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Where were you when I needed you?

They’re at it again! Two of SA Jewry’s biggest social media wise-guys, @Howard Sackstein and @Darren Sevitz have had another hilarious tryst on the KashrutSA facebook page. This time Howard pretends to be upset that Darren, CEO of the UOS, wasn’t available all through Pesach as Howard jokingly says he needed advice on whether dagga is kitniot, whether Easter Eggs should have been eaten with salt water, etc. Darren’s light-hearted replies are just as naughty.





Readers please note: As is the nature of social media, we are publishing these two pieces verbatim – warts, typos and all  -ED  

Howard writes:

Dear @Darren Sevitz

I have been so stressed this Pessach not being able to ask you questions. I think its really unfair that you took off the Yomtaivim when we really needed you most.

Sackstein HowardjpgI fear I may have done so much wrong this passover that you may tell me to take a mulligan and re-do Pessach over again this coming week.

I do have left over Matzza just in case you demand a repeat performance.

I have been wracked with questions:

RIGHT: Howard Sackstein 

1 – I did an Easter Egg hunt during Pessach – to my shock and surprise I discovered that Easter Eggs are not served in salt water. Did you know that? But what should I have done with the Easter Eggs I found as they were not pessachdik. Given that you had taken time off and was unable to ask you, I re-hid the Eggs away hoping no one would notice and today re-enacted the Easter Egg hunt mysteriously finding most of the eggs I had re-hid- was this the correct decision? 

2 – I recently read that Dagga is considered Kitniyot and therefore prohibited for Ashenazim on Pessach. “A friend of mine” sold his dagga to a Sephardi for pessach and when he went to re-purchase it, apparently it has been lost in a fire – do you think this was Arson? – I know a lot of Sephardim are they allowed this Kitniyot all year round? SEE HERE

3 – Since Dagga is now considered Kitniyot should I have sold my hemp clothing during pessach ? I did wear my Bob Marley T shirt to the second Seder – was this wrong? We did sing Manistana to the tune of Buffalo Soldier and Redemption really went down well instead of Dayenu.

4 I was in Glenhazel searching for Breslov Chassidim on the weekend, I did ask them a number of these questions and as soon as I can get my mother to translate the Yiddish I will tell you their answers. Do you by any chance know where I can get one of those lovely silk robes and is it Shatnez to wear one together with my Bob Marley T-Shirt?

5 While in Glenhazel I had dinner with friends only to discover that they had not sold a book about whisky which was just lying unattended on the lounge table and not hidden under the beach towels where they had hidden all the whisky bottles – this seems to be a terrible slip. Next year may I suggest you issue an edict banning all books and videos where Chometzdik alcoholic beverages are consumed unless done under the beach towels 

Darren responds:

Dear Howard Sackstein,

I apologise for not being available over the chagim. It was not my intention to leave you stranded in the desert so to speak. I will try and deal with each of the issues which have been plaguing you.

The Easter Egg hunt is an egg-sample of your confusion. This is egg-sactly the kind of problem we face with today’s media egg-sploting our minds and poaching our age old traditions and customs. Many people actually fry out due to this phenomenon. This is the yolk we have to bear, living in permanent egg-sile as we do. Obviously, this is not to be confused with the afikomen hunt. Admittedly, the afikomen is not as pretty, it’s not painted, filled with confetti (or even grated chrain) and is usually limited to the same places each year, since most of the best hiding places have been taped, cable-tied, chained and double sealed as they have been sold to Mr De Vries (see pic).

I’m afraid that you are correct though, since your eggs were not included in the sale and you kept them over Pesach, they are not allowed – ever. Your best option would be hide them under your Chanukah Bush.

Sevitz DarrenSpeaking of bushes, your second query is most concerning. I have been inundated with questions regarding the permissibility of this item. The first thing to bear in mind is that even if it were allowed, there is a requirement to ensure that all leafy products are free of insects. The suggested method is to hold the item very close to a strong light source – some use a light box, and this is acceptable, but it seems for some reason the more preferred method is a flame.

LEFT: Darren Sevitz

You need to hold it close enough to almost see through it. As this is quite a serious issue, take a few deep breaths and concentrate carefully on what you observe. Users of this method have reported one of two possibilities – either (i) everything seems to be crawling, or (ii), nothing at all. But either way, users report joy and euphoria at having performed this important mitzvah with extreme care and dedication.

As to whether or not it is kitniyot/s/th is a matter of dispute. R’ Moshe Feinstein rules in Igrot/s Moshe YD 3:63 that the definition of kitniyot/s/th is dependent on the custom of that particular community. It is for this reason that we allow peanuts and peanut butter on Pesach, since these products were not known to our Lithuanian grandparents. If we were to consider this product as kitniyot/s/th, one wonders what in fact our Bobbas and Zeidas were up to, and why their stories of the shtetl don’t ever mention this.

