WJC National Directors’ Forum a huge success
The conference was also an opportunity for us to introduce our own community – its history, structure and current activities – to our international colleagues. Visits were paid to Afrika Tikkun’s upliftment projects in Mfuleni, Herzlia School and the Astra sheltered employment centre. Each showcased three key aspects of what our community is committed to: providing opportunities for disadvantaged South Africans in the wider society to uplift themselves, imbuing the next generation with a knowledge of and attachment to their Jewish heritage and assisting those within our own community who are in need of a helping hand. Guided tours of the SA Jewish Museum, Great Synagogue (SA Jewry’s Mother Congregation) and the Cape Town Holocaust Centre were also part of the programme. Delegates had many opportunities of engaging with communal leaders, both lay and professional, and the Jewish youth. They were profoundly impressed by everything that we are achieving, both from a Jewish point of view and in making a meaningful contribution to South Africa itself, and hopefully will have taken back with them new insights and inspiration for furthering the well-being of their own communities.
Finally, we saw it as an opportunity simply to allow Jewish professionals from around the world to experience something of South African warmth and hospitality, in the famously beautiful setting of the Mother City. No effort was spared in making them feel welcome and comfortable (including enjoying the best fare that our outstanding kashrut facilities can provide) and in getting a taste of the vibrancy and diversity of South African culture.
Another highlight of the conference was a panel discussion in which three community members who were involved in the transition from apartheid to multiracial democracy, Ann Harris, Judge Albie Sachs and Johnny Copelyn, shared their memories and insights. The subsequent gala dinner, which was attended by parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, academics, members of the diplomatic corps and other distinguished personalities, took place within easy view of Robben Island – once a maximum security prison for political dissidents and today a place of memory in honour of those who fought for justice and democracy. It was a timely reminder of how much South Africans were able to achieve back then in the face of such formidable challenges. There is no reason not to believe that the same resilience and resolve will be forthcoming in dealing with the current difficulties facing our country.
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