Upholding communal responsibility
PETA KROST MAUNDER
I am amazed at just how many Jewish people give of their time, expertise, passion and sometimes even their own money, to help others.
And some go on to take up communal leadership roles, which comes with the stresses and strains of responsibility, governance and ensuring everything is done by the book. Taking on the-buck-stops-here roles in communal organisations, is never easy because you take the hiding if something goes wrong and they so easily do, even if it is not of your doing.
Four years ago, Raymond Goss took on the role of treasurer for the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Two years later, Jeff Katz stepped up to the plate as chairperson. They had both been involved for many years, but it was now their time to hold office in an organisation that, through the years, we have all looked up to for communal leadership.
This organisation represents us to the wider society, promoting our safety and welfare, representing us politically and creating bridges of understanding between us and the broader population. When the community is under threat, the SAJBD are the people we turn to for help, guidance and assistance.
During their time in these positions, they stumbled onto a few discrepancies that didn’t sit comfortably with them.
Now, you must understand, the issues they found were never issues of people enriching themselves through communal funds, nor were they problems that went against the community’s interests. In every instance, what happened was always with the community’s interests at the core. In no way did this involve corruption.
It was more about a lack of clear governance and structure in the organisation and sometimes money that was meant for one thing was used for another – but always for the community. This never harmed anyone.
Katz and Goss, however, were unhappy with the lack of governance and not knowing who was meant to be in charge of what.
So, they pushed for an inquiry led by a highly respected retired judge. Judge Meyer Joffe – yes, the same one who announced his retirement after sending the former police commissioner Jackie Selebi to prison for 15 years – took on this commission.
This investigation, which took a few months, was at the tail end of Katz and Goss’ tenure. They were determined that they were not going to leave an unhealthy legacy behind them at the Board. They were determined to leave it to their successors – who we now know are chairperson Shaun Zagnoev and treasurer Eric Marx – in a way that they could be proud.
It sounds easy, but in truth there was a lot of conflict and people trying to stop them. There were certain people who were happy with the status quo and didn’t want the change – for their own reasons.
Goss and Katz claim they were sidelined and harassed. But in the end, the investigation was done, findings were made that will lead the new duo-in-charge into a healthier and hopefully better run organisation at our helm.
As a newspaper, we too could not turn away from this, although there were people who certainly didn’t want us to stick our proverbial noses into this matter.
It was rumoured that certain people were saying we were “at war with the community”. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were told that Board matters must stay within the Board.
But SAJBD represents every one of us. What happens in the Board is important to every one of us. It goes without saying that we need our leadership on the Board to be exemplary and run the organisation in the most transparent, ethical, moral and healthy way possible.
As the community’s newspaper, it is an integral part of our mandate to hold our leaders to account for the community. We are after all, a community newspaper that is for the community, in the interests of and about the community.
We also – as the leadership are hopefully realising – do our best to be responsible and ethical about the way we report on issues. We too are human and make mistakes, but we do our utmost to hold ourselves to the highest account – just like we hold our communal leaders to account.
I honour Katz and Goss for not just walking away, but against tough odds, doing what needed to be done to sort things out at the Board before leaving.