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Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate Revealed in Diary of Former KGB Chief

By: Hana Levi Julian- Jewish Press

For the first time ever, historians finally know, without doubt, what happened to the Swedish diplomat who saved so many thousands of Jewish lives from the Nazi hordes in Hungary during World War II.

In the 632-page tome, “Notes From a Suitcase: Secret Diaries of the First K.G.B. Chairman, Found Over 25 Years After His Death,” one finds the memoirs of one of the most important men in Soviet history, and the answer to one of the most painful questions of the last century.

“I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” wrote state security chief Ivan A. Serov, head of the KGB from 1954 to 1958, in a memoir not only rare but in fact probably entirely forbidden to write.

Wallenberg disappeared in Budapest in 1945, and although there have been countless searches for clues to his fate, none have turned up the slightest breath of evidence as to what happened to him.

But his fate is found in this text, because the grandaughter of Ivan A. Serov, 57-year-old retired ballerina Vera Serova was wise enough, and kind enough, not to throw away the papers discovered by workers in suitcases as they renovated a garage four years ago at a “dacha” left to her in northwestern Moscow by her VIP grandfather.

The soldiers of the Soviet Union were occupying Budapest at the time of Wallenberg’s disappearance, and it was known that as a Swedish diplomat, he had strong ties with the Americans and the highest echelons of the Third Reich. That made him suspect to the Russians.

Neither ever gave up a clue, however, until this summer when the diaries of the original head of the clandestine KGB, found tucked into the wall of a little vacation cottage in Russia, were published.

Although few indeed are memoirs written by Kremlin officials – for obvious reasons – this one, penned by Serov, contained a treasure.

The multiple references to previously unknown documents on Wallenberg definitively put to rest the endless questions about the fate of the heroic diplomat. The most important of all is the fact that Wallenberg, though dead at the time of the posthumous investigation, was ultimately found by the USSR not to have been a “spy” after all.

It was Serov who carried out that probe at the behest of Nikita S. Khrushchev, who requested the inquiry after Stalin, telling Serov to respond to Sweden and help in the purge of Molotov. Although he failed to uncover the full circumstances of Wallenberg’s death, he said, he found no evidence of espionage.

There is a mention of the cremation of Wallenberg’s remains. And there is a reference to something said by Serov’s predecessor, Viktor Abakunov, who was tried and executed in 1954, in the final Stalin purge. During the interrogation of the former head of state security, his torturers learned that it was Stalin and then-foreign minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov who had issued the order to “liquidate” Wallenberg.

Serov also said he had read a Wallenberg file — despite the fact the Soviet Security Service had for years denied that any such files existed. Hans Magnusson, a retired senior diplomat interviewed by the New York Times, directed the Swedish side of the Swedish-Russian Working Group and said there should have been a file created for every prisoner. But, he said, “The Russians said they did not find one.”

Vera Serova has one, however, in her grandfather’s memoirs. She has published them now to restore his reputation, she said.

Serov did many evil things in his life: he established the secret police that were used to terrorize the population in Poland and East Germany; he helped deport thousands of minorities considered a threat to Soviet rule in Russia; he wielded enormous power as head of state security.

His deeds eventually caught up with him, when he left his post to take another in military intelligence. There he was disgraced, when one of those in his command was exposed as a spy for the West.

Serov died in 1990 of a heart attack, at age 84.

But the gift of knowledge that he left his descendants and to humanity cannot be measured. It goes without saying that he knew what he was doing; knew that writing such information could mean his life. In fact, he hid the suitcases with his papers around 1971 — just around the time his superiors decided it was time to begin surveillance of his activities.

As head of security and intelligence in what was arguably the most dangerous place on earth after World War II, Serov knew full well the risk he was taking. And yet, he made sure the information would survive.

His historic, earth-shattering memoir was released as part of a museum exhibition curated by the Russian Military-Historical Society. It has yet to be published in a mass-market edition. A cursory search by found it is not available in any language, either on the UK-based international book-selling site, nor on the U.S.-based worldwide site.


7 things to know, about the Jews of Brazil

By Marcus Moraes- Jewish Telegraphic Agency 

RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — When the 2016 Olympic Games open on Friday, August 5, the eyes of the world will be on Rio — the first South American city to host the quadrennial event.

True, the build-up to the massive event — which will feature a record number of countries competing in a record number of sports — hasn’t been easy, with reports of unfinished venues, polluted swimming and sailing sites and, most of all, concerns about the spread of Zika.

The run of bad news has put a damper on what should have been a moment of triumph for the people of Brazil, especially Brazil’s Jewish community: The three top officials of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, including its president, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, are Members of the Tribe.

But what about the remaining 120,000 or so Jews who call Brazil home? Who exactly are they? Here’s what you need to know.

How many Jews are there in Brazil? 

There are about 120,000 Jews in Brazil, according to local estimates, or between 90,000-100,000, according to some international sources. Either way, Brazil boasts the second largest Jewish population in Latin America — behind Argentina — and is home to the ninth-largest Jewish community in the world.

Brazil is home to some 204 million people. About 87 percent of them are Christian, including the world’s largest Catholic population of 124 million. Evangelicals are the fastest-growing group; today they number more than 42 million, most of them strong supporters of Israel.

Brazil is home to the largest Arab population outside the Middle East with some 10 million members, though the overwhelming majority is Christian. Only some 35,000 are Muslim, with most living in the Triple Frontier area, where the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge.

How many Jews are there in Brazil? 

Approximately 60,000 Jews — about half of Brazil’s Jewish population — live in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and its financial and cultural powerhouse. Rio comes in second with a population of nearly 40,000, according to the World Jewish Congress.

In Sao Paulo, the Jewish community has prospered; many Jews have moved from the immigrant enclave of Bom Retiro to the upscale Higienopolis area, where several synagogues, kosher shops and other institutions may be found.

Between the 1920s and 1960s, Jewish immigrants in Rio concentrated in the downtown district of Praca Onze — incidentally the birthplace of samba — before moving on to wealthier areas such as Tijuca and Copacabana, where the largest number of Jewish institutions are.

In addition, about 10,000 Jews live in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.

What are Brazil’s most influential Jewish institutions?

The CONIB, or Brazilian Israelite Confederation, is the central political representative of the Brazilian Jewish community. Established in 1948, it gathers 14 state federations with some 200 institutions. CONIB sets the Jewish community relations agenda, with the fight against anti-Semitism a key task.

The Albert Einstein Israelite Hospital, in Sao Paulo, is one of Brazil’s strongest Jewish institutions. Built by donations from well-known Jewish families in 1955, it is considered Latin America’s best hopsital. “The Einstein makes proud not only the Jewish community but all of Brazil,” said Alberto Milkewitz, executive director of the local Jewish federation.

The centerpieces of Jewish life in Brazil, however, are Hebraicas: multifaceted Jewish sports clubs that combine the functions of a Jewish community center and a country club. Sao Paulo’s Hebraica is the largest Jewish organization in Brazil, with 18,000 members. Its activities include sports competitions, theater, youth movements, religious services, music and dance festivals —  it even operates a day school.

Rio’s Hebraica, though less grand and struggling to modernize its facilities, remains an epicenter of the city’s Jewish life. It hosts the famed Hava Netze Bemachol dance festival and Maccabi soccer matches.

How did Jews get to Brazil?

The Jewish presence in Brazil is more than 500 years old. Gaspar da Gama — a Jew by birth who was forcibly baptized — accompanied Portuguese admiral Pedro Alvares Cabral when he landed in Brazil in 1500. Other New Christians or conversos were aboard the ships.

