Op-eds

Faith-based leaders meet president ahead of SONA

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
At the time of writing, the upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 13 February is the dominant issue on people’s minds. Last week, four representatives of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) together with Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein participated in a meeting of faith-based leaders at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Feb 13, 2020

The meeting was convened for President Cyril Ramaphosa to engage with religious leaders prior to addressing the nation. Ministers Lindiwe Zulu, Aaron Motsoaledi, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Angie Motshekga and Nathi Mthethwa were also present, and together with the president, they responded to the issues raised. Ramaphosa shared his concerns openly, and listened carefully to the issues worrying faith-based communities.

According to one of the representatives present, SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn, there was a common purpose for all to work together to address the challenges in the country. The president described faith as a vehicle for social emancipation, a catalyst for change, and a way to build a society where everyone could live in dignity, safety, and prosperity. He called on all of us to have unity of purpose to bring healing to our land. All in all, it was an extremely meaningful opportunity for a small group of faith leaders to come together and engage with the country’s most senior leaders.

In memoriam: Boomie Abramowitz

We were saddened by the passing last week of past SAJBD chairperson Dr Israel “Boomie” Abramowitz. Boomie was a true gentleman from the old school of Jewish communal leadership in South Africa. In the course of a long and distinguished communal career, he can truly be said to have epitomised the particular strengths that have made our community so respected a component of global Jewry. In addition to his work with the board, he held office in a range of other communal organisations over the decades, including the South African Zionist Federation, Bnai B’rith, and the Hebrew Order of David. He achieved all this while simultaneously pursuing his career as an eminent vascular surgeon.

Boomie assumed leadership of the SAJBD at a challenging time in South African history. It was 1979, just before the start of the final decade of white minority rule, when the country was on the cusp of a prolonged period of social and political unrest. There was enormous anxiety within Jewish circles over whether there was any future for South Africa, and indeed many of members of the community left during this period. The times called for strong, wise leaders, people able to speak to the concerns of those they represented while also providing a calming voice to enable them to keep things in perspective. Boomie, first as national chairperson of the board and thereafter as president, admirably fulfilled this role. He went on to act as one of the board’s respected elder statesmen, remaining involved in the organisation until his eventual move to Perth. We pay tribute to Boomie for everything he did for our community. He will be remembered with affection and respect by all who knew and worked with him.

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