Predictions for Jewish SA 2014 & beyond
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!