Cape Board announces 2015 Eliot and Myra Osrin Awards

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Lester Hoffman

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, made an important observation when he said that we all like to be recognised not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work. The trouble is that we often tend to take people for granted and fail to give recognition to the contributions that they make to our community through their daily work.

We are fortunate to have living among us many unsung heroes who devote years to working quietly for the benefit of our community, even though that might form part of their internalised value system in terms of “Kol Israel arevim ze laze” (all Jews are responsible for one another) — the internal solidarity that has been suggested as one of the secrets of Jewish survival.

The Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies presents awards at its biennial conferences to such special people. Two awards are given — the Eliot and Myra Osrin Transformation Award for positively effecting change within South African society and the Eliot and Myra Osrin Jewish Vision Award for a legacy of leadership that has enriched our community.

We are delighted to announce that the 2015 awards will go to Mickey Glass and to Lester Hoffman.

THE 2015 ELIOT AND MYRA OSRIN TRANSFORMATION AWARD for positively effecting change within South African society was awarded to Mickey Glass for the work he has done over the years to establish a culture of acceptance of religious diversity. Mickey Glass was the executive director at the Union of Orthodox Synagogues for 24 years serving the community with great distinction. Recognising the isolation of the Jewish community within the wider community caused by the apartheid divisions and the resultant large scale ignorance and prejudice about Jews, he helped to organise the 1999 Parliament of the World Religions and to establish the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative and the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF) which he served as Chairman and now treasurer. He has chaired the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre’s Board of Trustees and is a Commissioner for the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC).

He has developed close friendships with religious leaders from a variety of faiths as a voice of reason, tolerance and moderation. As a proud, committed and articulate Jew and Zionist, he has always been prepared to speak out when required whenever Judaism or Zionism came under attack.

He has played a major role in getting the Jewish community accepted in the Western Cape as an equal player alongside other religious communities. He is a worthy recipient of the Transformation Award.

THE 2015 ELIOT AND MYRA OSRIN JEWISH VISION AWARD, for a legacy of leadership that has enriched our community went to Lester Hoffman whose involvement in both the Jewish and the wider community is legendary. Lester has extensive experience and wide involvement at senior levels in both Jewish and non-Jewish philanthropic and religious organisations. Not only is he the current Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape Council)’s treasurer and chairman of its bursary committee, he has also served it with distinction as its Chairman (1995- 1997), its National vice-chairman, (2003-2005) and a member of the SAJBOD National Executive Council.

Lester’s life has been dedicated to the community across multiple organisations. He chairs the Cape Jewish Chronicle and the CSO and is a Trustee of the National CSO. He serves on the United Herzlia Schools Board of Governors, the SA Jewish Museum Board, the Cemeteries Maintenance Board, the WP Priorities Board, the Kaplan Centre Management committee, the ORT JET Assessment panel and is a former member of the Union of Orthodox Synagogue’s management committee.

His involvement goes beyond just the Jewish community. He is on the Community Chest — Western Cape’s Finance and Investment Management Committee and is an Executive Member and Treasurer of the WCRLF. He was a member of the Inter- Religious Commission on Crime and Violence in the Western Cape and of its ECCOC set up during the 1999 elections to defuse problems on voting days and which has on occasion seen him walking the streets of Gugulethu at 5 a.m. holding a candle. He does more in a day than most people do in a week and goes about his business with tact, respect and wisdom.

Rabbi Yermiya (Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Brachot) said that one who works for the community is akin to one who works in the words of Torah. These are two worthy recipients whose work for the Jewish and wider community deserves our gratitude and respect.

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