Professor Barry Schoub: protector in chief
“His life’s work has been saving lives.” With these words, Mary Kluk, the national president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), summed up the personality that is Professor Barry Schoub, this year’s recipient of the Kia Community Service Award.
The retired expert on vaccinology and virology was among those recognised for his heroic contribution at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards ceremony held virtually this past Sunday.
Schoub is chairperson of South Africa’s ministerial advisory committee on coronavirus vaccines, one of the many ways he has dedicated his life to improving the lives of others.
“I thought Professor Schoub was retired,” Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, said in a video tribute outlining Schoub’s work. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Indeed, this emeritus professor in virology at the University of the Witwatersrand and former director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, stepped up to ensure that the community was as well-equipped as possible to traverse the unchartered and choppy coronavirus waters.
“Having the responsibility of working with our shuls, rabbis, and chairpersons to be able to devise a plan of when to close our shuls, Professor Schoub was there every step of the way,” said Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein.
“To have a person with the national and international expertise of Professor Schoub was crucial in getting through this crisis.”
Zev Krengel, the vice-chairperson of the SAJBD, said Schoub heeded the call of a community that desperately needed him in its moment of crisis.
“I said to him, ‘Prof, this is your Queen Ester call. Your community needs you. We need you. You are the one who is going to save us’,” he said.
“In this pandemic, our doctors became our protectors. Professor Schoub was basically our general in understanding this enemy.”
Kluk said that if she had been in admiration of Schoub prior to COVID-19, she was now in awe of his incredible wisdom and empathy.
“COVID-19 has highlighted his capacity in the world of virology and medicine,” she said. “I’m so proud that we have a person of this calibre who is so deeply committed to our community.”
Schoub thanked the committee of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards and the SA Jewish Report for honouring him. He paid tribute to his wife, Barbara, as well as his children and the rest of his family.
“We are a small family, but I can say with firm conviction that size doesn’t count,” he said.
“I’m deeply honoured, humbled, and gratified to receive this award, dedicated to recognising service to the Jewish community. I’m greatly humbled to accept it. For me, it has been a great honour and an enormous privilege to be able to give something back to this wonderful and very special community during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Schoub believes that there many others in our community who are at least equally – if not more – deserving of recognition for what they have done for the community.
“Many exceptional members of our community have played their indispensable part, providing the statistical and epidemiological data for planning, devising the safety protocols for shuls, functions, and schools,” he said.
“The GPs of our community face what I believe to be the most difficult and demanding task of our profession. The specialist frontline healthcare workers, the pulmonologists, the ICU [intensive-care unit] nursing personnel and others, along with the crown jewel of our community, Hatzolah, have shone so brightly during the COVID-19 challenge.”
“I feel privileged to belong to this very special South African Jewish community. Sometimes, it may take a crisis or a challenge for us to take a step back and reflect on how blessed we are,” he said.
“From the Chevrah Kadisha to the Beth Din and the SA Jewish Report, we are undoubtedly and unequivocally the leaders of the world, Jewish and non-Jewish.”
Nominate achievers who bring us hope
Remember when you were raving about the incredible work someone in the community had done? Well, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. You don’t have much time…
Last year, the focus was on what winners did over and beyond COVID-19 and through the toughest part of the pandemic.
This year, it’s all about hope, as we see the end of the pandemic in sight, death rates are dropping, people are vaccinated, and we are looking towards a brighter future. Who is enabling this? Who are the people who have brought us hope? Who’s bringing us hope right now, and will continue to inspire us in the future? Who are our winners?
“We are looking for those people who brought us hope in professional excellence and business leadership during these tough times,” says Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards and the board of the SA Jewish Report.
“Nominate those who showed true leadership and went way beyond the call of duty when there was looting and rioting in the country as well as a spike in the pandemic numbers.”
Sackstein admits that the judges’ decisions will be tough this year as many heroes have risen to the challenges of community and country. “It’s essential to create a record of these times, and those who have stood out when life was at its most challenging,” he says.
Professor Barry Schoub last year won the Kia Community Service Award for his awesome contribution to the Jewish community through COVID-19. The emeritus professor in virology at the University of the Witwatersrand and the former director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases came out of retirement to help the community, going on to become chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. Since his award, he has led South Africa through the process of acquiring vaccines and getting vaccinated.
