A tribute to Julie Berman

By Jonathan Silke, Hon Life President, SA Zionist Federation

Julie Berman, executive director of the Cape Council of the South African Zionist Federation, retired from her position at the end of November after twenty-three years of devoted service to the federation in order to fulfil her longstanding wish to make Aliyah.

When she joined the federation in 1997 she became the personal assistant to the then director, Izzy Wolman, who was, as she describes him, ‘a scholar and a gentleman’ who taught her profound lessons including the 3 ‘P’s’, Prepare Pal, Prepare!

After occupying various positions in the federation Julie became the executive director and top official in 2008. She was not only the face of the organisation in the community but was known as the passionate spokesperson for Zionism.

She recalls with much affection and respect the late Leon Wilder and Eliot Osrin, who both played such a dominant role in communal affairs in those days. Eliot was one of her mentors who inspired her and taught her how to raise money and to show compassion for others and, in her words, he ‘was a genuine, honest, inspirational loving soul whom I admired.’

She worked with many of the prominent Zionist leaders in South Africa including the late Mendel Kaplan who ‘seldom wrote a contract as he was so respected and trusted and his word was his bond.’ In Cape Town she always greatly valued her relationship with the UJC and learnt much from Philip Krawitz and Ronnie Stein, amongst others.

Julie was involved in every facet of Zionist endeavour and never knew the meaning of the phrase ‘9 to 5’, as she was often seen in her office late into the evening holding meetings and planning sessions.

She was always an outstanding hands-on administrator with a flair for initiating and planning existing and new projects. She planned the major community Yom Ha’atzmaut functions at Ratanga Junction over many years where thousands attended and celebrated.

Julie loved working with our youth movements, Bnei Akiva, Habonim and Netzer and communicated very effectively with people of all ages and from all walks of life. She also assisted SAUJS in dealing effectively with IAW events on the campuses of our universities.

She chose to become a member of the CSO and did all her training and weekends away as she felt it was her duty to show that no one was above serving the community.

Projects that were close to her heart included Diller, SAFI and the various pastors tours to Israel.

She nurtured our friendship and collaboration with Christian Zionists which started off in Cape Town in the late 1970s when Izzy Wolman formed a friendship with Basil Jacobs and others including Frans Klopper and Johan Greeff who belonged to Christian Action for Israel. This became the International Christian Embassy and today embraces Bridges for Peace’s Chris and Cecilia Eden who, together with the SAZF, took three high ranking pastors tours to Israel from all over South Africa.

Julie describes her involvement with Diller as being ‘an eye-opener for me into the mind of our youth and into the new methods of education.’ In this regard she travelled to the USA to conferences and learnt much from her American counterparts.

SAFI, South African Friends of Israel, was established by the SAZF to develop liaison with Christian Zionist supporters throughout the country and a branch was established in Cape Town.

Julie loved working with all our shlichim in the Israel Centre and, as she says, ‘threw myself into it lock stock and barrel.’ Similarly, her close ties with Herzlia school were crucial for Zionist education.

Julie concludes on lessons learnt in her career: ‘The terminology ‘young and dynamic’ that is bantered around at every opportunity is dangerous. I know that we have to have succession planning, but you have to have an even distribution of young and older.’

We wish Julie every success and happiness in her new life in Israel.

SA Zionist Federation – Cape Council – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Website: www.sazfcape.co.za

Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
Download the Dec/Jan issue PDF here.

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