Predictions for Jewish SA 2014 & beyond
A provocative half-tongue-in-cheek look at where Jewish SA is heading
It is the nothing-happening time of year again – end December and beginning January – a time where little or no news is made so media globally resort to their time-honoured tricks of the trade like reporting on the biggest, worst, silliest or best of last year and similar predictions for the coming year.
There is no advertising to speak of so every form of media run public service messages and promos for their own whatevers. All pretty boring, really, isn’t it? So I thought I’d take a bash at predictions for SA and other Jewry – most of it not serious, some of it very serious indeed.
Now, before users get too excited, please
allow me to make two things crystal clear:
- Firstly, much of what I am writing is tongue-in-cheek, don’t over-react; and
- Secondly, this is a personal blog. I write this in my personal capacity and, as with all of our bloggers, the opinions, serious or sublime, are NOT the opinion of the SA Jewish Report!
Now to my predictions…
By January 2015 (jeez, I still can’t get around the fact that we’re in 2014) and even deeper into the twenty-teens, I believe that…
There will be more and more Jews moving into sub-Saharan Africa: from SA, Israel, the US and Europe. It’s already happening. Africa is stable and cooking (while SA’s wobbly and our fires are extinguishing). The business opportunities in the sandwich between SA and North Africa are becoming the stuff of legend.
Our world-renowned Travelling Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft is going to have to get an assistant Travelling Rabbi-in-training as the SA country communities shrink and the needs in Africa grow. The growth of Readers of Jewish websites in SA are a clear indication of where it is buzzing – the Yids will always follow the dollars.
As of today the SA Jewish Report Online has had users visiting from 109 countries, well over half the world. 13 of those countries in the top fifty visitors are from sub-Saharan Africa. That’s 26 percent! Okay, many of their numbers are small and they don’t compare to our six core markets, but take a look how they stack up: #1 is SA, of course. Zimbabwe comes in at #7; Kenya #12; Nigeria #14; Namibia #16; and Botswana at #18 rounds off the African segment of the Top-20.
Then we have Mauritius #26; Zambia #27; Gambia #29; Tanzania #36; Equatorial Guinea #37; Mozambique #39; and Lesotho at #49 rounds off the Top-50 spots.
Now, I’ll grant you that we have a population in Zim and holidaymakers in Mauritius, although the latter are probably using their SA service providers and will therefore be reflected in the SA figures. But Gambia and Equatorial Guinea?
Thank G-d for the Board, Rabbi Silberhaft’s wonderful cross-border efforts are funded by the AJC which is in turn funded by American Jewry.
On the subject of the Board, I can only see the growing disconnect between the Board of Deputies and the Jew-in-the-street growing even wider. The Board have brought as much of the secular Jewish activities (and resources) as possible under their control over recent years.
There is no doubt that the common people do not believe that the SAJBD knows how they feel about issues – but rather elect to think on their behalf. If you don’t believe me, ask 20 people among your peers when they last interacted with, voted for, were asked to opine on anything that the Board does in their name.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe the SAJBD does incredible work for SA Jewry. They have a general strategy to do things quietly and not brag about their many successful exploits. If that is their way, who am I to judge? Of course I am entitled to an opinion – and in this case I think they communicate too little. I was chatting to a friend who is a senior communal leader about just this subject last week. I referred to it as a post-Holocaust mentality. He said he felt that it was more of a pre-Holocaust mentality. Whichever it is, it is there.
Among the scariest issues for me, is the Board’s mission-creep. Their role has nothing to do with Israel. Yet they seem to regularly tread on the toes of the Fed (who seem to be willing to have their toes treaded). If you ask the Fed why this is, their stock answer is that the Board has the resources. That really isn’t good enough – then the Fed might as well become an Israel Desk within the Board.
Last month I was chatting to Clayson Monyela, the spokesman for Department and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and her infamous deputies Marius Fransman and Ebrahim Ebrahim. We h that Clayson told me that appened to be talking because his Minister had expected to meet SA Jewry (about the forthcoming elections, in her capacity as an ANC NEC-member) and he (she) didn’t know what the heck was going on just days before. But I digress – that wasn’t my point.
