Open letter to the Cape SA Board of Deputies
We write to you as a group of women integrally involved in and committed to the Cape Town Jewish community; we write to you also as women who are deeply cognisant and appreciative of the role that the Cape Board plays as the elected representative body of the Cape Town Jewish community.
With this in mind, we want to express our sincere distress at the Cape Board event hosted on 30 August, Women with a Voice — Advancing Leadership: Women within the Community. Our distress emanates from the recent Cape Board elections, where the only two people voted off the Board, were women.
Our distress was exacerbated by the fact that the women voted off were the standing Vice-Chairperson, Bev May, and former Chairperson of the Cape Board, Li Boiskin, two senior women leaders, in a community where we have so few women in roles of such senior leadership.
Further, not only are they two senior women leaders, but they both happen to be two leaders who are well-known champions of women’s voices (and women’s rights). They have played this role with dignity for many years, and have served as highly respected leaders who are role-models to so many other Jewish women and men, alike.
Considering that the current Board of 18 members now has only 4 women representatives, we must express our distress at the message the Cape Board is sending out to our community about its commitment to women’s rights and gender equality.
It seems particularly shocking to host an event titled Women with a Voice, when two of the most audible women’s voices in elected leadership have effectively been silenced.
We write to you as concerned Jewish women, but this is and should be the concern of the entire Jewish community.
The community deserves an explanation.
Heidi Jane Esakov-Jacobson
Response from the Cape SAJBD
We believe that there are two separate matters which the open letter raises, the matter of the outcome of the Cape Board’s recent election; and the representative issue of gender equality within our community.
The Cape Board planned Advancing Leadership: Women within the Community in June 2017 with the intention of ending the month of August, Women’s Month, with an event to celebrate extraordinary women within our community, and provide a platform for open dialogue between the guest speakers and the audience.
This event planned by our Advocacy and Campaign Manager, Ms Philadelphia Makwakwa, with the Boards’ support was an engagement opportunity for women and men in our community. The event was well attended and a great success. A safe space was created for the participants and those attending to express their views on a wide range of topics affecting women’s leadership.
We acknowledge that there are members of our community who are deeply unhappy with the election results, specifically that two women, the one a Vice-Chairperson and the other a former Chairperson of the Cape Board, were not re-elected.
We have voluntarily undertaken an independent enquiry to be chaired by Milton Seligson SC, Hilton Saven and Sally Frankental, to ensure the integrity of our electoral process.
The Cape Board believes that representation has to extend past casting votes and are determined to engage with all members of our community on all their matters of concern.
Opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or its sponsoring bodies. Letters submitted anonymously will not be printed. However, by agreement, the name may be withheld in the publication. Letters are published subject to space being available.