Jews began settling in Brazil once the Inquisition reached Portugal in the 16th century. In 1624, the Dutch — who were tolerant of Jewish migration and open practice of religion — took over portions of northeast Brazil. In 1637, Jews built the Kahal Zur Israel synagogue in Recife, which was closed by the Portuguese when the Dutch were expelled in 1654. (It was re-opened in 2002 and now stands as the oldest existing synagogue in the Americas, housing a Jewish cultural center and museum.)

In 1773, a Portuguese royal decree finally abolished discrimination against Jews. Jews slowly filtered back to Brazil. Almost 50 years later, independent Brazil’s first constitution in 1824 granted freedom of religion. A stream of Moroccan Jews began arriving, and set up in the Amazon region.

The population was swelled by waves of Russian and Polish Jews escaping pogroms and the Russian Revolution, and again during the 1930s during the rise of Nazis in Europe. In the late 1950s, another wave brought thousands of North African Jews.

Although they make up roughly only .06 percent of Brazil’s population, Brazil’s Jews play an important role in many different fields and activities in the country, including politics, academia, banking, industry, culture, entertainment, and sports.

What’s the identity of Brazilian Jews?

Brazil’s Jewish community is mostly comprised of Ashkenazi Jews of Polish and German descent, but there is a sizable community of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews of Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian and Moroccan ancestry.

Most of Brazil’s Jews identify themselves as secular and Zionist. Until the 1930s, under the influence of the Eastern European immigrants, the main religious stream was Orthodox. With the arrival of Jews from Central Europe, the Reform movement was introduced as well. Today the largest synagogues are Conservative and Reform: Sao Paulo’s CIP and Rio’s ARI. In recent years, the Chabad movement has grown significantly.

How do Brazilian Jews respond to anti-Semitism?

The results of a global survey on anti-Semitic sentiments, released by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014, ranks Brazil among the least anti-Semitic countries in world. It’s the third-lowest on the “Anti-Semitic Index” in the Americas, only behind the U.S. and Canada.

In Brazil it is illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell literature that promotes anti-Semitism or racism. Manufacturing, trading and distributing items adorned with swastikas is also against the law. The number of online anti-Semitic incidents has been growing, though.

“We’ll be always alert to anti-Semitic expressions and take the appropriate actions in order to avoid the proliferation of this type of discrimination,” Sao Paulo Jewish federation’s executive president Ricardo Berkiensztat recently told JTA.

What are Brazil-Israel relations like?

Brazil has had ties with Israel since its inception: Brazilian diplomat Oswaldo Aranha presided over the United Nations General Assembly session that voted for the partition of Palestine and for the creation of a Jewish state in 1947. “As Jewish Brazilians, we are very proud that a Brazilian like us has a historic participation by sealing the act that, after 2,000 years, gave the Land of Israel to whom it belongs by right,” Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA.

Since late 2015, however, an unprecedented diplomatic quarrel has left the Israel’s ambassador slot in Barazil vacant, when Brasilia rebuffed the appointment of ex-settler leader Dani Dayan. The crisis is not yet resolved, though Dayan was subsequently appointed Israel’s consul general in New York.

The number of Brazilian Jews making aliyah more than doubled between 2011 and 2015. In 2015, nearly 500 individuals immigrated to Israel from Brazil, compared with only 191 in 2011. The tough economic climate in Brazil, combined with urban violence and government corruption, have been driving factors as Brazilians move to Israel seeking “quality of life.”


The Holocaust: Many Villains, Few Heroes

By: Alan M. Dershowitz- Gatestone Institute

As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, at which selected Nazi leaders were placed in the dock, we must ask some disturbing questions about those who were never tried for their complicity in the world’s worst genocide. It would have been impossible to carry out the mass murder of so many people without the complicity of so many governments, groups, and individuals. Perhaps there were too many guilty parties to put them all on trial, but it is not too late to hold the guilty morally accountable for what they did and failed to do.

To be sure, the guiltiest individuals were the Nazi leaders who directly planned and implemented the final solution. Their goal was to gather Jews from all over the world in order to kill them and to destroy what they regarded as the “Jewish race”. They came very close to succeeding, wiping out nearly all of Europe’s Jews in a relatively brief period of time. These Nazi leaders had the help of many “willing executioners,” both in Germany and in the countries under its control. Among the worst culprits were individual Lithuanians, Latvians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, and others. There were some heroes among these groups and they are justly remembered and honoured. But the number of villains far exceeded the number of heroes.

Then there were the guilty governments that cooperated and helped facilitate the deportations and round-ups. The French government deported more Jews than the Nazis demanded. Other governments, including those of Norway, Holland, Hungary and Austria (which had become part of Nazi Germany), also helped the Nazis achieve their genocidal goal. Bulgaria, on the other hand, declined to cooperate with the Nazi genocide, and its small Jewish population were saved. Denmark too rescued its Jews, many of whom were ferried to neutral Sweden.

There were also the countries that refused to accept Jews who might have escaped the Nazis had they been permitted to enter. These countries include the United States, Canada, and many other potential places of asylum that shut their doors. In the United States and Canada too, there were heroes who pressed their leaders to do more, but for the most part they failed.

Many Arab and Muslim leaders also played ignoble roles, siding with the Nazis and conducting their own pogroms against local Jews. The leading villain in this regard was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who joined Hitler in Berlin and played a hands-on role in sending Jews to their deaths and in keeping the doors of Palestine closed to Jewish refugees.

Could more have been done by Britain and the United States to end the genocide? Could they have bombed the rail lines to Auschwitz and other death camps? These are complex questions that have been asked but not satisfactorily answered since 1945.

There were also the actions of those who pardoned and commuted the sentences of Nazis convicted at Nuremberg, and those who helped Nazis escape prosecution after the war ended. That list too is long and disturbing.

The Nuremberg trials, by focusing narrowly on Nazi leaders and their direct henchmen, implicitly exculpated those who played important, but less direct, roles by their actions and inaction. By their nature, courts are limited in what they can do to bring to justice large numbers of individuals who belong on a wide continuum of legal and moral guilt. But historians, philosophers, jurists and ordinary citizens are not so limited. We may point fingers of blame at all who deserve to be blamed, whether or not they were placed on trial at Nuremberg, or at subsequent legal proceedings.

There will never be perfect justice for those who helped carry out the Holocaust. Most of the guilty escaped prosecution, lived happy lives and died in their beds, surrounded by loving family members. West Germany prospered as a result of the Marshall Plan, and many German industrialists, who had benefited from slave labour, continued to benefit as a result of the perceived needs of the Cold War. The scales of justice remain out of balance. Perhaps this helps to explain why more than 6 million people have been murdered in preventable genocides -- in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and other places - since the world pledged “never again.”

There is, of course, the risk that by blaming all, we blame none. It is important to calibrate the responsibility of those who played very different roles in the Holocaust. This is a daunting task, but it must be undertaken if future genocides are to be deterred.

Professor Alan Dershowitz, along with Professor Irwin Cotler, is co-chairing a symposium on the legacy of Nuremberg being held in Krakow on May 4, 2016.


Biblical Nomads Will Return to the Holy Land, Thanks to a Canadian Farm

By Dan Levin - The New York Times

Over thousands of years, they wandered from their homeland in the Middle East to Europe and finally traveled to North America, bound by a shared history and rigid dietary restrictions.

But these nomads do not keep kosher. They are kosher.

Known as Jacob sheep, named for the biblical patriarch who, according to the Book of Genesis, first selected the “speckled and spotted” ruminants as wages from his father-in-law, the woolly animals are now set to make their own return to the Holy Land — from Canada, of all places. Their passage marks the resolution to an odyssey that blends the agricultural passions of two millennials with a spiritual devotion that has spanned four millenniums.

On a small farm 43 miles east of Vancouver, British Columbia, Jenna and Gil Lewinsky, an Israeli husband and wife, are raising around 130 Jacob sheep, which they plan to take to Israel this year on a specially fitted plane with all the pomp that would be expected to accompany the return of a lost tribe.

