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No excuse for Nazi anti-Semitism

Hearing the words “Heil Hitler” are enough to make any Jew go cold. But when Jewish children participate in a schools’ theatrical festival, it is totally unacceptable for them to be subjected to this kind of blatant anti-Semitism.





King David Victory Park High School pupils gave their all in performing the most moving and heart-breaking play about a young Jewish boy in a concentration camp who befriends the camp commander’s son. It is a poignant and devastatingly sad story about our history.

It is a tough ask for any teenager to perform this, simply because it is hard to imagine the kind of hatred that would result in the killing of innocent people en masse.

That is what Nazis did. To them, we weren’t even human. Our lives were so irrelevant to them, they could simply destroy six million of us. They felt no guilt or remorse. 

So, presenting a performance like that and being faced with rabid anti-Semitism from fellow Johannesburg teenagers, was horrifying and downright frightening for these children.

It was blatant and so ugly in that they didn’t just chant it once, they kept on doing it. Worse still, nobody appeared to stop and censure them for their racism.

No, in fact, it seems nobody even tried to stop them chanting “Heil Hitler” before, during and after the performance. In fact, when a teacher was confronted over it, she didn’t take it very seriously.  

As I understand, the organisers also did not take responsibility for it, nor did they try and stop it.

What are we teaching our children?

I have no idea where these youngsters got their anti-Semitic views from, but surely we live in an era where racial hatred is not acceptable. Have we learnt nothing from the history of this country? Has the world learnt nothing from the Holocaust and other genocides on this continent?

I get that these are teenagers and they are impressionable. For that very reason, they have to be chastised and punished for doing something that burns at our very core as human beings.

Racism, anti-Semitism is not a joke. It is not something that can be fobbed off as teenage behaviour or kids having a little fun.

Anti-Semitism in just one instance – the very one the King David thespians were educating them about – caused the brutal annihilation of six million Jews.

Had the King David kids been performing something else, it is possible this behaviour may not have arisen. However, because the play was about the horror of what happened to six million Jews, it was far worse, because the Nazi brutality was laid out on the stage. The Nazi anti-Semitism was there for all to see. In spite of this, these youths chose to taunt the Jewish cast in the Nazi way.

I know that the Jewish Board of Deputies is taking this up and has a meeting on Monday to address this. I for one want to know what happens and will keep you posted.

I have colleagues who say that in inter-school sporting and other competitions, there is anti-Semitism. Does this mean we have turned a tide and this is on the increase in South Africa, or has it always been like this?

Is it because of the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) lobby in South Africa, which they swear is about anti-Zionism, rather than anti-Semitism? 

Whatever you believe about that, this school drama is unmistakeable. It was unquestionably and unapologetically anti-Semitism. As Jews, we have to make sure this is stopped and the people behind it learn that this cannot happen again. We cannot turn the other cheek or sweep this under the carpet.

It must be addressed and it must be done now.



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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nat cheiman

    May 25, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    ‘Unfortunately, many non Jews are anti -Semitic.

    The mistake that many liberals make is that they believe that freedom of speech is universal and that immigration is a right that migrants have.

    More regrettable, is that there are many Jews among the liberals, such as JVJP, and others that support people like Linda Sarsour and that terrorist Obedh.

    Among one of the traits of this type of \”liberal\”individual, is that they fight for these causes and when \”things go wrong \”, they either walk away or are simply not to be found.

    Jews will always have \”traitors\”in their midst. It happened during the holocaust and it is with us today.

    In essence, there is no solution to the Palestinian problem other than for them to seek another of the 50 Islamic countries in which to live.

    The result is that there won’t be BDS, or JVJP or any other motive for destroying Jews. 

    There will however, always be anti -Semitism from people that simply hate Jews .

    But Jews can deal with that.

    Harter, the principal of Edenvale High school, should be summoned to the Min of Educations office. His failure to react is complicity in the deed itself.

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Challah – bread of Jewish men’s affliction



There are many reasons why it isn’t easy to be a Jewish male. Expectation of performance begins at eight days, and hardly eases up until we shuffle off the mortal coil, well ahead of our time, exhausted from the effort and stress of it all.

The expectations are seemingly without end. We need to make our parents proud, we need to provide for our families, to be good husbands and better fathers, and we need to have run at least one marathon in a far-flung city by the time we are 45.

We need to be able to sing in front of the community at our Barmitzvahs, just when we are at our most awkward and when our voices are the most unreliable. We need to be able to intone anything at any given time.

And then, on the one night of the week when we can relax, we are required to cut the challah with the precision of a surgeon, the speed of Usain Bolt, and we need to do so while everyone watches in hungry expectation.

Following the kiddush prayer and the ritualistic washing of hands, there is a period of silence. With no speaking until the eating of the challah, it’s one of the most underrated aspects of being a Jewish male. It’s a moment that represents almost every aspect of “Jewish maleness”, and it happens week after week after week. Why?

Because no matter what, it will be done wrong. The slices will be too thick. Or thin. Or the wrong challah would have been selected. Too much, too little salt will have been added. And the challah serving plate will have been passed in the wrong direction. Eyes will be rolled, lips pursed, and heads will be slowly shaken. From side. To side. To side.

A Jewish male it would seem, cannot please a Jewish woman.

I have asked around. A friend’s wife told me that she can’t stand the way he cuts the challah, and prefers to do it herself. “He just can’t get it right. It’s got so bad that I hardly even let him carve the meat.”

She even went as far as to buy an electric carving knife, which she used before he got home from work on a Friday so that he didn’t need to. It might be worth mentioning that when he’s not “butchering” the challah, he’s a well-respected surgeon. At least he made his parents proud.

