Words Matter Conference 2018

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Paul Berman, Sara Abel, Bernie Abel, Mike Abel, Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Samuel Seeff and Rael

The theme at this year’s Board of Deputies conference was Words Matter.

We explored how people’s words have an impact on our Jewish community. In an age of populism, we used the platform to consider how words of politicians and individuals have marginalised groups to win votes and fuel racism, how the rise of leftist antisemitism that supports radical anti-Israeli attitudes is expressed in antisemitic terms, looking at organisations such as the BDS.

The Board reached out to two captains of industry, turning to the veteran investigative journalist and former editor-in-chief Prof. Anton Harber and Mike Abel, co-founder and Chief Executive of MC Saatchi & Abel an award-winning advertising agency in South Africa, to share their views and insights of how we overcome these communications challenges as South African Jews.
Anton Harber spoke about how communities like ours are affected by words and images in an age of fake news and hate speech. While Mike Abel presented fascinating and innovative ways in which the community should be persuading and influencing others, in creative ways. Both speakers confirmed that we have the ability to live a full Jewish communal and individual life and should never compromise our Jewish identity and values.

In his Chairman’s Report, Rael Kaimowitz spoke about the Board’s decisive action taken against local politicians who made antisemitic remarks in the Western Cape Legislature. And how well the Board has worked with affiliate organisations such as the SAZF and SAUJS to deal with Israel Apartheid Week on campuses in the region The Board also supported the UHS when the antisemitic incident occurred at Vista High School by meeting with the MEC of Education, Debbie Schafer and developed anti-bias material for classrooms across the Western Cape.

While he reported on the great milestones the Board had achieved for the community over the past year, he went on to share his concerns “Communal organisations are complex structures with a partnership of lay and professional leadership. The Board navigates these complexities by ensuring that good governance is practiced and where there are procedural disparities, we are committed to improving them.

We have an open door policy. Constructive feedback and meaningful dialogue between our community members and affiliates are welcome and we have managed, in most instances to navigate some critical hurdles together.
But when relationships become litigious or threatened with taking issues to the media, they become strained and removes our attention away from our core business of protecting and serving the 16000 Jews who live in the Cape.”
The Chairman went on to encourage community members that to effect change they should “get involved, stand for election, join committees and serve the community in a constructive manner”.

The Chairman’s Full Report is available online, www.capesajbd.org.

The highlight of the day was the launch of the No Place For Hate campaign, an initiative that although powered by the Board is one that we envisage activating across all of the Western Cape. Viv Anstey, Vice-Chair of the Board explained “The aim of this campaign is to combat racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and all forms of prejudice.”

“Adopting this campaign of No Place For Hate means we become a signatory and pledge to change our behaviour, to stand up to abuse of rights; to cyberhate; to warring parties; to hate speech, beyond our own interests. We can no longer stand idly by.”
The Board has developed a No Place For Hate tool-kit, available on our website that includes an explainer video about the campaign and various resources that can be downloaded for free. We will be launching an exciting activation that takes the No Place For Hate to our communal organisations, to external partners and to the media. Our goal is to make the Western Cape No Place For Hate .

Visit www.capesajbd.org for more information.

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