The blood, sweat, and cheers that went into Achievers
The extravaganza that graced our screens on Sunday night in the form of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2020 was a labour of love by Mann Made Productions, who took on the project to support the community in the way they knew best.
“Working for [SA Jewish Report chairperson] Howard [Sackstein] is excruciatingly difficult – he’s incredibly demanding, and there’s never any money!” quips Shayne Mann, the co-founder and chief executive of Mann Made, an award-winning, experiential brand agency for top local and global companies.
“So, when he approached us to take on the project, we were hesitant and held off making the decision for a number of weeks. We eventually had a discussion and realised that if there was ever a time to get behind the community, it was now. We decided to go all in. We spent three or four times the budget we were given – all our own money. We benefited from branding to the huge audience, but this wasn’t a commercial venture in the slightest.”
The team started the process only seven or eight weeks ago. “Howard knew what he wanted, and briefed us clearly that this mustn’t be corporate, but get to the heart of emotions. We had to find the right director to do that. Then, we needed to work out a way to stage it, and we had a whole technological element. Howard wanted to work on Zoom which is the medium his audience knows well, but that was complicated.”
The team then had to take on the mammoth task of conducting 124 interviews all over the world in six weeks. “People were remarkable. We had to schedule, organise, record, get the lighting right and so on. We were talking to amazing people, so we were motivated to push hard. We are in awe of what these achievers do.”
Then there was the entertainment side, which meant working closely with artists in different cities as well as in their own studio. “The entertainment was just beautiful, and it was great to work with so many talented and creative artists,” says Mann.
“With two and a half weeks left, Howard still hadn’t seen anything, so we had to double down. We hired another three editors and a content producer to work with more than 200 hours of footage. We had a full-time staff of seven editors, one content producer, a tech director, a show producer, camera men, and the team in the studio.” Towards the end, “we had an overnight team working till 03:30, and then coming back at 06:00. Even three nights before, Howard was approving content at 01:00.”
He says their biggest achievement is “how it all came together and we pulled it off. People around the world are saying this is a new benchmark for online events”.
Under the pandemic, Mann’s production company quickly had to pivot in a new direction. With 40 events cancelled, it fast became adept at online productions. Its Singularity University, which usually has people attend from 44 countries, was turned into an online event with 1 900 tickets sold.
It has since worked with a number of institutions, from the United Nations to major banks, and Mann is optimistic about what the online events space can offer. “It’s very exciting – you can do so much more,” he says.
“The South African Jewish community is completely unique,” Mann says. “You feel such a sense of camaraderie – that we’re all in this together. It’s a privilege to do our small bit to enhance that.”
Nominate achievers who bring us hope
Remember when you were raving about the incredible work someone in the community had done? Well, if you haven’t done so already, now is the time to nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. You don’t have much time…
Last year, the focus was on what winners did over and beyond COVID-19 and through the toughest part of the pandemic.
This year, it’s all about hope, as we see the end of the pandemic in sight, death rates are dropping, people are vaccinated, and we are looking towards a brighter future. Who is enabling this? Who are the people who have brought us hope? Who’s bringing us hope right now, and will continue to inspire us in the future? Who are our winners?
“We are looking for those people who brought us hope in professional excellence and business leadership during these tough times,” says Howard Sackstein, the chairperson of the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards and the board of the SA Jewish Report.
“Nominate those who showed true leadership and went way beyond the call of duty when there was looting and rioting in the country as well as a spike in the pandemic numbers.”
Sackstein admits that the judges’ decisions will be tough this year as many heroes have risen to the challenges of community and country. “It’s essential to create a record of these times, and those who have stood out when life was at its most challenging,” he says.
Professor Barry Schoub last year won the Kia Community Service Award for his awesome contribution to the Jewish community through COVID-19. The emeritus professor in virology at the University of the Witwatersrand and the former director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases came out of retirement to help the community, going on to become chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines. Since his award, he has led South Africa through the process of acquiring vaccines and getting vaccinated.
Dr Mervyn Mer, who won the award for professional excellence in the time of COVID, has gone on to save many more lives from this dreaded coronavirus. He also almost singlehandedly reopened the COVID-19 ward at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital after the medical facility was closed following a fire. As the numbers of people getting desperately ill due to COVID-19 rose during the third wave, he did what he believed he needed to do to save lives.
