On Wednesday 22 February, 280 of the community’s most magnanimous supporters came together for the United Jewish Campaign’s Annual Top Donors Gala Dinner.
|Prof Irwin Cotler, Eric Samson and Philip Krawitz. Front: Rhona Beck and Sheila Samson.|
The evening took place at the new Wembley 2 building, providing an elegant and contemporary atmosphere. As always, the food was delicious and the venue looked magnificent. The keynote address was delivered by Professor Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice of Canada and a former Attorney General. Prof. Cotler’s accolades are too numerous to be enumerated here. However, amongst his most notable accomplishments are serving as counsel to Nelson Mandela during the Rivonia trial and providing legal service to world figures such as Natan Sharansky while he was a prisoner of conscience.
Prof. Cotler has exemplary human rights and activist credentials, and he is also unabashedly ‘pro-Israel’. On this vein, his address centred on the misnomer of Israel being an apartheid state. He rejects such an assertion as patently false and as being a form of ‘apartheid-denial’, whereby the horrors of South African apartheid are marginalised and minimised. He does not shy away from the difficulties that abound in the Middle East but he also doesn’t allow Israel’s essential security measures to be cast as a form of wilful oppression against the Palestinians.
Prof. Cotler pointed out that one of the largely unspoken and forgotten tragedies of the Palestinian rejection of the Partition Plan was the myriads of Jews expelled from Arab lands as reprisal following the stablishment of Israel. He contends that this must factor into our conception of the injustices suffered at the time. Prof. Cotler’s presentation was methodical, engaging and highly thought-provoking. He certainly brought his erudition to bear on the topic of the Middle East.
Securing the future
In addition to Prof. Cotler’s presentation, the UJC was fortunate to have Irit Barash in attendance. Irit is the head of English-speaking countries for Keren Hayesod. Her highly emotive address discussed
the mutual dependence that exists between citizens of Israel and Diaspora Jewry. She urged that this partnership and friendship must be sustained for the betterment both of Israel and global Jewry.
The evening was a fitting commencement to the UJC’s Annual Fundraising Campaign that fuels the work of some 27 Jewish organisations in Cape Town; and the work of Keren Hayesod in Israel. This year, the UJC must raise R56 million to ensure that organisations such as Herzlia, Highlands House, Astra, the Board of Deputies and CSO fulfil their respective missions.
The UJC extends its sincere thanks to Investec for their continued sponsorship of our functions; to Stenham for their material support of our work; and to Eric and Sheila Samson for underwriting both our DVD and costs related to facilitating Prof. Cotler’s trip to South Africa.