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Well-deserved honour for sprightly Bertie Lubner

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SUZANNE BELLING

PHOTOGRAPH BY SUZANNE BELLING

Pictured: Bertie and Hilary Lubner.

At the biennial national conference of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies on Sunday, he was awarded the prestigious Eric Samson/Mendel Kaplan Communal Service Award in the presence of both Eric and Sheila Samson and Jill Kaplan, widow of the late Mendel.

Bertie is a very emotional person, something that belies his business acumen and achievements, his high office in many organisations and his dedication to South Africa and the Jewish community.

“I hate to admit it, but I was so emotional that I forgot the last part of my speech [on the night] which included thanking my wife Hilary, my children Richard, Tony, Marc and Su and mentioning my six grandchildren!” Bertie admits.

He has a philosophy on his way of life: philanthropy. He asks: “What can I do to make a real difference?” He adds that “nobody can make a success in life without the help of others. You measure true success in two ways – in your own life, yourself and your family and the second part is when you add value to the lives of others.”

He has a favourite quote, given to him by his children: “Politics without principles, education without character, science without humanity, commerce without morality, are not only useless, but positively dangerous.”

He applies this to all aspects of his life.

Bertie has given about 40 years of service to the Board of Deputies and is honorary life president of the Gauteng Board.

When it comes to his résumé, through length, one has to leave out his numerous awards and positions, but concentrate on the achievements in more recent years.

With the late Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, he was founder of Afrika Tikkun, which has become one of the largest outreach projects in South Africa. Its patron was the late President Nelson Mandela, with whom Bertie had a close personal relationship.

He says that Afrika Tikkun “only really grew after (his son) Marc took over as chief executive eight years ago”. Bertie remains chairman of the organisation.

In business with his brother Ronnie, he was chairman of the PG Group, only stepping down after 40 years to concentrate on community and country.

He and Ronnie founded the Field Band Foundation, which gives previously underprivileged children a chance to develop their musical talents. There are branches throughout South Africa.

The oldest serving member of the Board of Business Leadership (formerly the SA Foundation of which he was vice-chairman), Bertie is also a founder of the Manufacturing Circle, “to give manufacturers their own voice”. He resigned as chairman after heading the executive for 20 years.

He is a vice-president of the Institute of Directors, a vice-chairman of the Board of Governors of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and president of the SA Associates of BGU.

He retains his seat on the board of the SA Jewish Report, on which he has served since its inception 17 years ago.

Still a keen golfer – he used to play tournament golf – Bertie played tennis until a few years ago and rugby and baseball during his days at the University of the Witwatersrand and beyond.

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