My point is this: Clayson told me that the Minister meets with the SAJBD four times a year, sometimes more. *WTH! Why would the Foreign Minister meet the SAJBD and not the SAZF and/or the Ambassador? I asked Clayson to verify that I understood correctly and he confirmed it. *WTH?
Firstly, this is what I mean by mission-creep. Secondly, why are we as SA Jewry not notified when these meetings take place? For heavens’ sake – put out a media release, tell us the Board met the Minister and the following issues were discussed. XYZ was resolved and it was agreed to ABC about DEF in the future.
Furthermore, if the community knew such meetings took place, they would have an opportunity to approach the Board and say: “When you next meet, could you possibly raise…”
And so, in the light of this and the community’s concerns about transparency, accountability and electability, I can only predict that the already gaping disconnect between the community and its leadership will widen.
On the religious front, I have two predictions for SA Jewry in the year(s) ahead.
Firstly, I see the community becoming increasingly more observant under the present Orthodox leadership of the Chief Rabbi, Rabbis Goldman and Rose of the Rabbinical Council and the Chabad-Lubavitch leadership. Add to that Dayan Kurtstag and the long-serving stable staff of the Beth Dins and kashrut divisions in Cape Town and Joburg, and the business leadership of the UOS by Darren Sevitz and things are going well.
So well, I believe, that SA is having a net gain in Jewish population – mainly observant immigrants – because it is said to be such an easy country to live an observant lifestyle in. They are pouring in both from the Galut and from Israel itself.
All praise to the Chief Rabbi who has increasingly grown respect of political and Christian Zionist groups (maybe by default as the Board seems to have failed us on this front). Rabbi Goldstein has the ear and the respect of the political elite.
My second prediction on the religious front is that we will see the gap between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy growing wider. This, of course, bucks the world trend – but Orthodox Jewry has done its job so well over generations in SA and has such a predominant position (last research in the early 2000’s put it at 86%) that it does not have to give any ground.
In an interview I did with the then-outgoing Chief Rabbi of the UK Lord Jonathan Sacks late in 2012, he said that Jewry in the UK stood separately on issues of religion – but together on secular matters – and that US Jewry followed very much the same pattern. In SA, we don’t. The Orthodox and Progressive communities don’t talk, don’t act together in Jewish affairs and events, and operate as if they were two distinctly separate peoples. The latest issue in this ever-widening gap was over the memorial services for Madiba. These Jews did this and those Jews did that.
I can only predict, on present performance, that this religious gap will widen.
As a footnote to this point, I find it interesting to see how well Orthodox and Progressive Jewry work together in secular situations.
South African Jewry are growing up and standing up for themselves – even if they sometimes feel their leadership doesn’t seem to be doing so.
This is not an overnight sensation that will go away – it is a trend in which a new generation of Jews are standing up and saying: “I’m a South African Jew. I am proud of it! I may or may not support this-or-that which takes place in the Middle East. But I am an SA Jew. Get used to it, because I am here to stay. And I have the same rights as you do!”
SA Jewry has lost an entire generation of political friends as Madiba and his peers expire. The “born-frees” don’t give a darn who did what in the struggle. And, sadly, their socio-political naïveté leaves many of them unable to distinguish between an SA Jew and an Israeli. Hence our youth are endangered – particularly on campuses.
But they are not taking it lying down. Institutions like BDS and their affiliated cronies StopTheJNF, IAW etc. who have for so long been able to operate so openly, freely, and all-too-often illegally can forget about acting in a blank space any more. No longer will they find there is no fight-back. It has started and it will not stop.
Politically, Jewish South Africans are refusing to support the ANC (which wants our donations more than our few meagre votes) and disheartened with the DA (which doesn’t need our money but does need Muslim votes).
Some in the community may be surprised to hear this, but in the halls of power decisions have been made to support parties that support Israel – namely the ACDP and IFP. Fact. Hush/hush – but true.
