SA Organisations

The year 2015 in review

  • Jeff
This being the final Above Board column for 2015, it is a good time to reflect on the last year. Naturally, there were low points, most notably the unexpected visit of a Hamas delegation and the warm reception it received from the ANC.
by JEFF KATZ | Dec 09, 2015

On the other hand, we were able at the same time to strengthen our existing relationships with government as well as to create new ones at all levels. This culminated in our national conference, where we received the assurance from President Jacob Zuma and other members of his government that we continue to be valued as strong partners in building our country.   

On the Middle East front, notwithstanding the continuing wave of lone wolf terror attacks on Israelis, 2015 was a relatively quiet year for Israel militarily.

As a result, we saw a sharp drop in local anti-Semitic activity, with a little over f50 incidents recorded as opposed to more than three times that number during the previous year.

Working with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Board lodged various complaints of hate speech, as well as laying criminal charges with the police and instituting civil proceedings in the Equality Court. Some of the former cases have been resolved, with retractions and apologies being received and accepted, with the remaining cases still pending.

Bringing perpetrators of anti-Semitism to justice is unavoidably a slow and complex process, but we remain committed to following each and every one through to a satisfactory conclusion, no matter how long it takes.

The Board evaluates each incident on its merits and is careful not to overreact, but when it comes to gross acts of anti-Semitism - verbal or otherwise - we will continue to send out a firm and clear message that such behaviour comes with consequences. 

The Board looks to lead the community in being an identifying, participating component of the broader society. In this regard, two initiatives in particular stand out. One was our very uplifting 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter function on June 23, in which we were honoured to have as speakers former President Kgalema Motlanthe, anti-apartheid veteran Leon Levy and Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau.

The other was our participation, in partnership with Chabad, in the Heritage Day carnival in Pretoria. Our float was an ark containing a library stocked with books donated by Jewish school learners, and this was formally presented to a local school in need of such a facility.

On a more sombre note, the Board in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal was again called upon to co-ordinate the Jewish community’s relief efforts on behalf of xenophobia victims.

Like any other Diaspora community, South African Jewry faces its own unique challenges, yet it continues to be a strong, united and Jewishly vibrant.

On the Yom Kippur of 1841, Jews in Cape Town came together for this country’s first Jewish religious services. Next year, we will be celebrating the 175th anniversary of this event, which marked the formal birth of SA Jewry as an organised communal entity.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a very safe and restful end-of-year break and everything of the best for 2016.



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