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SA belongs to all who lives in it, black and white…’

Last Friday – June 26 – marked the 60th anniversary of the famous Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto, where delegates from around the country adopted the Freedom Charter as the basis for a future democratic, non-racial South Africa.

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Lifestyle/Community

DAVID SAKS

On the preceding Tuesday evening, at the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies held a special commemorative function to celebrate this milestone event, which SAJBD President Zev Krengel described as the bedrock of the new, democratic South Africa.

Speakers included former President Kgalema Motlanthe and veteran anti-apartheid activist Leon Levy who, on behalf of the trade unions, had been one of the five original signatories to the Charter. Among the dignitaries present was Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau, who gave a warm introductory message, and Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk.

Levy described his involvement in the countrywide process of consultation that preceded the drafting of the Charter, and his memories of the Kliptown gathering itself, which carried on its business despite banning orders, arrests and massive police harassment and intimidation on the day itself. 

The Freedom Charter, he said, was “crafted from thousands of demands written on scraps of paper at hundreds of meetings held in factories and farms, townships, rural areas, universities and wherever people lived or worked”.

After its adoption, the Charter was at the centre of the four year-long Treason Trial. Levy himself was one of those put on trial, and eventually acquitted.

“I can bear witness to the incredible legal effort to brand the Charter as subversive. It was not, and in its own right it endures as a democratic beacon which proudly belongs to all of us,” he said.

Motlanthe said that one of the most significant ways in which the Freedom Charter differed from other historic documents heralding a new era in human affairs, such as the Magna Carta, was that it came about as “an inclusively shared vision” involving all the people and not just the social and intellectual elite.

“South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”, was the famous opening statement which Molanthe said showed how, in adopting this inclusive approach, the ANC was in many ways “evolving in opposite ways to the popular sea of Africanist consciousness engulfing the African continent”.

In choosing this course, the ANC was transcending narrowly-focused racial claims in favour of a progressive and humanist nationalism that embraced the entire population. This inclusive form of nationalism, he said, was “the highest form of social cohesion, where what unites us is much stronger than what divides us”.

Motlanthe took the opportunity to congratulate members of the Jewish community who had “sacrificed so much for the liberation of South Africa”, including making a sterling contribution to the Freedom Charter itself.

“It goes without saying that all those Jewish souls were men and women who had learnt from history. Motivated by the long history of anti-Semitism, their consciousness would not hear of human oppression in any way, shape or form,” he said.

Tau said he had been engaging extensively with the Jewish communal leadership in recent weeks on ways in which his office and the Jewish community could work together in realising the core aims of the Freedom Charter, particularly in promoting socio-economic equality.

Zev Krengel gave the welcoming address and closing remarks.

 

 

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Lifestyle/Community

Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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Lifestyle/Community

UJW Sewing School graduates model creations

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The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.

They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.

UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.

The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.

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Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke

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The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.

Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.

The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.

“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.

Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.

Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.

“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).

Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”

Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.

“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”

Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.

“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.

The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”

Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.

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