Yom Hashoah: communal harmony restored
In terms of this decision, the ceremony will consist of two parts, one following the traditional Yom Hashoah format and the other exploring additional ways of learning about and commemorating the Holocaust, including through women singing solo.
The core principles of this agreement are set out in a press statement which can be viewed on our Facebook page.
This outcome was arrived at through a process of consultation with all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of the Orthodox and Progressive communities, women’s and youth groups and with the Holocaust survivors themselves.
It hopefully brings to a final resolution what has been a painful and highly divisive controversy for our community. From the Board’s point of view, the aim was always to find a way forward that would satisfy the requirements of one faction while not in any way alienating any other.
It was never about one side “winning” and the other “losing”. Such an outcome could have been achieved through simply doing away with singing altogether, but in the end, we chose to take a more positive, proactive approach – adding rather than subtracting to the event.
In addition, the new programme offers opportunities to explore new modes of commemorating and learning about the Shoah, without sacrificing any of the traditional components of the ceremony.
Talking peace and balance in Parliament
In September, local anti-Israel activists made a presentation to the International Relations and Co-operation Portfolio Committee in Parliament. It was, predictably an emotive and grossly selective account of how Palestinian homes were lost during the 1948 War of Independence, with South African Jewry being portrayed as the villains who established a forest over a destroyed Arab village.
Last Friday a delegation from the Jewish community, led by the SAJBD, was given an opportunity of responding in the same forum. Part of this necessarily consisted of responding to some of the more blatant accusations made against Israel and our community.
However, we also took the opportunity to encourage the government’s efforts to continue engaging with both parties with a view to encouraging a negotiated solution to the Israel/Palestine question and to draw attention to how the confrontational, inflammatory tactics of anti-Israel radicals results only in polarisation and quite frequently open anti-Semitism in our country without making any contribution whatsoever to advancing the prospects for peace.
In adopting this position, we align ourselves with those working for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which includes our government, in contrast to those who dishonestly demonise one side while promoting the politics of boycott and disengagement in order to shut down any real constructive debate on the issues.
· Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00