Passing of a heroic generation
Although apartheid was designed to entrench white power and privilege in the country, a substantial minority of those who fought the system were themselves white and of those, a strikingly high proportion came from the Jewish community. It resulted in a good deal of suspicion and hostility towards Jews from the National Party regime, and indeed, it remains a persistent source of antisemitic sentiment in right-wing white circles to this day.
Today, only a handful of “struggle” veterans are still amongst us from the critical early post-war decades – in retrospect the building blocks of what became South Africa’s new, non-racial, democratic order in 1994. This week, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) paid tribute to one of the last of these veterans, Norman Levy, who died in Cape Town at the age of 91.
Together with his twin brother, Leon, (who the SAJBD honoured a few years ago with the Rabbi Cyril and Ann Harris Human Rights Award), Norman became involved in anti-apartheid activism from an early age and went on to play an active role in such pivotal events as the Defiance Campaign, the Congress of the People, the founding of the South African Congress of Democrats, and the Treason Trial. He was subsequently imprisoned for three years under the Suppression of Communism Act and afterwards, went into exile. Following his return to South Africa in the 1990s, he was involved in various post-apartheid nation building initiatives before his eventual retirement.
In taking a stand against injustice and being prepared to pay the high price for doing so, Norman and those like him set an example that all South Africans today can learn from. That so many of those activists came from the ranks of our own community is something that can inspire us to continue to safeguard the legacy they left us.
COVID-19 updates, guidelines, and advice
Distinguished virologist Professor Barry Schoub is among those who, from the outset, have been at the forefront of educating and guiding our community in facing up to the COVID-19 pandemic. From 14 July, Schoub (who is also the chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines) will be presenting the latest data on the pandemic, analysing, explaining, and talking people through the latest figures as well as answering any questions our community may have.
This is part of the SAJBD’s information campaign to help the community negotiate the copious, complex, and ever-growing body of information out there. As with previous such campaigns run by the Board, the details can be found on our Facebook site and website (www.sajbd.org). Those who have questions or need advice can email the Board on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.