Indeed, the flock consists of some of the last heirloom Jacob sheep on Earth, and the Lewinskys hope their zeal for the rare breed will help enhance Jewish religious and environmental understanding for generations to come.

Enthusiasts, citing scripture, claim the sheep followed the Israelites to ancient Egypt and then spread out across the ancient world.

Moorish traders brought them to Spain, where British merchants took a fancy to the colorful breed and imported the sheep for meat and wool, according to the Jacob Sheep Society, a British breeding organization. About 120 years ago, the sheep disembarked in Canada and some were sold to zoos, which preserved the flocks far better than the mixed breeding that occurred in the United Kingdom.

Fast forward to 2014, when a chance meeting between the Lewinskys and a Canadian Jacob heritage farmer sparked something akin to divine inspiration. Once the couple discovered that the sheep were long extinct in Israel, they took it upon themselves to learn how to raise the animals in order to bring them back.

“We were not born shepherds,” Ms. Lewinsky, 31, said by telephone from her home in Abbotsford, British Columbia. “We had to learn everything from scratch.” They were not farmers, either: She had worked for the Israeli foreign ministry, and her husband, also 31 and a Canadian citizen, had been a journalist for The Jerusalem Post.

While they were receiving a crash course in animal husbandry from farmers and a veterinarian, Ms. Lewinsky asked the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa to aid their mission. But like the Israelites’ epic return from Egypt, getting the animals to the Middle East has taken much longer than expected.

Canada and Israel have long had deep agricultural ties relating to plants and food technology, including a robust trade in chickpeas from Saskatchewan that ultimately grace Israeli plates as hummus. But the two countries did not have any agreements for importing livestock, prompting Israel’s agriculture ministry to oppose the plan, according Eitan Weiss, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy.

After a strong push by the embassy, led by Ambassador Rafael Barak, who witnessed the birth of a Jacob lamb at the Lewinsky farm, the Israeli government relented last year.

“It’s a Jewish value to conserve animals, repair the world and bring back this lost heritage to the Jewish family,” Mr. Lewinsky said.

But even as the Lewinskys prepare to resettle their flock on a heritage farm in northern Israel - for educational and scientific purposes only - the Israeli Embassy is perhaps more excited that the sheep cleared the way for a broader bilateral agricultural agreement.

“The small stone created such an avalanche,” Mr. Weiss said. Still, he expressed relief that the animal at the biblical heart of it all was relatively easy to deal with. “Thank God crocodiles weren’t mentioned.”


The Jewish Happiness Index

By: Yedidia Z. Stern – blogger - Times of Israel

Israeli discourse emphasizes the negative aspects of our national life — antisemitism and de-legitimation abroad, kulturkampf and assaults on democracy at home. Terrorism pounds at our doors and social gaps cast their shadow on our humanity. Religion duels with the state while we argue about our borders across social fissures reminiscent of a tribal society. 

Despite these problems, and without minimizing their importance, the overall picture of the Jewish nation-state, as it celebrates its 68th birthday, is one of tremendous success. Israel is a place where blessings abound, a dream-come-true for every Jew throughout history. 

If I could choose where and when to be reborn as a Jew, I would pass up all the grandiose possibilities offered by Jewish history — starting with the Exodus and conquest of the Land of Israel, through the First and Second Temple periods, and on to the peregrinations of exile, from Babylonia to Ashkenaz — and choose to be born precisely here and now, as a citizen of the State of Israel. Why?

When I was a boy, back in the 1960s, I fixed up a hiding place behind a bench in my Tel Aviv neighborhood, in preparation for the day the Arabs made good on their threat to “throw the Jews into the sea.” Today, after more than four decades without a major conventional war, and the collapse of the most dangerous armed forces in the region, Israel is a far more secure home for its citizens. Little “Srulik”, the cartoon character that symbolizes Israel, has developed bulging muscles. He has no real rivals in the air, at sea, or on land.

Our miracle economy continues to flourish. Relative to population, Israel has the most start-ups of any country. Our per capita investment in research and development is the highest in the world. And in absolute terms, only the United States and China have more companies listed on the NASDAQ. Israel has the youngest population of any OECD member. It ranks third in the world for the educational level of its citizens. And the participation of women in the Israeli workforce exceeds that of any other developed country.

In the past, we lamented the shortage of water and cried over our lack of natural resources. No more: rain is wonderful, and the Sea of Galilee is romantic, but we now know how to desalinate all the water we need and are the world leader in wastewater recycling. We have conquered the desert — forever. And within a very few years, we shall enjoy energy independence, too, after we recover from the regulatory crisis surrounding natural gas extraction.

Who would have believed a generation ago that poor, arid Israel would be exporting water and energy? That it would be one of the eight countries to have launched satellites into orbit (all the others are many times Israel’s size)? That, since the start of the current century, it would produce the largest number of Nobel laureates per capita?

Even though the different Israeli social groups continue their arm-wrestling, a positive trend is emerging. The adamant secularism of the school of founding father David Ben-Gurion is giving way to a softer traditionalism that draws naturally on its Jewish roots. Jewish texts are once again becoming the proud possession of the national collective. Religious Zionism, its sights set on national leadership, is relying less on messianic zeal and hardline rabbis. The ultra-Orthodox are emerging from their shell to become a society of scholars and workers, a sharp departure from the prevailing ethos of recent generations. And most Israeli Arabs are prepared for a deal that grants them full civic equality in return for accepting a definition of the state as “Jewish and democratic.”

The state is grappling with its identity just as human adolescents do. It seems, however, that the main complications of our formative years are behind us. Before our eyes, a new Israeli equilibrium is being emerging — a sign of national maturity.

Notwithstanding all the challenges faced by its citizens, Israel ranked eleventh in the world in the UN World Happiness Report for 2016. There is no question in my mind that if it were possible to measure such things, Israel would rank first on the “all-time Jewish happiness index.”

Happy birthday!

Yedidia Stern is vice president for research at the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University.


The Ohel

By: Colin Levisohn

As I approached my retirement, religion and specifically Chabad became progressively more important to help me integrate all my experiences. It is part of Chabad belief that after a person dies, that part of the soul which interacts with the human world continues to reverberate in this world.

After the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson died on the June 12, 1994 he was buried next to his father-in-law, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn. The Ohel is located at Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights, New York and the term Ohel (lit. “Tent”) refers to the structure built over the resting place of a Tzaddik, a righteous person.  

We all know that different settings have varying effects on prayer. As such, praying at the grave of a person who lived a committed, inspiring, and holy life establishes a special milieu. All of us have recognized that some places have better reception for our communications with Hashem.  The gravesite of a holy person is just such a place. 

The last contact with the secular world was at Kennedy Airport. The taxi ride to the Ohel was quite brief and allowed for a transition to a completely different world. The Ohel is an unimposing building in the cemetery. The Chabad House is part of the complex, and like the Ohel, is very modest and at places quite tacky. Once outside the taxi the world changed. There were lots of Chasidim all dressed in the familiar black jacket, black hats and white shirts. All have beards and surprisingly, it seemed that more than half wore glasses. There were very few women around, and those that were there were very modestly dressed, wearing wigs and no make-up.  There seemed be a conscious effort not to make eye contact with the men.  

All the men seem to know each other. There were loud welcomes, hugs, and even kisses.  Lots of noise, laughter and greetings.

We left our bags at the entrance, no worry about security. The was the Ohel.

First we had to go to the Mikvah. There was a crowded change room, no room for modesty.  Just undress, shower, dry and dip three times.  No privacy, no solitude. In fact one is never alone. After the Mikvah, dry, get dressed and go into the Chabad House for shacharit.

