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By Lauren Shapiro

Supporting each other is a hallmark of any Jewish community. KwaZulu-Natal Jewry further spelled this out on 31 October, when they gathered at the Durban Jewish Centre for the annual launch of the Israel United Appeal-United Communal Fund (IUA-UCF) campaign.

“We look after our own – from cradle to grave,” read the slogan emblazoned on the screen. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so in challenging economic times. “The economic climate is causing pain in our community and we are incredibly fortunate to have the support of the IUA-UCF to help look after our own and ease some of the pain for our most vulnerable,” observed Jeremy Droyman, President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) KwaZulu-Natal Council.

Michael Selikow, Chairman of the United Communal Fund, noted that the fund is “totally reliant on the generosity of our donors, without whom we would not be able to provide our beneficiaries these much needed funds and continue to make it possible to let them live with dignity.” He thanked the JAKAMaR Trust, The Victor Daitz Foundation, The Beare Foundation and The Lazarus Family Trust for their continued support, and appealed to the community to “dig deep” to help this worthy cause.

Some of the fund’s biggest recipients are Durban Jewish Social Services, Durban’s Jewish senior citizens’ home Beth Shalom, and the community’s youth, including Bnei Akiva and Netzer. Selikow also praised It’s Durban Calling, a new social media project that aims to raise both awareness and money for the Durban Jewish community. To date, It’s Durban Calling has collected hundreds of thousands of Rands. 2284 individuals engage across the various digital platforms, reuniting globally dispersed members of a very special community.

SAJBD KZN Council’s vice president Susan Abro introduced the keynote speaker, Mmusi Maimane. Maimane is the current leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and leader of the opposition in the national assembly. Maimane spoke confidently and eloquently, assuring the audience that “when things fall apart, they do fall into place”.

Despite the nine million people in our country who cannot find work and the 53% categorized as poor, Maimane is “more hopeful about South Africa now than I’ve ever been”. He hopes the pivotal 2019 election will result in a coalition government leading a country united by values, not divided by race.  “People see things as black or white. It’s not ‘or’. It’s ‘and’. It’s black and white, it’s urban and rural, it’s labour and business – it’s all of us.”

He continued: “I can see state capture. I can see corruption. We can all see that. But the question I would like to attempt to answer is what about the future? What changes do we hope to see?” He then outlined his economic vision, which includes city-driven schemes to avoid national corruption. He wants to focus on education, sustainable energy, entrepreneurship, tourism, manufacturing and mining, amongst other things. He also advocates a smaller cabinet to reduce expenses, and 15 year sentences for corrupt politicians.

Maimane attended the 2017 ABSA Jewish Achievers Awards and said he was “impressed not just by the capital in the room but the skills and innovation”. He congratulated the South African Jewish community on their participation in the national economy. “Your contribution is more needed today than at any time in the past,” he implored.

Maimane closed with reference to a recent visit to Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust – which he said inspired him with “the triumph of human beings over a particularly devastating aspect of history”, and reminded him that anything is achievable. “I’d rather talk about what is possible,” he concluded. “Not what is happening, but what is possible.” Maimane received a standing ovation.