58% of Jewish deaths in South Africa in 1918 occurred during the period of the Spanish Flu pandemic. The authors cast new light on this tragic and still neglected episode in SA Jewish history.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies is delighted to announce that it has created a R9 million fund to provide help feed communities most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The donation has largely been made possible by a generous contribution from an anonymous donor while the balance has been given by various Jewish organisations and community members.
Gwynne Schrire reflects on a previous epidemic that struck Cape Town in 1901 and how minority groups, including Jews, were scapegoated because of it.
Dear Community Members
OUR RESPONSE TO COVID-19
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feodora Clouts played an outsized role in Jewish communal life in 20th Century Cape Town. She was further influential in women being given due recognition within the male-dominated communal hierarchy.
The Transvaal Automobile Club long dominated South African Squash, largely through its many Jewish players. Steven Katzew describes this golden age for the TAC and for the sport in SA.
The "Cane Mutiny", a "Feral Culture", rawfers and shluppers and liedjies on the school bus - All this and more in this final part of the author's history of Herber House hostel.
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
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.
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, 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.
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.
What all anti-Semites agree on is that Jews have excessive power that they use to secretly manipulate global events for their own nefarious purposes
“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.
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.