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Voices

Touching base in Israel

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Shortly before Shavuot, a joint South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD)-South African Zionist Federation delegation went on a six-day visit to Israel. Zev Krengel, David Kuming, Ruby Ichikowitz, Wendy Kahn (SAZF), and I attended from the SAJBD while the SAZF was represented by its chairperson, Rowan Polovin. This being the first time in more than two years that our leadership was able to travel to Israel, the focus of the trip was on reconnecting with the government and other key figures in the administrative and communal spheres. It was an important opportunity for us to brief our Israeli partners about what has been happening in South Africa, and in turn to be updated on current issues and developments pertaining to Israel and global Jewry.

One of the highlights of the visit was meeting President Bougie Herzog, a good friend of our community of many years standing, at Bet Hanasi. Other political engagements included meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, and MKs Ruth Wasserman Lande, Tzachi Hanegbi, and Nir Barkat. Outside of the political sphere, we also met the chief executives of ELAL, the Jewish Agency, and Innovation Africa, a non-profit organisation that brings Israeli solar, agricultural, and water technology to African villages.

It was a special privilege for us to be hosted by Holocaust survivor Rena Quint at her home. Nine years ago, we brought Rena out to be the keynote speaker for Yom Hashoah in Johannesburg and Durban, and she spoke warmly about her experiences with our community during that time. As recounted in last week’s column, we also partnered with Telfed in holding a successful launch of our book, Mensches in the Trenches.

After the lengthy isolation we had to endure during COVID-19, it was an uplifting experience for all of us to be back in the Jewish State and have personal contact once again with our supporters and colleagues. With the lockdown era now hopefully behind us, we look forward to maintaining and building on these ties as in previous years.

University exams

On a year-to-year basis, the SAJBD is called upon to help address problems of university exams being set on Shabbat or yom tov. In recent weeks, we have been engaging extensively with the University of Johannesburg on behalf of students whose exams were set on Shavuot. Happily, it was possible in the end to reach an accommodation that wouldn’t prejudice the students in any way. We continue to work with the University of South Africa over other scheduling clashes that have been brought to our attention. The SAJBD will always exert itself to the utmost to assist religiously observant Jewish students and has an excellent track record of resolving such difficulties by working with the academic institutions concerned. To represent our students effectively, however, we need to be informed of any problems as timeously as possible. We therefore urge those with scheduling clashes who haven’t yet informed the Board to do so as soon as possible by writing to sajbd@sajbd.org.

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

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