Our other winners, Johnny Broomberg, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Liran Assness, Michael Katz, Wendy Fisher, Jody Scheckter, and Sir Sydney Kentridge have gone from strength to strength since then.
You have until the close of business on 3 September to make your nominations. Don’t wait, do it now. Go to https://www.sajr.co.za/absa-jewish-achiever-awards-2021/
Nominations are now open for Absa Jewish Achiever Awards 2021
ABSA BUSINESS ICON AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved iconic status within the business community.
ABSA BUSINESS LEADERSHIP AWARD – FROM COVID TO HOPE
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has played a critical leadership role in business during this period.
ABSA PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE – FROM COVID TO HOPE
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has achieved national recognition and acclaim in their profession during this period.
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has a proven track record in entrepreneurial ventures.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has served the Jewish community with remarkable distinction.
EUROPCAR WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP AWARD
- Honouring the leadership, success and overall contributions of distinctive Jewish women in business or in the broader South African community.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
in honour of Helen Suzman
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has contributed in an extraordinary manner over a long period of time.
ARTS, SPORTS, SCIENCE AND CULTURE AWARD
- Awarded to a Jewish person who has excelled in any of these spheres.
In honour of Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris
- Awarded to a Jewish or non-Jewish person who has contributed substantially to the betterment of the lives of the people of South Africa.
Nominations close at 17:00 on 3 September 2021
Build hope by reaching out and nominating
As the sun rises through the darkness of the pandemic and looting in South Africa, we begin to renew our hope for the future, and with that, we start our search to celebrate our Absa Jewish Achievers in 2021. Nominations are now open.
This year, we will celebrate on 7 November with great ‘hope’, the theme of this year’s event that so perfectly fits our growing sentiments.
The past 18 months have been so incredibly tough on our community, our country, and our world. What with more than 200 Jewish people dying from the COVID-19 pandemic in Johannesburg alone, we have really felt the coronavirus to our core.
We haven’t been able to be at loved one’s funerals, and have sat shiva alone. We have isolated from our loved ones to protect them. We have put much of our lives on hold because of this illness. Many have lost businesses and livelihoods.
But the end of this pandemic is in sight. We have “hope” again. As we vaccinate en masse, we move towards a new tomorrow.
We survived the wholesale looting and violence of the past month, and people have gone to great lengths to help each other make it through.
As a community, we work best together. We support each other, making us stronger and more resilient.
The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is all about our community putting heads together and coming up with those unique individuals who stand head and shoulders above others.
We will pull out all the stops to celebrate our 2021 achievers on 7 November. Once again, we’ll keep it online to avoid any potential COVID-19 risks. But in so doing, we’ll bring your international fantasies to life with our annual revelry. And in so doing, we will enable far more people to participate than can fit in a large hall. Last year, we took our numbers from 1 000 to 60 000 viewers.
It’s time to look around and find those unique individuals, those gems within our community who have performed in their own areas like no other. You know who they are, and they will be given the kavod only if you nominate them for the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. It’s up to you.
“The Absa Jewish Achiever Awards is so important as it allows us as a community to take stock and celebrate our disproportionate contribution to the people of South Africa,” says Howard Sackstein, Absa Jewish Achiever chairperson.
“It allows us to create role models for everyone to emulate as we celebrate the extraordinary. In so doing, we encourage others to find greatness in their own fields.”
Though we will once again be looking for lifetime achievers this year, a humanitarian champion, and those who have gone way beyond the call of duty for the community, we are also focusing on those who have excelled in the past year.
We want to find those outstanding individuals who have distinguished themselves over this past year with its unique challenges.
We are looking for nominees in the following: women in leadership; business award; entrepreneurship; business icon; professional excellence community award winner; a lifetime achiever; a winner in sport, science and culture; and a humanitarian award winner (who doesn’t have to be Jewish).
It’s up to you to nominate these people. Without your nominations, they won’t get the acknowledgement they deserve. Although there are judges involved, we need your nominations and online participation in the public vote.
This is a communal event, focusing on our magnificent community, to find the individuals that will become icons for the rest of us. “As you all know, we work best as a community, and in this, we encourage each other to take pride in the achievements of others,” says Sackstein.
Nominations are open from today, until 17:00 on 3 September.