The large room in the Chabad House was filled with Chassidim at various phases of prayer. It seemed totally disorganised. Yet somehow we found some men who had just started shacharit and joined them. Everybody was davening at the same time and it seemed like total chaos. Every so often I could catch a phrase that I recognised, or a word like halleluiah, barachu or shama. Eventually you just join in and it seems to work out.

As we davened the room became more crowded with more and more Chassidim. The world was changing fast. South Africa no longer existed, in fact it seemed like the whole world apart from the Chabad House did not exist. As I tried to concentrate, I was aware of a constant humming of praying in the background interrupted only by Kadusha and Kadish.

After shacharit there are adequate pens and papers for the letter (Pan) to the Rebbe.  Although I had already written mine, I still wrote a couple more letters for people who and made special requests. Leather is not permitted in the Ohel, so I had to change to crocs, which were lying all over the place!

We leave the reception rooms and go to the cemetery. In contrast to the Chabad house it is quiet, and as we enter we feel the holiness and sanctity. It feels different and if one must talk one automatically speaks softly. We walk along a path with fences to prevent Cohenim who visit the Ohel from being contaminated.

The Ohel is a small square unimposing building. We light candles for our family then knock on the door leading to the Tziyun which is a “marker”, and in Chassidic usage, it is the resting place of a tzaddik frequented by Chassidim in prayer. This is surrounded by a small and narrow yard. At the head of the Tzyum are the headstones of the Rebbe and his father-in-law. By this time I thought that nothing would surprise me, but, wrong again. Surrounding the actual grave is small wall about 1 meter high. In front of the headstones and surrounded by this low wall are what is probably thousands of pieces of paper which are the torn letters that we wrote in the Chabad House. In the narrow passage next to the low wall are dozens of Chassidim praying and reading their letters before tearing them and throwing the pieces in front of the headstones. There is a constant hum interrupted only by a Chassid tearing his letter and then throwing the pieces in front of the headstones of the Rebbe and his father-in-law. There is a small corner for the few women who came here, and as noted before, they are all very conservatively dressed, wearing wigs and not making any eye contact with the men and vice versa.  

This is not the 21st century or the USA I had experienced when I visited 20 years ago. I feel that I have been taken back to a way of life and a world 200 years ago. Above all this there is a tremendous holiness about the place. The Rebbe’s soul is there and it is palpable. When I prayed to Hashem I felt the Rebbe’s presence and a connection to Hashem only previously felt at Machpelah and the Kotel.

At this stage the place was getting quite crowded and we had to move on. I do not wear a watch and could not say how long we had been there. However there, at the Ohel, time is not important, and in fact it does not exist.

You leave the Ohel by walking backwards then walk past the candles which now seem to be more relevant. Trying to maintain the feeling we visit the grave of the Rebbbetzin, but despite the holiness of this site, the spiritual high is waning.  It’s time to leave the cemetery.

Back in Chabad House, now getting more and more crowded there is a loud buzz of prayer. It seems chaotic but there are groups of men who are praying together. And in the middle of it is breakfast. Lots and lots of food representing what we will discover is American and Chabad hospitality. Eggs, tomatoes, tuna, toast, rolls, cheese etc, etc, etc. It is forbidden to eat before visiting the Ohel, so we load our plates, push past the praying men, move the siddurim and tallis bags aside and eat and eat and eat! Coffee, tea, biscuits and more food, endless food.

It’s now getting very crowded and loud. Everybody seems to know someone, and there are loud greetings, hugs and kisses, jokes, prayers and food. I don’t know where I am, what century, and what language. Everyone looks the same.

Completely out of my mind, Shlomo brings me back to reality. We have to get a cab to Brooklyn. While we are waiting for the cab, there are now hundreds of Shluchim, laughing, greeting and shouting. The cab arrives but I’m not sure that I want to leave this world.





Under this title, the Editorial, having recorded that the month marked the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the Club premises and the 21st since the inception of its predecessor, the Durban Jewish Circle, pondered the future of the Jews of Durban, and went on to record what was described as “the imperative need to think actively and vigorously” about means to grapple with the problems which lay ahead.

In 2016, different, but equally important, problems lie ahead of us today and it is equally incumbent on the leadership of the community to “think actively and vigorously” of methods to deal with these problems.


The 900th Anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki (or Yitzchaki), better known to history as Rashi, had fallen on 22nd February, 1940, which was sufficient reason to publish this interesting biography by Dr.J. Sacks, who described his life, family and work.  The last paragraph of the article, which must have resonated with 1941 readers, reads:-

“Rashi’s last years were saddened by the massacres of the first Crusade (1096-1099), in which many of his relatives and friends lost their lives:  so his 900th anniversary is saddened by a new crusade on the Jews of Germany and Poland.”

HASHOLOM remembered another anniversary, namely that of Magna Carta, which King John signed at Runnymede in June 1215 and, on the same page, wished “Many Happy Returns” to Dr. J.L. Landau, M.A., Ph.D., Chief Rabbi of South Africa, who celebrated his birthday  “earlier this month”.

GREETINGS FROM A SOLDIER written by a sergeant in the Q Services Corps “up North” was a poem in 15 stanzas, the last of which reads as follows:

“Until we meet again – Shalom

And also a Hazak,

With greetings from a soldier boy

From out of Kenya’s muck.”



Miss Hanid Lindsay and Mr. H. Lipschitz on their engagement.

Rita Leibowitz, who for the fourth successive year had won the Natal Professional Dancing Championship.

Sheila Wartski who won the Natal Amateur Dancing Championship.

Rita and Sheila who had also won the Professional and Amateur Natal Operatic Dancing Championships respectively.

Mr. and Mrs. Woolfson on the occasion of their son, Joshua’s, Barmitzvah.

Harry Jacobson who had been “appointed to Command a Flight of the SA Air Force”.


The Issue led off with

GUEST EDITORIAL FROM “JEWISH SPECTATOR” dealing with the topic “IS GOD ALIVE?”.  The article, which occupied three full pages of the magazine, was replete with quotations from Maimonides. Extraordinarily interesting for those with a philosophical bent, but hardly, I should have thought, for the average Club member.

SOCIAL ROUND-UP written by “Your FRIENDLY Reporter” started with a report of the Club’s Hockey section accompanied by an action photograph of an actual hockey match.  Then “FRIENDLY” appealed for old family books or photographs of Jewish interest and reported that Mrs. Lena Lapin had, in memory of the late Solly Lapin, given to the Club Library the “British Jewry Book of Honour 1914-1918”.  Mrs. Lapin and some of her relatives had also presented a photograph of a number of elderly Jewish gentlemen, who were identified in the caption containing their names.

Judging by their dress and appearance (a number of bushy moustaches and one beard, but no kippot) and the fact that some of them were described as holding office (e.g. Pres., Hon. Sec etc.) this must have been the committee of some Jewish but not Shul-associated organisation.

Pundit’s question: Can any reader recognise the organisation in question if given the following information?  The President was Mr. S Lyons, the Trustees were Messrs. C. H. Blumenfeld  and H. Lipinski, the Treasurer was Mr. A. Berman and the Hon. Sec. was Mr. H. Miranda and Mr. B. Smolensky was described as Past Treasurer. Others in the photograph were: Messrs. B. Berman, J.Rothstein, S.Danziger, B.Marcus, S.Sevel, J. Moshalsowitz and H. Ellis.



Adrienne, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. B. Morris and Yoav Raanan, of Israel, on their recent marriage.

Mark, son of Cecil and Marcia Tollman, who had celebrated his Barmitzvah.

CLUB FORUM had welcomed as guest speaker on the topic “Trade Sanctions”, Professor O.P.F. Horwood, the Principal and Head of the Economics Department at the (then) University of Natal.  It is interesting to note that, while he was still at the University and before he became a Cabinet Minister in the Nationalist Party Government, Prof. Horwood said that a reading of the UN Charter had led him to question both the legality and the justification of the call by U Thant (remember him? Secretary-General of the United Nations) for concerted action against “racial discrimination in an important country” - obviously South Africa.

