Welfare considerations during COVID-19

Dear Community Members


At the Chev we have had our heads down over the past few weeks dealing with the urgent matter of protecting (shielding) our frailest and most vulnerable community members - the nearly 1,000 residents of our facilities. We are conscious of the gravity of our responsibility and take it extremely seriously. Nothing is more important at this time than protecting those entrusted to our care who are aged and more susceptible to this virus. I would like to share with you the steps that have been taken so far in this rapidly-evolving crisis, which should please G-d soon be behind us.

Temporary Closure of Jewish Schools

Dear School Parents.

At a meeting this morning with the leadership of the Jewish Day Schools under the auspices of our Jewish Education Cluster to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on our schools, it was unanimously agreed to institute a temporary closure of all of our schools for a one week period effective Monday 16 March. Our Jewish community education cluster will reconvene on Wednesday to reassess the situation taking into account external factors and will then decide on further measures.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 6.3.20

There is an unfortunate tendency for people to resort to irrational scapegoating when confronted with threats they are unable to fully understand. History has shown time and again how collective fear can lead to the emergence of all kinds of noxious prejudices, usually aimed at those faced by those very same threats. Almost invariably, scapegoating targets vulnerable minority groups who are seen as an alien element in society and therefore somehow untrustworthy. From our own history, the blaming of Jews for the Black Death and the horrific persecutions that resulted is a particularly grim example of this phenomenon.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 28.2.20

Following on our attendance at the State of the Nation address, last week the Board’s National Vice-President Zev Krengel and Parliamentary Liaison Chaya Singer attended the National Budget Speech in Parliament.

China Mall - Purim Shopping 6.3.20

This coming Monday, 9 March, Jewish Joburgers will prepare for the upcoming Purim festival in a unique way by doing their pre-festival shopping at the China Mall in Amalgam. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is organising this initiative as a gesture of solidarity with the Chinese community following the upsurge of unjust and irrational sentiment against South Africans of Chinese origin resulting from the Coronavirus epidemic.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 20.2.20

Silver linings at SONA

Together with the Board’s Parliamentary Liaison Chaya Singer, I attended last week’s State of the Nation (SONA) address in Parliament. Without underplaying the very formidable challenges that still need to be overcome, what we heard was a cause for at least cautious optimism. Much of what President Ramaphosa said remained on the level of hopeful rhetoric rather than substantive action, but I was personally encouraged to learn about the genuine progress that is undeniably being made in certain crucial areas

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 7.2.20

Faith Communities meet with President ahead of SONA

At the time of writing, the upcoming State of the Nation address (SONA) on 13 February is the dominant issue on people’s minds. Last week four representatives of the SAJBD, together with Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein participated in a meeting of faith-based leaders at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Murder: Lindokuhle Cele 19.2.20

The horrific murder of Lindokuhle Cele is the latest in a wave of horrendous attacks against members of the LGTBIQ+ community in our country. Alana Baranov, the SAJBD representative on the Hate Crimes Working Group said that “this senseless killing has no place in a nation built of human rights for all and, once again, shows the urgent need for hate crimes legislation in our country to better tackle the scourge of hate in all its forms.”


Did the SA Jewish Board of Deputies shirk the challenge of opposing Apartheid or was its policy of neutrality during most of that era justified in view of its core mandate to safeguard the security, civil rights and general well-being of the community it represented? Gwynne Robins explains the Board's stance while also showing how its Cape branch consistently adopted a more liberal, activist stance on the apartheid question.

Dr Israel ‘Boomie’ Abramowitz has passed away at the age of 91

Dr Israel ‘Boomie’ Abramowitz, who passed away this week in Perth, Australia at the age of 91, was a true gentleman from the old school of Jewish communal leadership in South Africa. In the course of a long and distinguished communal career, he can truly be said to have epitomised the particular strengths that have made the South African Jewish community so respected a component of global Jewry. All this he achieved while simultaneously pursuing his career as an eminent vascular surgeon.


Denis Goldberg was thirty years old when he stood in the dock alongside Nelson Mandela and others during the famous 'Rivonia Trial'. Renowned journalist Douglas Davis, who briefly hosted Goldberg at his home in Israel following the latter's release from gaol in 1985, reflects on the complex, often conflicted life of this anti-apartheid icon.

