Pesach message from the Chair

By Adrienne Jacobson

Pesach is almost upon us and the combined result of attending 45 Herzlia Seders across two generations (myself and my boys), coupled with an inbred Jewish mother radar has found me singing Simcha Rabah, Simcha Raba, Aviv Higiyah Pesach Ba…. (if you know you know) and Vehi Sheamdah, the Shweky version, on repeat, mainly in the shower where my family can’t stop me. This has also been accompanied by sudden and intense cravings for chicken soup and gluten free kneidelach (my granny’s recipe and secret weapon). 

The Seder table is a powerful space and, this year, the questions we ask, the themes of slavery and oppression, of fear and exile, of community and ritual, will feel particularly painful and profound, given the fragility of the Jewish world, the ongoing captivity of our hostages and the waves of antisemitism facing Jewish communities globally. 

Likewise, the Cape SAJBD Board table has been full of discussion and action around upholding our constitutional freedoms, in particular Freedom of Expression. Chapter 2 of the South African Bill of Rights clearly states that Freedom of Expression is a right as long as it is not acting as an advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion and that constitutes incitement to cause harm. This is reinforced under the Equality Act, which redresses hate speech. 

The Cape SAJBD is currently taking a series of actions through the Equality Court, against the hate speech and vile antisemitic behaviour exhibited in our current political climate. This is actually a universal issue which, if left unchallenged, provides a breeding ground for antisemitism. As South African citizens, irrespective of the current political dynamic with the ANC government, we have a strong recourse to legal structures and actions to uphold these constitutional rights and freedoms. 

Every Pesach, I always find it quite remarkable that roughly 15.7 million identifying Jews in all corners of the world, simultaneously, are sitting together with their families and friends, young and old, around the Seder table, doing what we do best: discussing, commemorating, singing and eating – and we have been doing this for more than 3000 years. No wonder we are such strong lobbyists and debaters.

I was privileged recently, to experience first-hand that power of debate and Jewish connection in the international political governmental lobbying space as together with our National Chair Karen Milner, we met with members of the US Congress delegation, both Republican and Democratic Congressional members, across the US political spectrum from far left to far right, briefing them on the position of SA Jewry, especially in light of government hostility. The meeting took place just before the delegation met with President Ramaphosa.

My personal highlight was meeting Congresswoman Kathy Manning and the rich discussion Karen and I had with her over our lobbying work with the leadership at South African universities. This comes in the context of Congresswoman Manning’s involvement in the interrogation into the antisemitism at Ivy League universities and the subsequent resignation of Liz McGill, president of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Here are some extracts from the letters of thanks that we received both from Kathy Manning, Congresswoman for North Carolina, as well as Liz Schrayer, President, US Global Leadership Coalition. 

“I just wanted to thank you both again for joining our delegation to brief us on the history and status of the Jewish community in South Africa and Cape Town. While it was very troubling to hear, it was so enlightening and important for us to understand and learn. Your insights were significant, particularly as Representative Manning and the others prepared to meet with President Ramaphosa. 

What I will just add is my heartfelt thank you for your leadership, courage and strength… You captured both the vulnerability and resilience of the community beautifully. 

Please know that the entire Jewish world is behind you and is cheering you on. If there is more that we can do to support you, please let us know.”
– Liz Schrayer 

“When I met with the President I told him that the SA Jewish community was experiencing a 600 percent rise in antisemitism and I shared with him the examples you shared with me, from the protests with the horrifying chants to the business boycotts. I told him the genocide claim against Israel had made matters worse. I told him your community needs his support. He responded by saying, ‘Message received’. 

Please keep us informed and stay strong.

With appreciation, Kathy”. 
– Kathy Manning

Together with our National Chair Karen Milner’s erudite political depth and insight, it was an incredible experience to be in such a powerful political space, to respond to the depth and breadth of the questions posed to us, and especially to meet with two such esteemed Jewish women leaders. For me it was a profound testament to the importance of the lobbying and advocacy work that the Board is doing nationally as well as in the Cape that is so crucial right now. 

May we all as individuals take this lobbying energy along with the lessons of Pesach as we read from our Haggadot at our Seder tables this year. That we may be blessed and enabled to demonstrate our freedoms of expression through meaningful engagement, and that we may be merited to work together with strength to build a world of empathy, peace and freedom, where “meavdut le chérut” (from slavery to freedom), is exalted; where “mi Yagon lesimcha“ (from mourning to celebration) means our hostages are freed, safe and returned to their families; and where “meafela leor gadol” (from darkness to great light) brings an end to hate and evil; and may we sing a “Shira chadasha” (a new song of tolerance and love). Hallelujah. 

Wishing you all a Chag Pesach Sameach veKasher and a Seder table full of loved ones, song, joy and rich family traditions. 

• Published in the April 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

• To advertise in the Cape Jewish Chronicle and on this website – kindly contact Lynette Roodt on 021 464 6736 or email For more information and advertising rate card click here.

• Sign up for our newsletter and never miss another issue.

• Please support the Cape Jewish Chronicle with a voluntary Subscription for 2024. For payment info click here.

• Visit our Portal to the Jewish Community to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites.

Follow the Cape Jewish Chronicle: Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here