(that reminds me, inbox me for a my special kneidel recipe. It is based loosely on my Bobba Julies recipe, in which she filled her kneidels with fried onions). But I digress…

Sevitz daggaWhile it is technically permissible to wear your Bob Marley T-Shirt to the Seder, this should not be done in future, as it is disrespectful to the chag and may cause those present to question why your romaine lettuce doesn’t quite look like romaine lettuce.

Historically, Ashkenazim don’t use kitniyot/s/th because they were either packed together with Chametz grains, or they could be confused with Chametz, thus leading to a more serious transgression. In this case however, I believe neither of these reasons applies. We want to avoid anything that rises, and the potential of this product to create a high, is sufficient to disallow its use. I would suggest that all flora related issues be discussed with your FLORA.

Funnily enough, our conversions department has been swamped with requests from Ashkenazim wanting to become Sephardim. We have of course turned them away, with the cont-hemp-t that this deserves, explaining that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

The silk robes have become a huge hit in recent weeks. It’s amazing what a few trendsetter can actually achieve without even knowing it. I think Malcolm Gladwell should come and investigate.

Being rather trendy myself, and not wanting to feel left out – I scoured the local trendy stores looking for these items for me and my boys. I was about to give up hope when a nice sales lady pointed me to the sleepwear section. I will be sending a team of mashgichim to the store to show them the correct place to allocate these items.

The sale of chamtez requires that only Chametz be sold. Pictures, books, magazines and videos wherein these are depicted, need not be sold, although many are in fact strict and cover or lock these away. But beach towels? This is a big problem. As you are fully aware, we are meant to be a light (no not that kind of light, subject has changed Howard) unto others, and Judaism is concerned not only with what we do, but also how what we do is perceived by others. It is therefore inconceivable that beach towels which should themselves be hidden, be used as the means to hide or cover other undesirables. What would the casual observer think? That it is permissible to go to the beach?? This could, as you are aware, lead to even worse transgressions like building a raft or mixed dancing.

I trust that I have managed to deal with all your important questions and concerns. As for whether or not you need to do Pesach all over again, I am not sure. If you do wish to do it all again, I suggest you wait for Pesach Sheni (14th Iyar, corresponding to 14th May). On Pesach in ancient times, the Korban Pesach was brought . However , certain individuals who were ineligible to bring it on that day (for various reasons) were unable to participate in the Korban Pesach. Faced with the conflict of the requirement to participate in the Korban Pesach and their ineligibility due to impurity, they approached Moshe and Aharon for instructions, which resulted in the communication of the law of Pesach Sheni. Keep your matzah till then. I don’t think you’ll need to re-kasher yor walls and floors though.

Did you enjoy reading that? If so, there is more. Check out the joviality between these two in their Pre-Pesach Chirpathon on SAJR Online.


ONLINE EDITOR’S NOTE: Once again we must stress that these
tête-à-têtes are for fun only and SAJR Online users are reminded
not to take any advice or otherwise proffered above seriously.


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  1. Rhona Sacks

    Apr 25, 2014 at 7:10 am

    ‘Brilliant. Just Brilliant.’

  2. Jammer vir Jou

    May 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    ‘So very Jammer for doff heads…’

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Cemetery in sad state & no funds for repair

The Jewish cemetery in Roodepoort on the West Rand is in a sorry state of disrepair, with nearly a third of the tombstones broken or pushed over. There is also no wall to demarcate the area from the general cemetery. Unfortunately, no Jewish congregation remains to deal with the problem, nor are there funds available to carry out the necessary restoration.





Pictured: The sad state of disrepair at the Roodepoort Jewish cemetery, is clearly visible in this photograph.

Currently, the Country Communities Department of the SAJBD is responsible for the maintenance of over 220 cemeteries in the smaller towns and villages around the country. What makes it possible to carry out this role, however, is the availability of funds from various trusts set up by the former Jewish congregations of the areas concerned.

In the case of Roodepoort, no provision was made for the maintenance of the cemetery while there was still a functioning Jewish community in the town and no funds remain from the sale of the community’s assets after the closure of the shul. 

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, spiritual leader to the South African Country Communities, said his department was willing to take over the responsibility for maintaining the cemeteries of other congregations in the event of their closing down. This, however, was predicated on the trustees of those congregations entering into an agreement with the SAJBD to ensure that adequate resources were available for that purpose.

This would be done, as in the case of other country cemeteries, through the establishment of a trust, set up through the sale of the community’s property and other assets. It followed that the larger the cemetery, the more funds are needed to be made available.

In the case of Roodepoort, he had met with the trustees before the congregation closed and strongly advised that they make provision for their cemetery’s future maintenance. They had taken a conscious decision not to do so, and unfortunately, there was now nothing that his department could do about the situation, he said. 

Rabbi Silberhaft urged all communities outside the Greater Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban areas that had not yet made provision for the upkeep of their cemeteries, to do so as soon as possible, while they were still active and viable.

