The SAJBD has had a lively start to 2019, with the launch of another exciting ‘Make Us Count’ pre-election awareness and education campaign, several noteworthy engagements with our international Jewish colleagues, ongoing interaction with political leaders across the spectrum and making input into important new legislation aimed countering the scourge of hate crimes and hate speech in our country.
As is inevitable, we have also been called upon to address a number of cases of antisemitic behaviour that have come to our attention. On the international front, National Director Wendy Kahn accompanied a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations on a visit to Kenya and Uganda, a most successful visit that was part of an ongoing process of forging ties of friendship and cooperation between the greater Jewish world and the peoples of Africa. In terms of antisemitism, we have worked with Crossroads School and the University of Pretoria in resolving incidents of offensive behaviour involving inappropriate use of Nazi expressions and symbols.
As is always our preference, we used these incidents as an opportunity for education as opposed to simply insisting on punitive action, with the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre being brought in to assist, as has been done in previous years. In terms of ‘Make Us Count’, our campaign commenced with a voter registration drive and the distribution of a document giving the Board’s input into the election manifestos of the main parties.
Since then, we have held a special youth leadership event addressed by Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, put together the largest-ever multi-faith election observer team to assist the Independent Electoral Commission on voting day and begun planning ‘Great Debates’ between representatives of the main political parties that will be taking place in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. All these activities are aimed at empowering our Jewish community through providing them with vehicles through which to actively participate in South Africa’s democratic culture.