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.
Boomie was passionate about his Jewish heritage. He was a committed fighter for Jewish rights, a devoted Zionist and staunch supporter of Jewish education, not just for the youth but for all community members. Within the community, he was a peace-maker, a calming influence who helped ensure communal unity and harmony. He also recognised the importance of Jews being actively involved in contributing to the wider society. All this was reflected in the range of different communal organisations in which he involved himself over the decades, including the SAJBD, SAZF, Bnai B’rith and Hebrew Order of David.
Boomie assumed the leadership of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies at a difficult time in South African history. It was in 1979, just before the start of the final decade of white minority rule, with the country being on the cusp of a prolonged period of social and political unrest. There was enormous anxiety within the Jewish community over whether there was any future for them in South Africa, and indeed many community members left during this period. The times called for strong, wise leaders, people able to speak to the concerns of those they represented while also providing a calming voice enabling them to keep things in proper perspective. Boomie, first as National Chairman of the Board and thereafter as President, admirably fulfilled this role. He went on to act as one of the Board’s respected elder statesmen, remaining involved in the organisation until his eventual move to Perth.
Of Boomie, it can truly be said that he was as much loved by those who knew as he was respected by those who worked with him. May his Memory be for a Blessing.