D.J.C. YOUTH SECTION reported on a Fashion Show at which the compere, Tikvah Kaplan, was accompanied by Peter Stange and his organ and the “resident photographer”, Geoffrey Ditz, took candid shots of the crowd during the interval. The report was accompanied by two of those “candid shots” which to Pundit’s interested eye, seemed to be carefully posed. The subjects of one of them were Mr. Jeff Isaacs (slim and lots of hair), Mr. Dennis Rubin and Miss Esme Henry; and of the other Mrs Fay Spain, Mr Harry Spain (also slim and lots of hair), Mrs Susan Wineberg, Mr Meyer Greenspan and Miss Ilana Sudar. 

A photograph of Harold Silver accompanied the article “DJC Youth Personality of the Month” and a photograph of Gladys Manion, accompanied an article about her as newly-elected Chairman (no Chairperson in 1966) of the Durban Women’s Zionist League, written by S.M., whom I take to be Sam Manion and not Sol Moshal.


Are ‘1652s’ the new Jews

- By Michael Cardo

In this rigorously researched and readable account, Milton Shain documents the growth of anti-Semitism in South Africa during the 1930s and 1940s. In this period, intense anti-Jewish prejudice spread from the margins of the radical right to the centre of public life.

A number of dark clouds gathered to produce the “perfect storm”. The socioeconomic atmosphere was already combustible after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that reverberated globally in its wake. A devastating drought wreaked havoc on the South African economy. It exacerbated the so-called “poor white” problem which, according to the Carnegie Commission’s report in 1932, beset one in five – mainly Afrikaner – whites.

Poverty, writes Shain, was the “furnace that fired extremism”. It enabled the proliferation of radical right movements that took their cue from fascists in Europe and Nazis in Germany. There was a rapid fungal spread:  the South African Christian National Socialist Movement (or Greyshirts) was founded by Louis Weichardt in 1933, and soon there were Blackshirts, Brownshirts and Orangeshirts, too.

As “hapless victims of decades of structural change”, alienated, unskilled and marginalised ‘poor whites’ were an easy target for ethnic mobilisation. They constituted a “political time bomb” waiting to explode. And the “demagogic, simplistic and vulgar message” of Jew-hatred peddled by the likes of Weichardt lit the fuse.

Drawing on centuries of anti-Semitic stereotyping, the Shirtists cast an “alien”, “unassimilable” Jewry as an existential danger to Afrikaner spiritual unity and the South African polity.

At the same time, a völkisch Afrikaner Christian-Nationalism began to saturate the mainstream political climate. This was signalled by the breakaway formation of D.F. Malan’s ‘Purified’ National Party in 1934.

With the mercury rising, Jews – as so often throughout world history – were turned into a “problem”, scapegoated and victimised. The “Jewish Question” began to dominate public discourse.

Having gauged the political temperature, Malan’s Nationalists latched onto a populist cause. In 1930, Malan himself – in his capacity as Minister of the Interior – had introduced the (hastily-enacted) Quota Bill, which aimed to halt eastern European Jewish immigration to South Africa.

In 1931, Malan went out of his way to tell Die Burger – the Nationalist mouthpiece of which he was a one-time editor – how easy it was to “rouse a feeling of hate towards the Jew”. After 1934, his new splinter party invested a great deal of time trying to do just that.

They drummed up and exploited discontent regarding the “Jewish Question”, and used it to try and marginalise Jews from public life. Shain notes that under pressure from the radical right, the ‘Purified’ National Party called for “programmatic action” against Jews.

Such calls went beyond tightened immigration controls. In the wake of the Stuttgart Affair, which saw 537 German-Jewish refugees arrive in South Africa aboard the German liner Stuttgart in 1936, anti-immigrant anger reached a fever pitch.  The Aliens Act was passed in 1937 to stop the influx of German-Jewish refugees. It effectively precluded the immigration of Jews to South Africa. The Nationalists’ focus now shifted to quotas on Jewish commerce, professional activity and employment.

On the campaign trail in Kroonstad ahead of the 1938 general election, Malan invoked the names of diamond magnate Ernest Oppenheimer and industrialist Isidore Schlesinger to argue for the imposition of quotas on Jewish-owned businesses.

A few days later in Parys, he praised Mussolini and Hitler, and fulminated against the “overrepresentation” of Jews in trade and the legal profession.  

Under the influence of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, and drawing on anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist rhetoric, Malan’s Nationalists began to make an intellectual case for what today would be called “demographic representivity”. This was expounded most fully by the Dutch-born, German-trained, Stellenbosch academic-turned-politician, Hendrik Verwoerd.

Writing in Die Transvaler in 1937 on the “The Jewish Question from the National Party standpoint”, Verwoerd claimed that Jews were “hostile to the national aspirations of Afrikanerdom” and stood “in the way of the Afrikaner’s economic prosperity”.

He argued that legislation should “gradually but purposefully” be introduced to ensure that each section of the white population should, “as far as practicable, enjoy a share of each of the major occupations, according to its proportion of the white population”.

In this way, as Shain remarks, from the 1930s, the so-called “Jewish Question”, and attempts to resolve it, paralleled – “and to some extent even presaged” – the elaboration of apartheid ideology.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Jews helped to consolidate an “all-embracing Afrikaner identity” among nationalists. Anti-Semitism was used to paper over the cracks of class divisions and antagonisms in Afrikaner society.

For all that, the party of a broad and accommodating  bilingual white “South Africanism”, the South African Party (subsequently United Party) was, if not swept up by, then certainly carried in part by, the prevailing current of anti-Semitism. After all, despite the fact that it was supported by Jewish voters, both the Quota Act and Aliens Act were promulgated on its watch. Jan Hofmeyr, the great misplaced hope of South African liberals, would only countenance Jewish immigration if it was part of a wider immigration stream of the “stock of people from whom we have sprung”.

Among the most virulent anti-Semites were English-speaking South Africans. One of the more odious characters in Shain’s study (in a field with stiff competition) is one Kerr Wylie, a Professor of Law at the University of Cape Town. He edited a fascist propaganda-sheet, the bilingual Die Waarheid/ The Truth. Kerr, a conspiracist of note, believed that Jews were “at the bottom of all the evils” afflicting South Africa and that “organised Jewry is the leading agent of the Devil on earth”.

Even Patrick Duncan, who went on to enjoy a colourful political career in the Liberal Party and the Pan African Congress, complained to Lady Selborne in 1935 about the “throng” of Jewish holidaymakers at Muizenberg. Like a Penny Sparrow avant la lettre, he wrote: “I am not anti-Semitic. I have many Jewish friends whom I like and admire. But something in me revolts against our country being peopled by the squat-bodied, furtive-eyed, loud-voiced race which crowds Muizenberg from the upcountry trading stores”.

Shain writes that the “alien Jew challenged an emerging sense of ‘South Africanness’ among English- and Afrikaans-speaking whites”. Yet there is not much evidence to suggest (not that Shain quite makes the claim) that the consolidation of an inclusive Anglo-Afrikaner identity was driven by a shared anti-Semitism.

There is no doubt that the “Jewish Question” played a critical role in South African politics during the 1930s and 1940s. However, as Shain acknowledges, “at no time during these years did anti-Jewish discourse in South Africa approximate the language of exclusion and frenzy heard in some European countries”.

Indeed, Jewish South Africans flourished in many areas of public life during these two decades. Morris Kentridge was a voice of reason in Parliament, reminding South Africans that “racialism, illiberalism and economic depression have always proved fertile soil for anti-Semitism”.

Curiously, with the exception of Morris Alexander, other contemporary Jewish MPs like Henry Gluckman play a marginal role in Shain’s book, while others – like Max Sonnenberg and Bertha Solomon – seem not to feature at all.