The upkeep of the final resting places of community members who had passed on, was a sacred responsibility, he stressed, and that in turn meant that the trustees of the congregations concerned needed to act responsibly when determining what to do with their community’s remaining assets.

Rabbi Silberhaft said that should they wish the SAJBD to take on that responsibility, they should contact him at to arrange for the necessary legal document to be drawn up in anticipation of the community closing. Alternatively, they could contact SAJBD Country Communities Chairman Marlene Bethlehem on  

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Ambassadors talk about Israel and Germany

On Sunday May 29, SACRED (South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity) in collaboration with the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, Bet David Progressive Synagogue and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, was an organiser of “Ambassadors in Conversation: Dealing With a Complicated Past, Creating a Common Future”.






The ambassadors in question were Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk and German Ambassador Walter Linder.

“Today relations between the two peoples are astonishing given the recent past: the German government’s position is one of ‘unconditional support’ of Israel.

“Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that ‘Germany’s support for Israel’s security is part of our national ethos, our raison d’être’. These words have been backed up by action internationally.

“She has also been on an official tour of Israel and has addressed the Knesset. Jewish life in Germany is active and supported by the government. Israelis now flock to Berlin and Merkel enjoys high popularity in the Jewish state.

“With the Holocaust still within living memory, we were honoured to host survivors in the audience who could not possibly have imagined this state of affairs 70 years ago, at the end of the Second World War.

“This is attributable to determined efforts by both countries to keep the doors of communication open without ignoring the terrible events of the Holocaust. Both ambassadors agreed that although relations between the two states will never be ‘normal’, they had been able to make significant progress in the last 70 years and that this should serve as an example to other countries and peoples dealing with painful pasts.”

The setting for the discussion was the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, whose director, Tali Nates, herself the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, was the moderator.


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Remember those who refused to be mere victims

For Yom Hashoah 2016, the international theme chosen by Yad Vashem is remembering those victims of the Holocaust who resisted being brutalised by the horrific circumstances in which they were placed, but instead strove to maintain and preserve their essential humanity.





The SAJBD, which organises the ceremonies in the seven main Jewish centres countrywide, is this year putting a particular emphasis on educating the next generation and providing it with the tools to carry remembrance of the Holocaust forward into the future.

An information pack specially geared towards young adults has been prepared for the many high school learners from both the Jewish and government schools, who are expected to attend the ceremonies.

Over the past decade and more, the keynote speakers for Johannesburg and Durban have been prominent Holocaust survivors from abroad, brought out for the occasion by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies. These have included Auschwitz prisoner Eva Schloss, whose mother later married Anne Frank’s father, Otto, Wallenberg survivor John Dobai and Ben Helfgott, who went on to become an Olympic weight-lifter.

This year’s speaker, Veronica Phillips, is from Johannesburg. Born in Budapest, Hungary, she survived years of internment in the international ghetto in her home city, the Ravensbruck, Penig and Johanneorgenstadt concentration camps and the Death Marches.

The Johannesburg and Durban programme will also include a presentation by SAJBD National President and Director of the Durban Holocaust Centre Mary Kluk, who will focus on the specific lessons that the Holocaust has for South Africa today.

The traditional Yom Hashoah programme includes alternate Hebrew-English reading of “To everyone, there is a name/Lechol ish Yesh Shem”, lighting of six memorial candles by survivors, Holocaust poetry readings and renditions of the Hazkara, Partisan Song, Ani Ma’amin, Shiviti and Hatikvah.

Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk, will deliver a message on behalf of the State of Israel and Lt Hilton Kaplan, the Soldiers’ Tribute on behalf of the SA Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s League. 

In addition, the Johannesburg ceremony will feature violinist Waldo Alexander playing the theme from the film Schindler’s List and Redhill High School pupil Gemma Davies reading an extract from her poem “Brother”, the prizewinning entry in the Writing, Poetry & Art Competition held by Chapman University, US.

Ceremonies will be held in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth on Thursday, May 5 and in Durban and Bloemfontein on the following Sunday (May 8). The date of the East London ceremony is still to be confirmed.

SAJBD Gauteng Council Chairman Shaun Zagnoev will preside over the proceedings in Johannesburg which will take place as usual at the Martyr’s Monument in West Park Cemetery, at 12:30.

* For further information on the Yom Hashoah ceremonies around the country, contact (Johannesburg) Shirley Beagle, (011) 645-2583; (Cape Town) Gwynne Robins, (021) 464-6700; (Durban) Roseanne Rosen, (031) 335-4452; (Pretoria) Diane Wolfson, (012) 346-8792; (Port Elizabeth) Michael Simmons (041) 373-7433; (Bloemfontein) Leah Chabas, (051) 436-2207, and (East London) Ellen Ettinger, (043) 748-4481.


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