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Big turnout for Mitzvah School Prize-giving

Mitzvah School once again excells - resd story & see pics from their 27th Annual prize-giving at Bet David reently
by H Brown & M Rose-Hicklin | Nov 13, 2013

By Hayley Brown (SAUPJ) & Madeleine Rose-Hicklin (Bet David)

The Mitzvah School recently held its 27th Annual prize-giving function that took place at Bet David in Morningside. It was a wonderful opportunity to join in the celebrations of the myriad of achievements of the Mitzvah School’s 2013 matric learners.

There was a wonderful turnout from all the learners’ families, as well as members of the Bet David Kehillah and congregation. Everyone was thrilled to have Israeli Ambassador, The Honourable Arthur Lenk, and Wendy Kahn of the Jewish Board of Deputies, Steven Lurie Chairman of the SAUPJ with them as they honoured the hard work of the Class of 2013.   
Despite the inclement weather, the afternoon kicked off with a spirited rendition of Sanbonani by Mitzvah School singers and dancers. A moving welcome address by Mahlatse Sakuneka was a wake-up call to many of the audience as she spoke about the need and desire to break the shackles of poverty that encircled many of the learners. Mahlatse emphasised the need to “Seize The Day” and take advantage of the wonderful educational opportunity that was presented by the Mitzvah School to those learners chosen to be part of the programme. “Remember,” she said, “through equal education and hard work, no one has to inherit poverty. It may be the situation you find yourself in at the moment – but it is something you can work your way out of.”


LEFT: Pauline;
Nompilo; and

Molly Smith, co-founder of the Mitzvah School, read a heartfelt message from Bet David’s Rabbi Robert Jacobs who was unable to attend the function as he was officiating at a wedding. The large turnout was then treated to some exceptional gumboot dancing from the talented students.

Several presentations from learners followed, including an outstanding acapella rendition of Joy In My Heart by Mpho Marima and friends. The clarity of the voices, the richness of the song and the emotion expressed by the trio ensured that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!9e-SAUPJ4
It offers an inspiring and nurturing environment that has come to mean a tremendous amount to the learners and the educators. This was evidenced in Tabang Mphekwae’s dedication to the teachers at Mitzvah School and the poem Ode To Being Literate In Maths.

Tradition and honour are traits of both African and Jewish culture and African Children – presented by Gugu Keswa, Itumaleng Madibana, Mpho Marima, Nyeko Shirindzi, Olana Vusani, Thlabologo Toka and Tshipiso Mokanyane – was a passionate oration of the importance and values the Mitzvah School learners place on the input of their mothers. The audience cheered, clapped and whistled in appreciation.

Obekeng Maleka related how he discovered that he had poor eyesight and needed glasses only when he came to Mitzvah School. He had lived his entire school life believing that the difficulties he had seeing the blackboard was what every child experienced. Thanks to the generosity of Jean Weinstein and Specsavers, all the learners received eye tests, and many also got glasses.

For many, one of the most inspiring aspects of the day was the address by the guest speaker, Julius Mojapelo. Julius is a qualified chartered accountant, and an external audit technical and training manager at Nkonki Inc, who related how -  in his youth - he was so poor that at lunch time he ‘and a group of other poor children crowded around a tree’ and watched the other children eat their lunch. “It was quite a thing,” he said. “They chewed – and we swallowed, just to give the impression that we had eaten something.”

Julius lived in a shack with no insulation, electricity or running water. His mother was a domestic worker and his father was largely absent from his life - but he never allowed that to determine his future. He related how, despite being constantly hungry, walking for 50 minutes to and from school every day, having no electricity or text books in his matric year, he managed to graduate with four distinctions. “The school library had two copies of the Business Economics text book.

“Students could borrow the book for up to 14 days at a time. Every 13th day I went and put my name down to borrow the book for the next two weeks. By July, I knew the entire book off by heart – just in case I couldn’t get the book for a two-week period.” In the prelim exams he got 298 out of 300 for his Business Economics exam – “and I still questioned the teacher as to where the other two marks had gone. She didn’t know because she couldn’t answer the questions either,” Julius said.

LEFT: Sabelo Mbonjwa and his proud mother. Sabelo received a bursary of R40 000.00 – made up of R20 000.00 from the Yeladim Trust and a Trust fund contributed to by an anonymous donor

He went on to get 100% in his matric final exam for Business Economics. Julius is a perfect example of how determination, commitment and courage can break the shackles of poverty and allow us to become masters of our own destiny.

The awarding of certificates followed – and the students demonstrated their appreciation of their own individual achievements as well as those of their fellow students and learners. The star of the show was undoubtedly Brilliant Moyo who not only walked away with a number of individual certificates and a full bursary from ZenProp. This Dux Scholar received a full university scholarship for a degree in a field of his choice and also included a R2,000 per month living allowance. Sabelo Mbonjwa received a bursary of R40,000 – made up of R20,000 from the Yeladim Trust and a Trust fund contributed to by an anonymous donor. Kamagelo Mphanga received a R20,000 bursary from Boston City Campus for 2014, while Mahlatse Sakuneka received the Sybil Abro Ubuntu Prize.

The afternoon culminated in the singing of the South African National Anthem and Heveinu Shalom Aleichem, followed by a tea in the Bet David Rondavel sponsored by Kehillah.

Kol Hakavod to principal Lesley Rosenberg, vice-principal, Cheryl Crossman and the wonderful team of educators who give so much more than time to the learners of the Mitzvah School. What an incredible and emotional afternoon that honoured and celebrated the wonders of education, commitment and drive.

Best of luck to all the Mitzvah School educators and learners for the final exams!

1 Comment

  1. 1 Glen Maskell 17 Jun
    I am trying to contact Jean Weinstein, whom I knew in Port Elizabeth as a young girl. Please could you help me with an email address?


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