South African Jews were also active in student politics. Many of the most prominent leftists in the National Union of South African Students in the 1940s were Jewish: figures like Brian Bunting and Ruvin Bennun.

And during the Second World War, Jewish volunteers like Jock Isacowitz, Jack Hodgson, Roley Arenstein and Joe Podbrey played a key role in the Springbok Legion, a soldiers’ organisation whose members returned to South Africa radicalised by the fight against fascism.

It would have been interesting to learn how they engaged in, challenged and refashioned the polemical arena in which anti-Semitism seemed to thrive back home.

Yet, as early as 1943, as Shain remarks, the “Jewish Question” had “lost much of its electoral traction”. Once the war was over, and the (now) ‘Reunited’ National Party came to power in 1948, Malan turned his back completely on the  “Jewish Question”. As the economy recovered and Afrikaners became more upwardly mobile, the need for a Jewish bogeyman disappeared. The wily opportunist, Malan, switched from demonising Jews as “unassimilable” to holding them up as a model of survival for Afrikaners to emulate.

Shain’s book documents in rich detail the rise of South African anti-Semitism during a critical period. As such, it makes a significant contribution to a broader body of international scholarship on anti-Semitism, but it also throws a new light on the domestic politics of the 1930s and 1940s.

The parallels with South Africa today are too obvious to ignore. Some 80 to 90 years on, we are once more a country in economic decline, mired in poverty, wracked by drought, in the grip of political turmoil, and witness to a resurgence of racial nativism.

Latter-day fascists stalk our university campuses propelled, in Tony Leon’s words, by a populist fury against whites. Seized with a grandiose but ill-defined project to “decolonise” institutions, these student demagogues view “whiteness” (an incoherent notion) as an existential threat; an impurity that has to be “countered”, “abolished” and even “burned”. They are chauvinists who reject any kind of cultural cross-pollination as a form of “appropriation”. In fact, opposition to “whiteness” now performs a similar function to anti-Semitism among Afrikaners in the 1930s and 1940s. It is being used to construct a monolithic group identity and deflect attention from socio-economic cleavages among black South Africans.

Jew-baiting has made its return. Last year, the former President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at Wits University, Mcebo Dlamini, declared his love for Adolf Hitler.  He said, “[w]hat I love about Hitler is his charisma and his capabilities to organise people. We need more leaders of such calibre. I love Adolf Hitler”. A few months later, the SRC President at the Durban University of Technology, Mqondisi Duma, demanded that his Council expel from the university all Jews who would not publicly declare their loyalty to the Palestinian cause.

These student fascists are aided and abetted by an insurgent black middle-class intelligentsia, riding the bandwagon of racial populism (the Piet Meyers, Nico Diedrichses and – dare it be said – Hendrik Verwoerds of their time).

Trapped in a binary, essentialist cast of mind – where black pain and victimhood square off against white domination and privilege – their discourse has already moved from a regressive leftist fringe to the centre of politics. They view whites as aliens, or “1652s” in their jarring parlance; predatory immigrants who might, ultimately, be unassimilable into their new world order.

As Helen Suzman Foundation Research Fellow, Aubrey Matshiqi, recently observed, when countries, organisations and institutions feel under siege and are incapable of resolving their problems, then “finding ‘Jews’ to blame becomes a strategic option”.

If Shain’s book holds a lesson in store for us, it is that we should never lose sight of the real problems, never stop searching for alternative solutions, and never succumb – as the United Party did – to a lazy accommodation with the prevailing orthodoxy. That way storm clouds lie, ready to erupt.


UK author exposes the oft-forgotten horrors of a Nazi death camp for women

LONDON — Lying 50 miles north of Berlin, Ravensbrück was the only concentration camp the Nazis built with the sole intention to house female political prisoners. Opening up its gates in May 1939, just four months before the outbreak of World War II, it was liberated by the Russians six years later.

Over 130,00 women passed through its gates. During its busiest period, towards the end of the war, the camp had a population of 45,000. Estimates of the final death toll are debatable, ranging from 30,000 to 90,000.

Why, therefore, is so little known about a camp that eliminated tens of thousands of women on German soil?

The wholesale destruction of evidence partially explains for this historical vacuum. In Ravensbrück’s final days, before the liberation by the Soviet Red Army, most prisoner’s files were burned by the Nazis and then thrown in the lake beside the camp.

At least that’s the argument British freelance journalist and author Sarah Helm makes with compelling conviction in her latest book, “If This Is a Woman — Inside Ravensbrück: Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women.”

Backed up by a vast undertaking of research and interviews — including historical sources that were once locked behind the Iron Curtain — Helm’s book shows how one dedicated writer really can rescue history from the dustbin.

Paradoxically, though, says Helm, when we begin chatting, the emergence of the Holocaust as a proper cultural global discussion, during the 1960s, was a contributing factor that ensured Ravensbrück became sidelined as a subject in the dominant historical discourse around Nazi Germany and its heinous crimes.

“Obviously people had known about the Holocaust before [the 1960s],” says Helm. “But the consciousness had not taken a proper hold until after the Eichmann trial in 1961.”

Understandably, then, says Helm, the sheer scale and horror of the Jewish Holocaust totally took over the narrative.

“And so the story of the non-Jewish groups [that were exterminated] were treated as secondary.”

Moreover, because these prisoners in Ravensbrück were all women, this important epoch of Nazi history was neatly dusted aside for decades hence, Helm explains. “Most mainstream historians at the time were men, so inevitably this subject was neglected.”

‘Most mainstream historians at the time were men, so inevitably this subject was neglected’

It really wasn’t until the mid-1990s that female historians began to explore the stories of Ravensbrück with proper analysis. Before that, most women who passed through the camp were lucky if they got even a paragraph in the main history of the Holocaust, says Helm.

Especially the German “asocials”: the homeless, the prostitutes, and the down and outs.

“These women were sent off to gas chambers and were of no real interest to historians,” says Helm.

Perhaps what’s most fascinating about the history of Ravensbrück is the way it transformed, over time, from an institution that housed political prisoners only, to eventually become the cruelest of Nazi death camps.

“In the beginning Ravensbrück was very small,” says Helm. “It consisted largely of German women, who were either asocials or political prisoners. Basically anyone who openly opposed Hitler.”

Many women in that particular group were Jewish says Helm. Although it appears they hadn’t at this early stage been placed there because of their racial status, but simply because of their political activity.

By autumn 1944, Ravensbrück had become overcrowded. The vast numbers coming into the camp were the result of the enormous evacuation process in the East, where the Russians had begun liberating numerous camps, such as Auschwitz.

Consequently, Hitler took the rather bizarre decision to take all the survivors out of these camps, and march them back to Germany.

“Essentially, hundreds of thousands of destitute prisoners were being marched westwards,” Helm explains.

The Hungarian exodus impacted massively on Ravensbrück too, especially the Jews of Hungary, many of whom were sent to Auschwitz. By October 1944 the Horthy government in Budapest had fallen, and Allied bombs had destroyed train lines.

Thus transportation of people across Eastern Europe had become a major problem. Still, Hitler insisted that every last Jew be removed from Hungary before the Red Army arrived.

Auschwitz was no longer operating after November 1944, so many [prisoners] began to be marched towards Germany,” Helm explains.

“In this climate, [the Nazis] began taking the view that the only way to solve this problem was to kill more people.”

Crucially, though, Helm makes clear, the killing that began at Ravensbrück during this time meant gassing ceased to be an ideological process of extermination. Instead, in the view of warped Nazi ideology at any rate, it became a practical way of controlling population numbers in horrifically overcrowded work camps.

“The killing had to go up by 2,000 a month at Ravensbrück during this time,” says Helm. A way had to be found to speed up the killing process too. So a gas chamber was set up.