Dr Mervyn Mer, who won the award for professional excellence in the time of COVID, has gone on to save many more lives from this dreaded coronavirus. He also almost singlehandedly reopened the COVID-19 ward at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital after the medical facility was closed following a fire. As the numbers of people getting desperately ill due to COVID-19 rose during the third wave, he did what he believed he needed to do to save lives.
Our other winners, Johnny Broomberg, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Liran Assness, Michael Katz, Wendy Fisher, Jody Scheckter, and Sir Sydney Kentridge have gone from strength to strength since then.
You have until the close of business on 3 September to make your nominations. Don’t wait, do it now. Go to https://www.sajr.co.za/absa-jewish-achiever-awards-2021/
Nominations are now open for Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2021
ABSA BUSINESS ICON AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved iconic status within the business community.
ABSA BUSINESS LEADERSHIP AWARD – FROM COVID TO HOPE
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has played a critical leadership role in business during this period.
ABSA PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE – FROM COVID TO HOPE
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved national recognition and acclaim in their profession during this period.
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has a proven track record in entrepreneurial ventures.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has served the Jewish community with remarkable distinction.
EUROPCAR WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AWARD
- Honouring the leadership, success and overall contributions of distinctive Jewish women in business or in the broader South African community.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
in honour of Helen Suzman
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has contributed in an extraordinary manner over a long period of time.
ARTS, SPORTS, SCIENCE AND CULTURE AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has excelled in any of these spheres.
In honour of Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris
- Awarded to a Jewish or non-Jewish person who has contributed substantially to the betterment of the lives of the people of South Africa.
Nominations close at 17:00 on 3 September 2021
Build hope by reaching out and nominating
As the sun rises through the darkness of the pandemic and looting in South Africa, we begin to renew our hope for the future, and with that, we start our search to celebrate our Absa Jewish Achievers in 2021. Nominations are now open.
This year, we will celebrate on 7 November with great ‘hope’, the theme of this year’s event that so perfectly fits our growing sentiments.
The past 18 months have been so incredibly tough on our community, our country, and our world. What with more than 200 Jewish people dying from the COVID-19 pandemic in Johannesburg alone, we have really felt the coronavirus to our core.
We haven’t been able to be at loved one’s funerals, and have sat shiva alone. We have isolated from our loved ones to protect them. We have put much of our lives on hold because of this illness. Many have lost businesses and livelihoods.
But the end of this pandemic is in sight. We have “hope” again. As we vaccinate en masse, we move towards a new tomorrow.
We survived the wholesale looting and violence of the past month, and people have gone to great lengths to help each other make it through.
As a community, we work best together. We support each other, making us stronger and more resilient.
The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is all about our community putting heads together and coming up with those unique individuals who stand head and shoulders above others.
We will pull out all the stops to celebrate our 2021 achievers on 7 November. Once again, we’ll keep it online to avoid any potential COVID-19 risks. But in so doing, we’ll bring your international fantasies to life with our annual revelry. And in so doing, we will enable far more people to participate than can fit in a large hall. Last year, we took our numbers from 1 000 to 60 000 viewers.
It’s time to look around and find those unique individuals, those gems within our community who have performed in their own areas like no other. You know who they are, and they will be given the kavod only if you nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. It’s up to you.
“The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is so important as it allows us as a community to take stock and celebrate our disproportionate contribution to the people of South Africa,” says Howard Sackstein, Absa Jewish Achiever chairperson.
“It allows us to create role models for everyone to emulate as we celebrate the extraordinary. In so doing, we encourage others to find greatness in their own fields.”
Though we will once again be looking for lifetime achievers this year, a humanitarian champion, and those who have gone way beyond the call of duty for the community, we are also focusing on those who have excelled in the past year.
We want to find those outstanding individuals who have distinguished themselves over this past year with its unique challenges.
We are looking for nominees in the following: women in leadership; business award; entrepreneurship; business icon; professional excellence community award winner; a lifetime achiever; a winner in sport, science and culture; and a humanitarian award winner (who doesn’t have to be Jewish).
It’s up to you to nominate these people. Without your nominations, they won’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Although there are judges involved, we need your nominations and online participation in the public vote.
This is a communal event, focusing on our magnificent community, to find the individuals that will become icons for the rest of us. “As you all know, we work best as a community, and in this, we encourage each other to take pride in the achievements of others,” says Sackstein.
Nominations are open from today, until 17:00 on 3 September.