Small, isolated Jewish communities, strong in a united stand
There was a special Friday night service in the Marais Road Synagogue, where delegates were addressed by Rabbi Dovid Wineberg, spiritual leader of the congregation.
The AJC is under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress and all the countries represented are members of the African Union.
Keynote speaker Rabbi Gidon Fox, president of the SA Rabbinical Association and spiritual leader of the Pretoria Hebrew Congregation, highlighted the challenges of preserving Jewish identity.
“Even small communities have an impact, influence and responsibility on maintaining their Jewish identity and improving ties between Israel and the African countries.” Our long and often painful history and dispersion all over the world showed that the will to survive as Jews was paramount.
“The Jewish people can never extricate themselves from their intimate relationship with Torah,” he said, adding that “maintaining a strong Jewish people and support of Israel” would ensure continuity.
On the eve of leading a party of 22 church leaders to Israel, Chris Eden , chairman of Bridges for Peace, explained the aims and work of this Christian Zionist organisation in South Africa. They connected well with the delegates from the other states.
A comprehensive illustrated presentation on the history and current political position was given by Ronnie Gotkin of the Herzlia United Schools and the Florence Melton Institute of the Hebrew University.
Messages were sent by Israeli ambassadors to South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mauritius, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia.
Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO of the AJC, led workshops covering the current cultural and charitable work undertaken in each country
Mary Kluk, a vice-president of the WJC, chaired a discussion on the future of African Jewish life, focusing on the challenges, hopes and plans of all these small isolated communities.
President of the AJC, Ann Harris, said: “The conference proved to us that even small communities living isolated from mainstream Jewish life are not prepared to abandon their Jewish identity. This opportunity to spend time with colleagues from all over Africa inspired them to renew and strengthen their efforts.”