“Parts of that gas chamber were said to have been brought directly from Auschwitz, which at that time had been dismantled,” says Helm.

The title of Helm’s book may give the impression that the concentration camps in Nazi Germany were entirely Hitler’s brainchild, but almost every aspect of the camps were managed and planned with extraordinary detail by Heinrich Himmler.

In her book Helm writes: “Adolf Hitler showed little interest in the concentration camps, but they lay at the center of Himmler’s empire; whatever went on behind their walls was signed off by his pen.”

“Himmler was also behind the original idea of setting up the women’s camps too,” Helm insists.

Although Himmler wasn’t the only person involved in the plans for the Final Solution, Helm claims that he did help oversee much of the process of setting up the camps in the East, which would eventually lead to the death of millions of Jews.

Himmler was also a regular visitor to the camp in Ravensbrück too, says Helm. “He visited the camps because he wanted them to be as self-sufficient as far as possible.”

Nor was Himmler’s decision to put the camps next to areas of natural beauty, such as lakes and trees, merely coincidental. Indeed, German forests played a central role in the mythology of the Heimat, or German soil. Take Buchhenwald, for example, one of the more famous Nazi concentration camps: its literal translation means Beech Forest.

“Many of the camps were [purposely] located in places of great natural beauty,” says Helm.

“Ravensbrück, for example, was located beside a lake. Other camps were similarly located in beautiful wooded areas. Himmler had read the literature on these historic sites. His idea was that nature would purify the German gene, and that the SS, and the Germans, would grow up pure and strong, like the trees in the woods.”

In the epilogue of this meticulously detailed book - which runs to over 700 pages in length - Helm spends considerable time and ink dissecting at length why those in positions of authority involved in these horrendous atrocities at Ravensbrück were never brought to justice.

The reasons are complicated. But one thing is certain: by 1948 the Allies had lost their appetite for punishing Nazis. Primarily because the Cold War had become the dominant theme on the intentional-political agenda.

And, from 1949 onwards, the main responsibility for investigating Nazi crimes was handed back to German courts, many of whom, presumably, had been Nazis just a few years previously.

Most notable among these perpetrators let off the hook were German industrialists. Especially, Helm argues, since their profits were needed to fight the Cold War.

Siemens, the German electrical manufacturer, which had a factory located just at the edge of Ravensbrück, from 1942 onwards, is one company that notoriously got off scott free for its complicity in knowledge of war crimes. It has never publicly admitted it knew of the exterminations happening at the camp.

“The gassing in Ravensbrück at this time was being kept secret,” says Helm. “But even still, Siemens continued to operate its factory.”

The idea that the killing was being hidden from the Siemens management and guards is laughable, Helm believes. Moreover, the evidence clearly displays that prisoners knew perfectly well that Ravensbrück had become a death camp.

“Siemens knew their own workers were prisoners, who at any given moment could be sent to their deaths,” says Helm.

“And yet, not a single management figure, or director, from Siemens has ever been brought to account for what happened in Ravensbrück.”

Years later, though, as the extent of the Holocaust, and atrocities became clearer, there were strong moves - particularly with Jewish survivors based in Israel and international Jewish movements - for compensation to be paid out.

However, the figures are paltry, Helm believes, “especially given the extent to which Siemens was complicit in these crimes, and the way it sided and collaborated with the Nazis.”

The fact that the compensation only applied to Jewish victims too means the compensation paid out is not a true reflection of the crimes themselves either, Helm believes, especially since many of the victims were not Jews.

“It’s unbelievable that Siemens is unable to come out in the open and confront the crimes it was deeply complicit in,” says Helm.

Helm’s narrative concludes on a rather open-ended note. The story of Ravensbrück may have finally come out into the public domain after many years lying dormant, but this particular chapter of Nazi history, it appears, is not entirely complete.

Of the estimated 3,500 women guards who passed through Ravensbrück, only a fraction have ever come under investigation in the German courts, mainly because Germany still doesn’t keep a proper record of the numbers they have charged, says Helm.

“The system did not want to confront this subject. So very few of the guards from Ravensbrück were ever confronted or held to account for their actions,” says Helm.


‘Japanese Schindler’ Who Saved 6,000 Lives During World War II Finally Gets A Movie

- By Carol Kuruvilla -Religion Associate Editor - The Huffington Post

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Schindler’s List” told the story of German businessman Oskar Schindler, whose determination to stand up for what was right saved approximately 1,100 Jews from the Nazis. 

Twenty-three years later, another hero who saved lives during the Holocaust is being commemorated with a feature-length film. 

Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who was stationed at a consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania during the early days of World War II. Between July 31 and August 28, 1940, Sugihara and his wife spent long nights writing and issuing more than 2,000 visas for Jewish refugees desperate to flee the Nazis and build new lives in Japan - even though his actions defied the Japanese government’s orders. 

“Persona Non Grata,” a biopic based on Sugihara’s courageous actions, is scheduled to premiere in the United States on January 31 during the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. 

Directed by Japanese-American director Cellin Gluck (best known for his work on “Remember the Titans,”  “Transformers,” and “Contact”), the movie was filmed in Poland and stars Japanese actor Toshiaki Karasawa as Sugihara.

It’s estimated that Sugihara, who is sometimes called the “Japanese Schindler,” saved over 6,000 lives before he left Lithuania - continuing to write and pass visas to people from the open window of his train as it was leaving Kaunas.

When he returned to Japan years later, the diplomat was reportedly asked to resign from his government position. He resorted to taking up odd jobs and lived out his life quietly until 1968, when a survivor managed to make contact.

In 1985, Israel granted him the designation of being “Righteous Among the Nations,” a title conferred to non-Jews who refused to act as bystanders during the Holocaust. 

Gluck, the film’s director, told Nippon that his goal wasn’t to portray Sugihara as a “larger-than-life” figure, but to show how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. He pointed out that while Schindler saved the lives of people he knew, who worked in his own factory, Sugihara went above and beyond to rescue thousands he’d never seen.

“Heroes are born when ordinary people respond to extraordinary circumstances,” Gluck said. “[Sugihara] didn’t advertise or flaunt his heroism. He just did what he thought was right, and as a result, thousands of people’s lives were saved, and their descendants eventually numbered in the tens of thousands. That’s what made him a hero.”


Living Word From a Dead World

- By Yardena Schwartz - Tablet magazine

When Tzipora Shapiro walked out the gates of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945, the first thing she felt was guilt. Her father, grandfather, brothers, aunts, and uncles all died in the Lodz Ghetto, and when the Nazis transferred Shapiro and her mother to Auschwitz, she watched as they sent her mother to the gas chambers. As a young, able-bodied woman, Shapiro was put to work in the camp—and was the only member of her immediate family to survive.

After being liberated, Shapiro stayed in Poland, hoping to find a distant relative who may have survived the war. Thirteen months later, she finally found the address of a cousin who had fled to British Mandate Palestine before the ghettos of Poland gave way to genocide.

“At long last,” Shapiro wrote on Feb. 15, 1946, in her first letter as a free woman, “I’m hurrying to send you a living word from a dead world.”

After telling her cousin, Rhuze, that she had survived while her parents and the rest of her family had died, Shapiro wrote

How could I justify to you that I left the lions’ den intact, that I saw fiery furnaces, red flames in the skies? That I saw thousands of people led daily to the gas chambers, not knowing what awaited them in ten minutes; that I saw sheaves of sparks and tongues of fire, and sometimes even part of a roasted hand bursting forth from a gigantic chimney; that I stood naked daily at roll call for the Selektion, and the SS man, as if to anger me, sent me back to the camp and didn’t take me to the oven… and a huge prayer, a stubborn prayer for divine benevolence, for death.