Leon Reich of Likud SA is always keen to say that people will only act when they have something to lose. Politically, our votes are useless. But financially, both from within SA and expats, we can call the shots. Much as Professor Adam Habib found and respected at Wits. And much like Dr Badat ignored to his institution’s peril at Rhodes.
Now we have someone like Larissa Klazinga able to muster the power of the Jewish financial muscle. And Professor David Rosenberg who has been offered financial support should he be prejudiced by his attempt to prove Rhodes illegally funded Israel Apartheid Week.
While Habib is no friend of Jews off campus, he is an impeccably impartial administrator once he enters its gates. And he knows that to fulfil his vision for Wits he needs Jewish funders. Is he going to allow illegal support to IAW 2014 and abuse of Jews on campus? No Way!
Badat, on the other hand, is on a short-list to take over as VC at UWC – incidentally the campus with supposedly the largest number of Muslim students in SA. But there is a move by a group of extremely influential individuals at UWC, the third largest Campus in the Western Cape, who are known to not want Dr Badat to be appointed. (In fact, watch the SA Jewish Report for a further exposé on this matter shortly).
So Habib has played the Jewish card very well, and may very well achieve the incredibly lofty goals he has set for himself at Wits (with their assistance), while Badat would seem to have not noticed the growing exercising of power – both through financial and legal channels – of the Jewish community, and might find himself stuck in Grahamstown until he retires.
One thing is certain, the South African Jewish community have found their guts and they are not afraid to use it!
We are blessed to have an Israel
I am proud to be a Jew and stand up and fight for my people and our beloved land of Israel.
We are today blessed with having Israel. I have often wondered about our people walking or being herded to their deaths, knowing they are about to die and not attacking their guards, suicidal as it might have been. We recently saw the same thing with ISIS herding almost naked Iraqis to lie in ditches a la the Nazis, force them to lie down on their stomachs and machine gun them.
I always think of Dylan Thomas’ poem:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
RIGHT: My father, Mike Hersch, during WWII before going north to Egypt and Libya
Let us be strong and determined. Let us be the new Jews, Israeli Jews who stand up and fight, stand up to be counted, stand up to be decent human beings and stand up to really be a light unto the nations, even if at this time those nations are still blind and blinded by their irrational hate born of old and ancient madness, jealousy and misguided religious competition.
I am proud to be a Jew and stand up and fight for my people and our beloved land of Israel.
May it never happen, but I will rush the ramparts and barriers of our enemies. I will apply the intelligence and ability I have been blessed with as the battle is not always physical. I will fight for our right as a people without question or pause.
I saw how my late father always cried during Yizcor on Yom Kippur mourning the murder of his mother and family by the Germans.
LEFT: My paternal grandmother, Flora Rutkowitz
Today it is I who stand there and mourn our people and also shed a tear and I am more determined than ever that we will fight this scourge that repeats itself with every generation and we should and must fight it till it no longer can exist in this world.
I will not go quietly into the night and will rage and rage until my light fades. Life is precious and I will love and preserve our Jewish life and lives.
The king is dead, long live the king!
Could a leadership without a conscience become a threat to SA Jewry?
Could it be that former President Thabo Mbeki was warning us that Madiba was the “conscience” of the ANC and that, with him no longer around, Jacob Zuma and his cohorts can do things that they would never have done were Madiba still alive? Like change the entire playing field?
Since hearing Thabo Mbeki’s incredibly open speech at the Oxford Shul Mandela Memorial service last Sunday, I have become increasingly disturbed as to why Mbeki chose to deliver such an obviously concerned warning, and, more pertinently, why he chose last Sunday to say it.
We have heard precious little from Thabo Mbeki since his unceremonious ‘redeployment’ from the Presidency – and certainly no harsh criticism of his replacements.
Yet there was little doubt that Mbeki was voicing his concerns about the current and future leadership in his hard-hitting speech at Oxford Shul. For a cast-aside leader who has been at pains not to question the ANC since being discarded several years ago – maybe Mbeki feels that he is now the party elder, or maybe he just felt comfortable among the Jewish community he learned from Madiba to be so at ease with.
