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Op-eds

Securing the religious rights of SA Jewry

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
A vital part of the mandate of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is to ensure that members of our community can practice their religion without being unfairly disadvantaged. In the main, this work involves resolving problems that arise when university examinations are held on Shabbat or Yom Tov. We work on an ongoing basis with the relevant universities, and sometimes private colleges, to make suitable alternative arrangements for writing when it is not possible for dates to be changed.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Jun 06, 2019

An arrangement is now in place that allows observant Jewish students to write their papers at Beyachad immediately after Shabbat or Yom Tov, with invigilators present and under the board’s auspices.

Another way we have been able to assist has been to obtain permission for students writing on Friday afternoon to begin their papers a little earlier to give them enough time to get home before Shabbat begins. Another recent case involved arranging for a culinary studies student to be allowed to use alternative ingredients for an upcoming practical to avoid infringements of kashrut.

By and large, we have seldom been unsuccessful in resolving issues of this nature, thanks in large part to the co-operation and understanding of the institutions involved, as well as the Beth Din and the individual rabbonim with whom we work closely. Beyond that, we can be grateful to be living in a country where religious and cultural diversity is respected and legally protected, and where there is a firm commitment to upholding the right to equality of all its citizens in such areas.

Debating the Hate Crimes Bill

Last week, SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn spoke at a conference on the Prevention and combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, held at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. From the outset, the SAJBD has involved itself extensively in the ongoing debate over this landmark piece of legislation, including making a formal submission and recommendations to the relevant parliamentary portfolio commission. We have also participated in the drafting of a submission from the Hate Crimes Working Group through our representative on the steering committee of that body.

Wendy’s presentation focused on anti-Semitism in South Africa, how the SAJBD combats it, and the complex processes and legal issues this entails. It was interesting that in addition to Kahn’s presentation, several other presentations also made reference to the importance of the board’s hate-speech case against Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) International Relations spokesperson Bongani Masuku for defining the parameters of hate speech in South African law. That case will be heard by the Constitutional Court in August.

Earlier in the month, Kahn spoke at the combined SAJBD-UJW (Union of Jewish Women) annual general meeting in Port Elizabeth. It is encouraging to see how the Jewish community in Port Elizabeth, which has the distinction of being the country’s second oldest, remains active despite its diminished numbers.

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

1 Comment

  1. 1 Jp 06 Jun
    Another area that needs attention is Jewish owned buildings that are against Jews keeping Shabbos 

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