Gerald Leissner: My mentor and friend.

  • Marlene
MARLENE BETHLEHEM, pictured, pays tribute to a fellow communal leader and a giant of a man whom she describes as someone who "became my guiding light."
by MARLENE BETHLEHEM | Dec 19, 2016


Goodbye, dear friend

It was with a deep sense of sadness that I learned of the passing of my dear friend Gerald Leissner.

I first met Gerald when he was chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

He had been invited to be the guest speaker at the Jewish Women's Benevolent Annual meeting when I was in office.

He immediately made an enormous impression on me with his calm yet persuasive and authoritative personality. When Gerald spoke people stopped to listen.

Soon after we met Gerald took me under his communal wing.

He co-opted me on to the Board of Deputies and became my mentor and advisor.

He gently led me through the vast intricacies of communal and political life.

He became my guiding light.

He was my campaign manager when I ran for office as chairman of the Board of Deputies.

What a manager, what a visionary and what a friend!


Gerald had the extraordinary ability to look ahead and to plan for future scenarios.

We learn from our sages " B'ein ishan, yit'par am" where there is no vision, the people perish. Because of Gerald's vision the community thrived!, His influence will be felt well into the future.

Much will be written about his positive influence not only in every aspect of Jewish life in South Africa, but also his commitment to the city of Johannesburg itself.

Gerald was as a remarkable leader, a philanthropist and a friend to everyone.

Words will never adequately pay tribute to his greatness.

One had to know Gerald to appreciate his sincerity as well as his great humility.

I feel greatly privileged to have had the opportunity of learning from him and of being able to have shared a unique and rewarding friendship.

Late chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, of blessed memory, taught me that before a person passes on, an angel appears to ask whether the world was a better place because of them.

The answer in this case is a resounding yes.


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