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Op-eds

Remembering the victims of Sobibor

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
Over the past few years, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre (JHGC) have regularly teamed up with the embassies of various countries, including Denmark, Germany, Japan, and Hungary, to host events commemorating aspects of the Holocaust.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Oct 18, 2018

The latest such event took place last Sunday, when the board partnered with the Embassy of the Russian Federation and the JHGC to host an evening to commemorate 75 years since the Sobibor concentration camp uprising.

Board National Vice-President Zev Krengel delivered a message, while Russian Ambassador Mikhail Petrakov provided the opening remarks. Sobibor, like most of the Nazi death camps, was liberated by Soviet forces. The event marked the second time our community has partnered with the Russian embassy in recognising the tremendous sacrifices and heroism of the Russian people in defeating the scourge of Nazism.

In his message, Krengel stressed that although the liberation of the death camps came too late for most of the Jewish victims of Nazism, the fact that many did ultimately survive was due to the bravery and sacrifices of the Soviet people.

For too long, tensions during the period known as the Cold War resulted in insufficient recognition by Western countries of the debt owed to the Russian people, he said. The evening’s gathering could be seen as playing a small but still meaningful part in making up for this neglect. Krengel concluded with the sentiment, “We appreciate the bonds of friendship that have been forged between our community and Ambassador Petrakov, and hope to have further opportunities to work with him in the future.”

Mitzvah School celebrates another year of achievement

The board’s National Director, Wendy Kahn, recently attended the annual graduation ceremony of the Mitzvah School in Sandton, established in 1986 to assist students from Alexandra to complete Grade 12 at a time when political unrest was severely disrupting black education.

The school’s founder and leader, Leslie Rosenberg and Molly Smith, were presented with the Rabbi Cyril and Ann Harris Human Rights Award at the board’s national conference last year.

For Kahn, this event is one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar, an inspiring demonstration of what young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have been able to achieve, and what members of our community are doing to make that possible.

The Mitzvah School was established on premises provided by the Bet David congregation. Initially intended as being no more than a stop-gap measure, it has developed into a permanent resource for pupils from disadvantaged areas.

We applaud all those involved in maintaining this exceptional institution. In addition to the critical assistance it gives to those who lack the kind of educational advantages our own young people enjoy, it is a credit to the Jewish community as a whole.

When it comes to social outreach on behalf of the broader community, Durban Jewry has a particularly impressive record. This week, Kahn and I attended the annual general meeting of the board’s KwaZulu-Natal Council, where this work was highlighted.

I congratulate my esteemed colleague, John Moshal, on his election as life president of the Durban Jewish Club in recognition of his considerable contribution to the community.

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

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