View from the chair – Dec 2020

By Tzvi Brivik

At Simchat Torah, we celebrate a full cycle of the reading of the Torah from the very first parsha.

On completing the reading, we start again — a fresh start and at each reading, an opportunity to learn something further, to expand our knowledge, to get a better understanding of what drove our forefathers to do what they had and what we can learn from their actions.

In Parshat Vayera we read about Avraham. Avraham faced two major conflicts, first with his nephew Lot about how their respective employees the shepherds should carry out their work. To resolve this dispute, Avraham first sought points of commonality. The second dispute was when Avraham was told that the city of Sodom would be destroyed. He then appealed on behalf of the inhabitants of the city on the basis of their humanity.

There are lessons to be learned from Avraham and his reactions — seeking first to determine that which makes us the same, what views we share, what values we hold in common, and then using that as a springboard to resolve disputes. The second lesson provides a more high-level or broad approach.

I mention this as I intend over the next couple of months to elucidate on the work which the Cape SAJBD does, part of which includes ensuring harmonious relations both within our community and on behalf of our community facing out. That work continues all the time both behind the scenes and visibly through our various campaigns.

By creating an opportunity for parties to discuss openly — free of any concern of recrimination or judgement — their commonalities we hope the differences become resolved.

Promoting discussions and dialogues with outside bodies and political bodies secures our community against antisemitism and hateful speech, and is essential in fulfilling our primary mandate.

We are fortunate in South Africa and particularly in the Cape to be able to practice our religion freely in the manner that we choose and in a manner that expresses our Judaism openly and publicly. To ensure that freedom, there is an open dialogue between ourselves as a representative body and political institutions and civil institutions — which include not-for-profit organisations and think-tanks both in the Cape and around the world.

I have mentioned these two objectives of the Cape SAJBD, namely human relations and protection against antisemitism, in one breath as we do not see these as distinct and separate. Hateful speech and words create space for opportunistic antisemitism and for more hate to seep in and poison debate and relations, and the two cannot, and should not, be separated.

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website:, Instagram, and Facebook page.

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

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