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Season of peace and friendship

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In Jewish tradition, Sukkot represents moving from a time of judgement and solemn introspection to one of celebration and togetherness. It’s also a time when Jews broaden their focus to encompass all the nations of the world and their relationship with and duties towards them. It was therefore especially appropriate that during this Chol HaMoed week, the Gauteng, Cape Town, and Pretoria branches of the Board all hosted Sukkot-themed events aimed at sharing the message and spirit of the festival with the wider community.

Two such events were held in Johannesburg. On Monday, 2 October, we had the pleasure of hosting Johannesburg City Council Speaker Colleen Makhubele and her team for lunch in the Great Park Synagogue sukkah. It included a short tour of the shul complex given by its long-serving spiritual leader, Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, who also sits on the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Gauteng Council. Hazdan explained the meaning behind the various customs and practices behind Sukkot, stressing the importance of it being a time of rejoicing in bringing people together in a spirit of unity and friendship. The Board has forged a close working relationship with Makhubele in the course of this year, in which we have participated together in a number of disaster-relief projects in the inner city, including the Albert Street fire and Bree Street gas explosion. We received a warm message from her afterwards expressing her appreciation over having partners like us to help shoulder the challenges the city faces.

The Great Park event was followed two days later by an interfaith breakfast in the Pine Street Shul sukkah, where Rabbi Motti and Rebbetzin Temmi Hadar explained the symbolism of the holiday. The event was jointly organised by the SAJBD through Communications Head Charisse Zeifert and SABC Religion. Pine Street Shul is adjacent to Satyagraha House, now both a museum and guest house. Mahatma Gandhi lived and worked there from 1908 to 1909, sharing the home with his close friend and ally, Herman Kallenbach, a distinguished member of the Jewish community who owned the property. The breakfast in the shul sukkah was followed by a guided tour of the premises.

Meanwhile, in Cape Town, our Cape Council hosted its annual Sukkat Shalom dinner at the Gardens Synagogue, the mother congregation of South African Jewry. Those attending included the United States and Spanish consul generals; the president of the Greek community; the supreme leader of the Goringhaiqua Goringhaicona Kingdom; Congolese civil society; and the media. For its own part, the SAJBD Pretoria Council hosted a representative of the Canadian high commission at its annual sukkah supper.

I wish our community everything of the best over the remaining days of Sukkot and the concluding Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah festivals over the weekend. Even more importantly, I hope the positivity, joy, and togetherness of this time will be carried forward in the weeks and months that lie ahead, helping us to negotiate the tests and challenges of those times in a spirit of renewed energy and optimism.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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