But a third possible scenario looms – one that could bode mega-tsunami-like tidings for South African society.
Warnings about the current leadership
“What do we do to ensure this noble legacy Nelson Mandela and others left behind not be betrayed?” Mbeki he asked. He made no bones of the fact that he did not have confidence in the current and potential future leadership to live up to this lofty legacy.
Among the many warnings he gave, all of which were clearly targeted at those in power or aspiring to it, Thabo Mbeki dropped his guard and spoke firmly about the importance of:
- Strong, quality leadership – which he believes is sadly lacking
- Ensuring “we do not betray what (Madiba) and others sacrificed for”
- The betrayal of Mandela’s legacy and values, Mbeki urged for greater commitment to ‘principles’ in SA
- He questioned the delay in sharing wealth and eradication of poverty
Reminding his audience that Nelson Mandela had said from the Rivonia Trial dock that he was willing to die for his ideals, Mbeki asked how many of today’s leaders would have that commitment. Most of all, and here’s the scariest part, Mbeki made it clear many times in his speech that he believed that under the present and aspiring leadership, the South African Constitution could be under threat.
That the part that bothers me the most: Why did Mbeki keep returning to the question of our Constitution? Read our story on Mbekei’s speech last week: “DON’T BETRAY MANDELA’S LEGACY” and see how he refers to:
- Honouring South Africa’s constitution
- The country’s Constitution coming under attack from within & outside the ANC
- Hints at changes to the Constitution
- Campaigns to the change the Constitution to facilitate nationalisation & land grabs
So, what if Thabo Mbeki WAS actually warning the nation? What if he was saying the Constitution IS likely to come under fire?
There is little doubt that following the constitutional path must be of considerable concern for Jacob Zuma and many of his cohorts.
Neither is there any doubt that he has surrounding himself with cronies and yes-people while discarding any potential persons of moral fortitude and the strength of character to stand up to (or against) him. If only Zuma had applied his obviously brilliant abilities to nation-building and job-creation, instead of to his personal wealth-building megalomania, our rainbow Nation could be in a very different place right now.
But we have squandered so many years. Zuma can’t be toppled by an internal putsch because he is now all-powerful within the ANC/Communist party alliance. I specifically exclude Cosatu as I am not sure how tightly they are bound.
So now we have a Zuma free of conscience. But by no means free of baggage – and, if just ten percent of the reports are to be believed, he is building up more baggage as every day goes by. As are his family and cohorts.
Zuma is a very astute politician. Certainly way more than his predecessors, Mandela and Mbeki ever were. They were better diplomats, figureheads, set good examples. But Zuma is the consummate politician. Don’t let a few boos or the odd blue or yellow t-shirt or even the red berets of the EFF fool you. Zuma will bring home the trophy in 2014 for the ANC.
But he is unlikely to retain his 264 seats, or 66 percent of the 400-seat parliament. (Although, despite the boos, don’t be surprised if the Prez calls a snap election soon – catching the opposition – old and new alike – unawares and riding on the tide of Madiba’s party).
Okay, let’s say he doesn’t
Even if there’s a normal election in 2014 and the ANC comes in with whatever majority, Zuma is still in a fix. He can’t afford to simply stand down as ANC leader in 2017 and as Prez in 2019 – as the Constitution prescribes – because it could put him in an invidiously vulnerable position with the system. He could have to answer to any number of charges, over eight hundred we know of, dozens more he is publically suspected of and who knows how many others that we know nothing about yet.
Thabo Mbeki is also an astute leader. He may not have Zuma’s wiliness or Madiba’s charm, but he knows how to read a room as well as either of them. His problem has always been how to play to that room.
So, if you ask me, Thabo Mbeki didn’t just happen to make the statements he made. He didn’t just happen to allude to the Constitution so many times. He chose the moment, he chose the room and he chose the message – of that I have no doubt. He smells the danger of an attempted Constitutional change here or there. To allow Zuma to become Prez for life, to hand out land and money and mines to appease the impoverished, to become a one-party state. Whatever…
What was his message meant to say
My only question is: “What is Mbeki’s endgame?”
