Know your Board

Raymond Schkolne and Jonathan Silke

Each month we shine a spotlight on two individuals who make up our Board! After all, they are there to represent you and ensure your voice is heard when engaging with leading figures in the political, media and administrative spheres. So keep an eye out, and get to know your Board!

Raymond Schkolne

Why did you join the Board?

Serving on the Cape SAJBD wasn’t on my radar. I was approached by different people in the Jewish Community to put up my hand. 

What do you hope to achieve during your term of office?

My primary foci are a Cape Jewish Leadership that is more inclusive and representative of the entire Jewish Community, more receptive to different perspectives on Israel and that enhances care for Jewish Country Communities. I am respectful of Board members who leverage their experience during previous terms to make a more valuable contribution. I am serving a two-year term only, which is a short window, with limited opportunity to impact meaningfully. 

What other community organisations are you involved in?

I am scheduled in June to be at a Strategic Conference in Israel on a special initiative called Galilee Dreamers which brings together Jewish and Arab High School learners in the Galilee. They journeyed to Cape Town in 2019. A powerful moment was when learners at Herzlia were asked to point out who of the group on stage was Arab and who was Jewish. They got it all wrong! The crucial insight reinforced for all present is that we are firstly human and only secondly our specific ethnic identity. 

The Jewish Democratic Initiative (JDI), which I co-founded in 2018 and continue to actively serve on its Va’ad Poel (Executive Committee) advocates for an Israel that is both Jewish and Democratic. It offers the opportunity to grapple with Israeli-Palestinian and also South African challenges, issues and perspectives relevant to our Jewish Community, not offered elsewhere.

I continue to volunteer, making numerous UJC telephone calls each year since 2007. The financial contribution of contributors is important; and as valuable, in my view, is their sustained connection to the Jewish Community. 

My involvement in the Hermanus Hebrew Congregation as an active committee member gives me a lot of joy. It is a special Small Country Community! 

The Vision 2040 Project aims to ‘future-proof’ our community. A few months ago, I was asked to participate by capturing the Human Resources Practices within our Welfare Organisations and making proposals for the way forward. This involvement has reinforced for me the exceptionally strong and sustained ethos of care, and commitment to the core purpose of each of our Communal Welfare Organisations.

What are your passions?

My family are central to my life. Researching family history is hugely meaningful and rewarding. Israel is inextricably part of my identity — wonderful to be scheduled to travel there again shortly, after the COVID-19 enforced travel ban!

What is your vision for the community?

We have a range of Jewish communities in the Cape, with sharply differing values and perspectives on what it means to be Jewish. We should be more mindful of this when, for example, making pronouncements ‘on behalf of the Jewish Community’ that represent only some sections of it. My vision is a local Jewish Community that protects and enhances its Jewish identity, and that advocates for the equality of civil and political rights for all human beings in South Africa and in Israel — as envisaged in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. It is a vision for an inclusive, well-functioning SA Jewish Community where its leaders set the tone and model ‘living the values’. 

What do you think is unique about our Jewish community?

We have some exceptional institutions of care in our community, built over many years, that we can be extremely proud of. The support extended and broad collaboration demonstrated during the extremely difficult COVID-19 period across all communal organisations was special.

Jonathan Silke

Why did you join the Board? 

I joined the Cape Council of the Board in 1992 as a co-opted member in my role as Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation (Cape Council). When my term of office ended, I stood for election to the Cape SAJBD in my own right and have successfully remained a member ever since.

What do you hope to achieve during your term of office? 

I have always regarded my involvement on the Board as a privilege as it has enabled me to serve our community and have access to and involvement in all the major issues facing our community. Being a small and relatively isolated community, I have always valued and admired our unity and ability to overcome adversity. The Board is well-placed to fulfil the role of an adjudicator and provide the necessary guidelines to the community in times of crisis.

What other community organisations are you involved in?

I have, over the years, also been involved in national Jewish affairs and have always admired the way in which the National Board and the South African Zionist Federation have worked closely together on so many crucial issues. It is also essential that members of the Cape Board have the opportunity to present their views to the National Board. I must compliment the National Board on its recent meeting with our President and for providing such positive feedback.

In regard to public advocacy, it is my hope that we in the Cape will continue to engage both political parties in our local and national legislatures, as well as the host of NGOs in the city to hear their views, introduce our concerns and express our wish to be involved in community structures.

What are your passions? 

My particular involvement, being an advocate of many years standing at the Cape Bar, has been in three areas: dealing with legal issues confronting the Board, public advocacy, and fighting antisemitism, the Board’s primary mandate. I must compliment the Board for having taken the initiative to prepare a booklet explaining the meaning and consequences of antisemitism, and the dangers that it presents not only for our community but also for the wider population. The World Holocaust Remembrance definition of antisemitism has been adopted by governments in over
30 countries and it is my hope that South Africa follows suit. That definition, very importantly, embraces instances where the delegitimisation and denigration of the State of Israel amount to antisemitism.

It has been very encouraging to see how our constitution provides protection in different ways, and this has been demonstrated in judgments handed down in the Constitutional Court and other courts. It has always been my belief that Zionism is a core value of Judaism and that anyone who says otherwise demonstrates both a callousness toward their fellow Jews and ignorance about the Jew-hating forces that threaten the Jewish future. We must also be constantly aware that waning commitment to Israel enables antisemitism and for that reason, our unity as a community must be based on its core values.

What is your vision for the community?

The Board’s stated mission is to work for the betterment of human relations between Jews and all other peoples of South Africa, based on mutual respect, understanding and goodwill, and to protect the civil liberties of South African Jews while being committed to the eradication of prejudice, intolerance and discrimination.

Lastly, and crucially, peace and shalom bayit in our community are vital for our future well-being and respect for all streams of Judaism is essential.

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

• Published in the PDF edition of the June 2022 issue – Click here to read it.

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