Telfed recently held its bi-annual Award Ceremony, recognising the exemplary achievements and dedication of former Southern Africans who volunteer their time to better Israeli society.
The highlight of the evening was the prestigious ‘Yakir Telfed’. During Telfed’s 70 years of activity, this has been conferred on only six individuals — those who have “rendered outstanding service to Telfed consistently, over an extended period of time, showing exceptional and outstanding interest and providing a major contribution through their activities and efforts to the well-being of the Telfed organisation and/or members of the Southern African community in Israel”. The man of the moment in this instance was Sidney Shapiro.
Born and bred in Cape Town, Sid was intricately involved in the Zionist movement in South Africa from the age of eight, when he joined Bnei Akiva and went on to be its Chairman years later. This was the beginning of a career that included leadership of the Student Jewish Association (now SAUJS), and the Cape Zionist Youth Council.
Sid made Aliyah in 1970. “It was always a foregone conclusion that I would settle in Israel, as the Zionist movement has been a major part of my life,” he recalled.
“My time in the extremely Zionist community of Cape Town had a profound impact on my life,” shared Sid, as he reflected on his years of interaction with the SA community in Israel with great eloquence and introspection. His strength of character and charisma are felt the moment you meet him, and these very characteristics were present on stage as he received the award acknowledging his contributions, which he admitted “sent an adrenalin spurt straight through me”.
“Telfed is a community organisation, representing Southern African Jews in Israel,” he explained. “In a way, we are like the UCF, IUA and Welfare in Cape Town, as we take on all three functions. I think that we’ve brought that South African Jewish community culture to Israel — the warmth, volunteerism, tzedakah and helping our own. I am very proud of that. Now we’re inculcating it into the next generation.”
It was a most special moment, understanding the honour that this award entails and the personal sacrifices made over the years. As Sid’s speech drew to a close, all those present stood up to salute him on this accolade, with thunderous applause and tears of joy accompanying the standing ovation.
The Harry and Anita Alter Memorial Award was presented to Ilana Bank by their son Darryl, a fellow Capetonian and sponsor of the award/event. Darryl saw through this award a special way of commemorating the memory of his parents and encouraging people to do good and give back to society.
The Archie and Blanche Isaacson Memorial Award for a Young Community Volunteer went to Shiri Berzack and was presented to her by son (and co-sponsor) Maish Isaacson.
Newly elected Chairman Batya Shmukler shared a few of her thoughts, commenting that “through the years I’ve come to see what an incredible organisation this is, supported by dedicated people who help others”, concluding that “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. When you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in”.
Other volunteers who received recognition were Beryl Schmidt, Hayden Bailey, Miriam Syber, Barry Kornel, Marion Polusky-Nakash, Libby Strous, Len Markuschowitz, David Goldberg and Joel Goodman.
Whilst all the volunteers made valiant contributions in their respective fields, none the more so than Ros Bak — who received the Telfed Volunteer of the Year Award for her assistance to the community over a number of years, in a variety of capacities.
The ‘Special Merit Award’ was scooped by up Josie Shlain, who entertained the crowd with his good humour and stage presence, proving through his spirit and speech that he was only 91 years ‘young’! A former Machalnik (overseas volunteer in the IDF), Josie has enriched the Southern African community in Israel in a number of ways; as one of the founding members of the Hachshara Building and Agricultural Centre (today the Ha’aretz Museum), and of Moshav Shitufi, and perhaps most significantly, for his role in the establishment of Isrentco, the Telfed Housing system which offers discounted rentals for new olim.
Mazal tov to the many hundreds of SA volunteers who serve our nation with great dedication.