I have been following, studying and writing on politics for most of my life. And I can only come up with two possible hands that Thabo Mbeke could have been playing last Sunday At Oxford Shul.
On the one hand, Mbeki may have been making it known that he is now the elder statesman. That he will in future be the conscience of the ANC and won’t allow Madiba’s legacy to be spoiled by messing with the constitution.
But if this were his plan, he would have to know it wouldn’t work. The lame old lion commands no respect from the pride. The once all-powerful Mbeki no longer commands any of the respect it would require to be able to muster any force against his old rival, Jacob Zuma. He no longer has the standing with the leadership and neither does he have it with the people of SA – Zuma has buried that.
So that leaves me with only me to the other hand Mbeki could have been playing: Warning us to watch out for ourselves. Telling SA that things are going to change, that the Constitution we so cherish and which is so revered around the world is under threat. And that it is up to us as South Africans to stand up for our Constitutional rights and not let them come unhinged.
And, as Jews (and he wrote his speech for a Jewish audience), maybe the most pertinent statement, the most carefully-considered warning that Mbeki gave to us as he warned about the future, was this:
“We were inspired as young people what (Madiba) and his generation were able to do, to engage in struggle, to end the injustice of apartheid,” he said. “We were inspired by many leaders, we never asked questions about their colour and race.”
‘Palestinian struggle is our struggle’ -minister
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says country to ‘curtail contact’ with Jerusalem ‘regime,’ has been ‘losing sleep’ over new settlements
South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. (Photo credit: US Department of State/Wikimedia Commons)
“The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle” and South Africa has decided to “slow down” and “curtail senior leadership contact” with the Israeli “regime,” South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Friday.
“Our Palestinian friends have never asked us to disengage with Israel [through cutting diplomatic relations]. They had asked us in formal meetings to not engage with the regime,” Nkoana-Mashabane was quoted by South African website News24 as telling a Congress of South African Trade Unions international relations committee meeting on Friday. The Congress of South African Trade Unions supports a boycott of Israeli products and has in the past accused Israel of practicing apartheid.
“Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently. Even the Jewish Board of Deputies that we engage with here, they know why our ministers are not going to Israel,” she added.
Nkoana-Mashabane further said that South Africa has ”agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better.”
“The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle,” she asserted.
South Africa on Friday criticized Israel’s plans, announced on Tuesday, to BUILD AT LEAST 5,000 new settlement units including some beyond the security barrier, according to reports.
“That arrangement there in Palestine keeps us awake,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
“The last time I looked at the map of Palestine, I could not go to sleep. It is just dots, smaller than those of the homelands, and that broke my heart,”” she said, referring to the bantustans that existed in South Africa during the apartheid era.
The meeting was also addressed by a group campaigning for the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
According to AFP, the campaign began on “October 25 at Robben Island, the former prison where anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years in jail.”
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu threw his support behind the campaign, calling for the “release of imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi and other Palestinian political prisoners,” according to News24.
“I am proud to associate myself with the global campaign for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and other Palestinian political prisoners,” Tutu said in a statement quoted by the website.
South Africa has been a harsh critic of Israel, with prominent figures often drawing parallels between between the country’s apartheid era and Israel today, slamming Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, and voicing support for cultural, economic and educational boycotts of Israel.
In June, the former South African ambassador to Israel accused the Jewish state of PRACTICING APARTHEID and indicated that it is built on “stolen” land.
“I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid!” Ismail Coovadia proclaimed in a letter to a group of pro-Palestinian filmmakers.
The statement drew a harsh reaction from Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem, who said Coovadia was not acting like a diplomat and castigated his “uncouth” rhetoric. He served as ambassador until December 2012.
In 2010, during the Mavi Marmara incident when Israeli forces raided a Turkish boat seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, leading to the deaths of nine Turkish citizens, South Africa temporarily recalled its ambassador and summed the Israeli ambassador for talks.
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