by Gwynne Robins
The Cape SAJBD is happy to welcome into its family of affiliates its five new members — Chabad on Campus, the David Susman Community Foundation, the Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute, Mensch and Moishe House.
What do our new affiliates represent? Chabad on Campus acts as a resource for Jewish students and faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the surrounding Jewish community. The David Susman Community Foundation is a stabilisation fund committed to preserving our community and its multifaceted manifestations of Jewish life in case of major challenges, such as COVID-19 now represents. The Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute (EOLI) upskills current professional and lay leaders and hopes to recruit potential future leaders. The Mensch network supports and facilitates Jewish changemakers and change-making activities to bring about social transformation in South Africa, and Moishe House provides a home for young adult Jews with a rent subsidy and programme budget so that they can use their home to create their ideal Jewish communal space for young adults.
Why do we have affiliates? Why are we the Board of Deputies?
The Cape SAJBD was started when the Cape Town Jewish community was living in a British colony and followed the lead of Britain in most things. Even the form of synagogue service was per the ritual adopted by the United Hebrew Congregation of the British Empire, not that of Eastern Europe — where most Cape Jews came from.
Similarly, when the Cape SAJBD was established in 1904, It followed the British model — there was no such body in Eastern Europe. The London Committee of Deputies of British Jews was established in England in 1760 with representatives of the ‘two nations’ — the Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations. They might have taken their name from the non-Jewish London Board of Dissenting Deputies. It was a gathering of representatives — deputies — of some, but not all, of the different synagogues, each sharing the cost of the board. Membership came with affiliation fees. In 1853, there were 58 deputies and by 1927, 143 were elected from 45 affiliated London synagogues, 89 by provincial and nine from the colonies, and the press were invited to all its meetings. By 1919, it was agreed that secular societies could also become members. Today, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has 300 deputies directly elected by affiliated synagogues and communal organisations, from youth movements to social welfare charities and regional councils, except Haredi synagogues which have chosen not to affiliate. There are also some under-35 observers, appointed to ensure that a new generation of communally-minded activists can contribute to its work on behalf of the community.
Now we come to the Cape SAJBD. When it was established in 1904, its deputies came from Oudtshoorn, Uniondale, Wynberg, Somerset West, Strand and Malmesbury Hebrew congregations, the Maitland Ahavath Zion Association, the Grand Order of Israel (Cape Town) and the Parade Dealers’ Association — eight affiliates in total. The absence of the Gardens Synagogue and Port Elizabeth Hebrew congregations was due to the antagonism of Rev Bender, who regarded himself as the leader of South African Jewry and saw no reason for a competing voice. These affiliates come together at the biennial conference to elect new deputies.
With the inclusion of Chabad on Campus, the David Susman Community Foundation, EOLI, Mensch and Moishe House, we now have 70 affiliated organisations. They are all important bodies who will bring their voices to our diverse community. Baruch Haba to you — Welcome!
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