that the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) did not give our support to this action,” said their national chairman and member of the world body executive Alvin Kushner on Thursday.

The South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) has made it clear that the participation of one of its rabbis, Rabbi Julia Margolis,  in an Equality Court action in Cape Town has been instituted in her own name and not that of the SAUPJ.

Kol IshaRabbi Margolis had, joined a lawsuit by two Orthodox Capetonians against the Cape Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies as chairman of the SAUPJ-affiliated SA Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED).

The action in the Equality Court arose from an SAJBD decision not to allow women singers at the annual Yom Hashoah services throughout the country.

“Taking this matter to the Equality Court was a decision taken by an individual which I’m sure will be supported by a sector of our men and women, both Progressive and Orthodox. It was not supported by the SAUPJ,” Kushner said in a statement.

An old wound opened

“I understand that the Board of Deputies was taken to the Equality Court by one of our rabbis, Rabbi Julia Margolis, acting with two others under the umbrella of SACRED," says Kushner.

The incident has plagued SA and world Jewish communities for several years (read the Halacha) and was bound to come into the open and public domain again.

Rabbi Julia Margolis

LEFT: Rabbi Julia Margolis


A conflict of interest over a case in the Western Cape Equality Court against the Cape Council of the SAJBD over a ban on women singing at Jewish communal events has resulted in the suspension of Progressive Rabbi Julia Margolis, chairman of SACRED, from Board meetings as the litigation could cause conflict of interest.


The Cape Council of the Board served papers that they are being sued in the Equality Court for “discrimination of women on the basis of gender”. Board issued a statement. The claimants are two Cape Orthodox Jews and SACRED which joined as co-respondent, and the charges emanate from the issue of women not being allowed to sing at secular events. Acting for the claimants is Advocate Anton Katz SC. Read what everyone has to say...

This story has been the top-trending attraction for user comments on social media on both Jewish Report's Facebook and website for two weeks. See what our users are saying  

We are not involved in case

Kushner seems to having to walk a fine line between the beliefs of the SAUPJ and the WPJ on the one hand (which firmly disagree with the ban on women singing at secular events hosted by the country's secular organisations), and the current methodology whereby the Equality Court and the Constitution are being brought to bear by the dissenters.

“I wish to confirm that the South African Union for Progressive Judaism did not give our support to this action.

SAUPJ logo


“However, we share the frustration felt by women who are prohibited from singing at the Yom Hashoah memorial services throughout South Africa. Over the years our representatives, who serve as members of the Board of Deputies, have pleaded for equal rights for women at this event. To date this right has not been given recognition by the Board. We are deeply concerned that this action was not again considered by the Board of Deputies.”

The concern of the SAUPJ, he says, is that the nature of the Yom Hashoah event, as a Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust, is an open ceremony and is attended by Jews throughout South Africa regardless of affiliation.

This schism between Orthodox and Progressive Jewry, and between different members of Orthodoxy itself, has also affected the SA Zionist Federation for several years as they, too, have not allowed women entertainers at their Yom Hazikaron (Day of Remembrance)ceremony for the fallen in battle and terror attacks; as well as their Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations for several years.

WitsDlaminiSACRED logo

LEFT: The SACRED logo is designed around their affiliation with the SAUPJ

Some years ago WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) members and others held a rowdy, placard-wielding protest outside the entrance to Beyachad – the Raedene campus that houses most of Johannesburg’s major secular Jewish organisations.   

“We all accept that Yom Hashoah is the day of observance that all Jews grieve together, pray together and sing together as we reflect on the horrific social injustices of the past as well as the present,” says Kushner. 

“This memorial event intensifies the anguish felt by Progressive Jews as we once again are forced to heed the ruling that the singing voices of women are to be muzzled by the organisers.

“The issue of gender equality is one close to the hearts of every Progressive Jew," he says, adding that he is "particularly sensitive to the anguish that Progressive and many Orthodox women experience by extreme discrimination against them”.   

But, Kushner said, in taking the issue to the Equality Court as a co-respondent, SACRED did not have the blessing of the SAUPJ, 


  1. 5 Aharon 18 Apr
    I think it is in extremely poor taste to use a photo of the esteemed rabbi in a Purim costume. Rabbi Julie is very well respected in certain circles, and printing a photo of her when she is clearly intoxicated is inappropriate.
  2. 4 Choni 19 Apr
    Aharon, Yasher Koach! Thanks for a good laugh.
  3. 3 Marty 21 Apr
    Making fun of R. Julia's attire is a low blow aimed at humiliating and mocking a fellow Jew. You may claim to abide by all halacha, but you are definitely not following our age-old social ethics. I don't know what is worse: you guys hearing a "kol isha", or humiliating a fellow Jew like this. If you disagree with her, talk to her. Argue your point. Don't stoop this low. You embarrass us.
  4. 2 Beverley May 26 Apr
    The sexist, belittling comments from Aharon and Choni are unfortunate. To say the least. I have asked our National Board of Deputies to look into this matter. In the same way that we censure antisemitism, we need to be as vigilant in protecting our own from intolerance and hatred that comes from within our own community. I also agree with Marty - let's debate the issue, rather than attack a fellow Jew.
  5. 1 Sydney Kaye 01 May
    Clearly Aharon and Choni like many others use their "orthodox" status as a crutch to support a character flaw. If you think you can adopt a " holier than thou" attitude to look down on others and convince yourself that you are superior, good luck to you! 


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.


My Place advert 300px x 300px 110820




Yad Aharon GENERIC2020


Follow us on