Mary Kluk

Those children who died could have been ours 30.1.20

With the number of Holocaust survivors alive today dwindling, the poignancy of having more than 100 Auschwitz survivors and their families under the same roof will remain with me always. This was at the formal commemoration ceremony at Auschwitz in Poland of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp on 27 January.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 17.1.20

“Mir zaynen do!”(We are here!) The defiant concluding words of the Partisan Song constitute a ringing declaration by the Jewish people that despite the unspeakable crimes of those seeking their destruction, Am Yisrael Chai - the Nation of Israel still lives. They remind us that when remembering those whose lives were so cruelly and unjustly extinguished, we are also testifying that for all the harm they were able to inflict on us, our enemies failed in their aim of eradicating the Jewish people altogether.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 10.1.20

The SAJBD: Always open for business

While the Board’s work naturally slows down over the December break, it never stops altogether. There are always new issues that arise that cannot be put off but have to be dealt with there and then. These can range from renewed upsurges of violence in the Middle East, incidents of antisemitism and even natural disasters. Following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, for example, we became extensively involved in assisting members of our community along with other South Africans caught up in the tragedy.

Wendy Kahn

#ImStaying - Nov 2019

Inspired by the South African Jewish community

Over the past few weeks, a new movement has emerged on social media: #ImStaying – with almost 800 000 members at this point. The Facebook Page provides daily inspiring and uplifting stories of fellow South Africans who have experienced the special and positive aspects of life in our country. I have my own #IMStaying story which I am choosing to share on this platform.

Sunday Tribune Headline

SAJBD KZN Council President Jeremy Droyman and Council member Mike Caminsky met with the editor of the Sunday Tribune, Mr Sandile Mdadane, this morning to discuss the misleading street poster and newspaper headline that appeared in that paper earlier this week. The front-page read, “Rabbi lures youth to lair”. Mr Droyman shared that Mr Mdadane was extremely warm and receptive. He apologised for the error and will formally do so in print in the upcoming edition. He also offered to publish the SAJBD KZN Council letter of concern expressing the need for sensitivity when dealing with different religions. Please see letter below. Mr Droyman commented that he looked forward to further positive engagements with the Sunday Tribune.

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 29.11.19

End of the line for UCT Israel boycott

Last week the door was finally closed on long-running efforts by anti-Israel pressure groups to get the University of Cape Town to impose a boycott against its Israeli counterparts. In March this year, the UCT Senate went so far as to pass a resolution to boycott Israeli universities deemed to be ‘enabling’ Israeli rights violations

Antisemitism levels in South Africa greatly over stated

Last week the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced the results of a survey it had conducted on attitudes toward Jews in 18 countries, including South Africa. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has analysed the report, considering its finding against its own research data, as well as that of other organisations such as the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town.

​Statement/message on Donald Gordon, o"h

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies is saddened by the passing earlier today of Sir Donald Gordon. For his phenomenal achievements in both the business and philanthropic fields, Donald Gordon was truly a living legend. As a business leader who founded the global insurance giant Liberty International, he was far-sighted, bold and innovative; as a philanthropist, his unstintingly generosity led to the establishment of a range of outstanding institutions and foundations that have benefited countless people and numerous worthy causes the world over

Shaun Zagnoev

Above Board 22.11.19

Pretoria Council hits the ‘Three-score-and-ten’ mark

The recent SAJBD national conference marked the fiftieth such biennial gathering of the Jewish community leadership since the establishment of a united, nationally-based Board in 1912.

Speaking out for inclusivity, integration

On Sunday night, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) hosted its 50th national conference in Johannesburg. Held every two years, these gatherings are an opportunity for the community to connect to honour members who had done so much either communally or for the greater South Africa – like the late Johnny Clegg, who we honoured this year – but also to take stock of where we are.

Ramifications of a UCT boycott of Israel would be disastrous

This Friday, the UCT Senate will once again meet to discuss the UCT Academic Freedom Committee (AFC) motion to impose an academic boycott against Israel. This is an initiative of the Palestine Solidarity Forum at UCT and is linked with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement.

Obituary: Isaac Reznik

Isaac Reznik (1936-2019), dubbed South African Jewry's 'Living Encyclopaedia' left a lasting mark in multiple areas of Jewish communal life. David Saks reflects on the varied, busy life of this unique personality.