And there are those who are too precise for their own good. My father-in-law is one such case. Each piece of challah is measured to perfection. Sliced the way through, and then checked in case any remnants of attachment to the piece before remains, before moving on to slice number two. And so on.

Generally, we like to start Shabbat on Wednesday when visiting, as it takes about that long before we get to eat. All while we sit in silence.

The slicing of challah is the most underrated aspect of being a Jewish male. It carries with it all the expectation along with all the disappointment of generations of men who have failed before them.

It’s a moment that’s shared in all households across the Jewish world week after week. It bonds Jewish women to the past, and will link them to their great granddaughters, who will one day share knowing looks with their sisters as they watch their husband “butcher” the challah, just as their father did.

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Rebuilding hope and rewarding service



This week, we have been hard at work finalising the upcoming South African Jewish Board of Deputies national conference, to take place on Sunday, 17 October, from 16:00 to 18:00.

The theme of the conference is “Hope and Recovery”, and as the title indicates, the focus will be on rebuilding following the testing and often traumatic events of the past two years. To share the challenges as well as the path of hope and recovery in areas of crucial concern, we have a panel of experts comprising Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana, Eskom Chief Executive Andre de Ruyter, and Advocate Wim Trengove. We are further privileged to host Ambassador Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, and Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai, both of whom will be speaking.

The Board’s national conferences are also an opportunity to honour community members who have made a particularly noteworthy contribution to society, whether to the country as a whole or South African Jewry specifically. Since 1999, we have recognised those who have advanced the cause of human rights and democracy. The scope of the award, now called the Rabbi Cyril and Ann Harris Humanitarian Award, includes those involved in social outreach and upliftment work.

This year, it will be presented to Natie and Francis Kirsh and family in recognition of the unfailingly generous support they have provided to our community and our country over many years, but particularly during the COVID-19 period.

For those who have excelled in communal service, we will be presenting the Eric Samson Mendel Kaplan Award. Two presentations are made, one to a lay leader and the other to a professional. In the “lay” category, the recipients are Professor Barry Schoub and Dr Richard Friedland, two leading medical experts who during the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown extraordinary commitment and played such a pivotal role in guiding our community. In the “professional” category, we will honour Vivienne Anstey, the exemplar of a thoroughly professional, innovative Jewish public servant for more than 30 years, and Uriel Rosen, Hatzolah’s operations manager and the originator of its Wellness Monitoring Programme that has been so transformative in helping those suffering from COVID-19.

Please join us for what promises to be a fascinating conversation about how to move forward and rebuild. To register, go to

#MakeUsCount events

Along with preparing for conference, the Board has been running its #MakeUsCount pre-election awareness campaign. During the past week, our Gauteng, Cape Town, and Durban branches have hosted lively and well attended “Great Debates” between representatives of the main competing parties. At the time of writing, Gauteng is preparing for a second event, a webinar with leading political journalist Stephen Grootes in conversation with political and election experts and analysts Wayne Sussman, Nompumelelo Runji, and Dr Ralph Mathekga. I look forward to updating you about further #MakeUsCount events in the days leading up to the municipal elections on 1 November.

This being my last Above Board before my term as National Chair comes to an end, I take this opportunity of recording how great an honour it has been to serve our community for the past four years and wishing my successor everything of the best.

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

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Board calls for practical implementation of hate-crime legislation



This week, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) submitted written comments on the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill after its release for public comment by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services. We have requested an opportunity for the SAJBD to give an oral submission on the Bill in due course. As a steering committee member representing the Board on the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG), our representative, Alana Baranov, was also involved in the drafting of the HCWG submission on the Bill.

The genesis of this important piece of legislation goes back to 2016, when the first draft of the Bill was released. The Board, at its own behest and through the HCWG, has been involved in the process from the outset, including making previous submissions. While we have raised certain legal-technical concerns over aspects of the Bill, in general we have welcomed it as being aimed at giving practical effect to the prevention of racism and discrimination and providing for the prosecution and prevention of hate crimes and hate speech.

The SAJBD’s submission on the Bill focused on the specific concerns of the Jewish community regarding antisemitism. It further stressed that the Act must be so framed as to make its practical implementation possible, and to this end, recommended expanding the reach and effectiveness of current legislation and mechanisms for dealing with incidents of hate, such as the South African Human Rights Commission and Equality Courts. These institutions have been of critical value to the Board in addressing numerous antisemitic incidents that have arisen over the past two decades, including those involving senior office bearers in government and trade unions. It’s therefore vital that they are adequately empowered and resourced.

JSC drops ball a second time at Concourt interviews

Earlier this year, the way in which two Jewish candidates for Constitutional Court positions were treated during their interviews by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) generated much justified outrage. As previously recounted in this column, both were subjected to a barrage of irrelevant and inappropriate questions pertaining to their Jewish identity, association with the SAJBD, and views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Other candidates were also subjected to inappropriate treatment. In response, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution launched a successful challenge to that process in the High Court, resulting in the JSC being directed to re-interview the candidates.

Unfortunately, the second round of interviews, conducted earlier this week, amounted to “Groundhog Day” for the Jewish community. Following their stinging rebuke at the hands of civil society and the courts, one would have expected the JSC to steer clear this time round of offensive questions concerning a candidate’s Jewish affiliations, yet once again, a Jewish candidate was so targeted, specifically for his previous association with the SAJBD. The characterisation by one of the commissioners of the SAJBD as a “pro-Zionist body that is bullying their people and organisations who are objecting to the Israeli establishment in the Palestine region” was especially out of line. This was specifically referred to in our media release issued this week, and will be one of the key issues we will address with the JSC.

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

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