By Mathilde Myburgh
Chaired by Dawn Nathan-Jones
The Advocacy Subcommittee is guided by the following board objectives;
• Acting on behalf of the Western Cape Jewish community in all matters affecting its relationship with the government and provincial, local and other authorities (whether statutory or non-governmental)
• Promoting harmonious relations between the Western Cape Jewish community and all sections of the population in the Western Cape
• Maintaining fraternal relations with Jewish communities and institutions internationally
• Furthering respect for and application of fundamental human rights for all sections of the South African population
Each member of the subcommittee choose a portfolio to champion (e.g. minority rights, political relations, economic empowerment, media relations) and may submit potential projects that attempt to address relevant issues.
Advocacy demands creative input and operational participation from its members and has historically meant fortnightly. This subcommittee has a huge scope for volunteerism if the appropriate platforms are created. Our ‘advocates’ serve as ambassadors to the community, requiring professionalism and a familiarity with the board position on a spectrum of issues.
Antisemitism & Legal
Chaired by Simone Sulcas
The antisemitism and legal subcommittee is the bastion of the Board’s constitution. Its mandate is to combat antisemitism and take a firm stance against any threat to the religious and civil rights of the community. This will be achieved by a variety of methods including legal action, education, political lobbying and media activism. In addition, the members are skilled legal professionals who are able to weigh in and advise the board on a variety of legal and compliance matters affecting the community. The 2021 vision is for this committee is to be both reactive and proactive within a legal and ethical framework whilst honouring the principles of justice and equality.
Chaired by David King
If you’re reading this, you likely have easy access to a wholesome Jewish Way of Life. Rabbonim, kosher food and medical support are just some of the resources easily accessible if you’re in Cape Town. Further outside the city, Jews have over years established livelihoods in the greater Western Cape. For them, access to these same resources and ways to connect to Jewish affairs is restricted.
The Cape SAJBD continually works to connect all Cape Jews in our community and maintain contact. Western Cape Jewish country communities comprise:
• 6 communities with operational shuls that act as central hubs for community engagement
• 12 communities of 10 or fewer Jews
• 22 communities with some Jewish presence (museums, cemeteries, etc.)
Before COVID-19, the Cape SAJBD visited some of these communities to engage lay leadership with fellow Jews, keep abreast of communal issues and discuss challenges faced. It has uplifted us to see solid bonds and neighbourly love in these communities. Yiddishkeit is very much alive!
Due to COVID-19, these shuls (engagement hubs) closed. We had to innovate and facilitate information sharing and conversation with community leadership via WhatsApp. We ran a Cape Country Communities ZOOM webinar and were joined by expats who grew up in the country.
We will continue to foster communication with leadership in these communities. A key focus remains cemetery maintenance and upkeep. Unfortunately, many cemeteries have recently been vandalised and desecrated. We’re actively assisting with restoration and protection efforts as well. In time, we hope to set up a fund to ensure continued maintenance is no longer a problem. In our work, Stuart Diamond’s ‘Let’s Do This’ attitude has stood us in good stead — Thank you!
Chaired by Justin Asher
The Generation Next Subcommittee is setting out to reshape the interaction between the Cape SAJBD and the Jewish young adults and youth community. Through our work over the coming year, we aim to connect, engage and empower young adults across the spectrum of diverse, existing and previously unengaged organisations, and to ensure that young adult leadership voices are heard and contributions to our community are valued. We have a multifaceted approach, catering to unique core needs and issues across the different age-group categories and segments of the young adult spectrum.
So, what does the year ahead entail? It’s hard to tell, given the uncertainty posed by COVID-19. A lot of what we might want to do in-person will have to happen online if the situation doesn’t improve, and that could pose some critical challenges due to how reliant we are on engaging face-to-face rather than virtually. While the virtual space offers major opportunities to reach community members whom we may not come across along our typical paths, it can also become overdone and lose its exciting lure as a unique approach.
All things considered, we hope that over the forthcoming year we will be able to emphasise the work done by the Cape SAJBD, engage the various youth and young adult organisations and unaffiliated members of our community, and become known as a space for the Jewish community (Generation Y & Z) through which one can tap into the resources we provide to ensure they feel a part of the community and the future it holds.
Interfaith & Intercommunity
Chaired by Ann Harris
As we represent less than 0.4% of the Cape Town community, the chances are great that most Capetonians have never met a Jew. One way to counter antisemitism is to get to know “the other” so that they can learn to see us as individuals, people like them, like ordinary people. By removing ignorance, we help to remove prejudice. The Interfaith and Intercommunity Subcommittee would like to develop opportunities to meet with people from other faiths and cultures, as friends and equals sharing common concerns, and not at a distance as the rich handing out charity to the poor.
Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
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