Shapiro’s letter, written in Polish on a piece of paper that has since turned yellow and wrinkled, peppered with the brown stains of time, is one of thousands being pored over by historians in Jerusalem who are searching for clues to better understand a people and a period of time that to many seems over-studied, but to historians remains full of holes. Researchers at Yad Vashem have embarked on an unprecedented project called “First Letters,” examining the very first dispatches sent by Holocaust survivors in the days, weeks, and months after liberation to let their loved ones know they were alive.

There is of course no shortage of books, films, and millions of words devoted to the Holocaust and those who lived through it. Yet most personal accounts emerged only years and even decades after the war, when survivors were finally ready to revisit their horrifying memories through the mollifying filter of time. “First Letters” is unparalleled in that its messages reveal the very real and complex emotions of Holocaust victims who were just coming to terms with the atrocities they faced. In essence, these letters represent the most original source Holocaust scholars have ever had.

“These letters bring us their first personal voice,” said Iael Nidam-Orvieto, the leader of the project and director of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research. “They give us an intense glance at the way survivors felt and thought about themselves, their situation, and their future exactly at the time of liberation. We’ve never had that before.”

Nidam-Orvieto, an Israeli Jew of Italian descent who lost some of her own family members to the Holocaust, first thought of the project six years ago, after coming across a note in the Yad Vashem archives. It was written by an Italian survivor to his family in Palestine, describing all he had suffered during the war. Over the next few years she saw similar correspondence trickle into the Yad Vashem archive through another project, “Gathering the Fragments,” which began in 2011.

“Gathering the Fragments” called on survivors and their descendants to submit Holocaust-related artifacts, photographs, and documents to Yad Vashem; many of these time-stained pieces of paper had been sitting in attics, boxes, and old suitcases throughout Israel. So far 150,000 items have come in, including 83,000 documents, 60,000 photos, 3,150 artifacts, and 500 pieces of art. This material adds to Yad Vashem’s database of 4.5 million victims’ names, 125,000 testimonies, and 179 million pages of documents.

After looking through the piles of material she and her research team received, Nidam-Orvieto realized that these letters weren’t just an interesting side note to “Gathering the Fragments.” Taken together, they represented a new historical treasure trove. While there was no single bombshell of information gleaned from the letters, such as a previously unreported concentration camp, these documents tell us more about Holocaust survivors, what they went through, and their immediate feelings after the war, than we have ever known before.

“I never thought so many of these letters had been written,” said Nidam-Orvieto, adding that when she spoke to other Holocaust scholars around the world, they too were shocked to hear how many of these dispatches she was finding.

Scholars weren’t the only ones who didn’t know these letters existed. Even family members who had these notes in their possession for decades had no idea what they were, as most of them were written in Yiddish, Polish, Czech, and other European languages.

Nidam-Orvieto kept her idea for a separate project around these letters tucked away until November 2014, when Yad Vashem decided that its theme for 2015 would commemorate 70 years since liberation. It was then that she initiated the “First Letters” project. Since then, she and other researchers have been furiously translating and analyzing the messages, trying to learn as much as they can about their authors and what happened to them. Yad Vashem plans to publish dozens of the letters in a book that will be published in the coming year.

While they differ vastly in the feelings they convey, many of the dispatches begin the same way: “I survived and I’m alive,” as if these were two entirely different states of being.

Bernard Zucker had been a free man for 28 days when he wrote his first letter from a refugee camp in Austria to his sisters, who had survived the war by fleeing to Palestine. They were the only other surviving members of his family.

I, who four weeks ago existed only as #87292 in the Mauthausen concentration camp, and was intended like all the rest for the crematorium, have survived and I’m alive! I’m alive and I’m healthy! It’s really unbelievable! Your brother is a human being born anew! I have the ability to write a letter, my first in so many years, to you!

That they had survived the Final Solution and could now begin a new life was something survivors were only beginning to realize through the process of writing these messages to their families, explained Nidam-Orvieto. “It was a way for them to declare to themselves that they had made it,” she said.

In a note written in Yiddish on Sept. 1, 1944, Hirsch Brik wrote from Kovno, Lithuania, to friends in Palestine.

I’m alive and I’m free. After three torturous years, I am back to being a man like all other men. The German bastards have murdered my entire family... There isn’t a long enough paper to list all the names of our common friends who have been savagely murdered.

In another letter, Brik voiced his wish to “make aliyah,” or immigrate to the not-yet-established State of Israel. It was a desire expressed in many letters, as more than half of all Holocaust survivors moved to what was then Palestine after liberation. Brik did immigrate in 1947, changing has last name to Barak, a practice of “Israelization” that was common among early immigrants. His son Aharon Barak later became a legal adviser to the Israeli government, participated in the 1979 peace negotiations with Egypt, and served as chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court.

Yet another common theme pervasive in these letters is a morbid sense of guilt. Tzipora Shapiro, the Auschwitz survivor who detailed to her cousin how regretful she was for surviving when everyone she loved had perished, also apologized for what she called “the unpleasantness” she had shared with her cousin:

Forgive me for this bitter letter. I will never talk about it again. From now on I will write you only happy letters, filled with hope for the future... You see, you cannot go through all of this without it leaving a deep scar that manifests in terrible memories and feelings of guilt.

Others also carried this complex weight of shame and regret. Olga, whose letter is without a last name, survived Auschwitz but lost her only child, an 11-year-old boy, to the gas chambers. “Believe me, it would be a blessing if I wouldn’t remain alive,” Olga wrote to her aunt.

Some survivors hesitated to tell their loved ones what they had been through out of fear that they wouldn’t be believed. “They felt that what they experienced was so painful and horrible that they have to tell their family members it’s true,” said Nidam-Orvieto, noting the widespread skepticism surrounding news of the Holocaust at the time.

With each letter they analyze, the historians at Yad Vashem are not only translating the words, but investigating the past and future of each author in order to learn more about the Holocaust and the human beings who were reduced to numbers.

“We’ve become detectives with these letters,” said Robert Rozett, the director of Yad Vashem Libraries who is leading the project with Nidam-Orvieto.

For instance, there’s the story of Syme Rysavy, who wrote to her brother Ned eight months after her liberation from Auschwitz, informing him that their mother and her own husband had died in the gas chambers:

You will never be able to understand it, even if, God forbid, you were there... You will not be able to comprehend the sadism and lack of humanity.

By matching the information in her letter with names, testimonies, and documents in Yad Vashem’s database, Rozett was able to piece together the letter-writer’s heroic life story.

In 1939, Syme’s whole family, including her parents and her husband Fritz, were all living in Brno, in what was then Czechoslovakia. The Nazis had just invaded, and Brno was annexed by Germany. On March 18, Syme invited her parents and younger brothers, Ned and Michael, over to her house for a special family dinner. Syme, then 31, had asked Ned to bring his violin and a suitcase packed with his and Michael’s belongings. It had seemed to Ned an unusual request.

Around noon, the family gathered at Syme’s house, where Syme told her brothers to flee Brno immediately. Their parents, she said, would stay with her and Fritz, as they were too old and frail to run and hide. She gave Ned and Michael some money, and told them to leave as soon as possible.

The brothers listened to their older sister, and despite the Nazi invasion, they managed to flee Brno for Krakow, Poland. As a gifted violinist, Ned began performing around the city. One night, after hearing Ned play, a British Consulate official offered him a visa and a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy of Music in London. Ned convinced the official to give Michael a visa too, and the brothers survived the war in London, later moving to Palestine.

Syme was imprisoned at Auschwitz with her parents and husband but miraculously escaped during a death march to another camp in 1945. After the war, she moved to Toronto, where she remarried.

The letters contain information that survivors rarely spoke about otherwise. “Survivors were able to write things that they were unable to say orally,” said Nidam-Orvieto.

Bernard Zucker, who wrote to his sisters in Palestine, went from the refugee camp in Austria to Italy, where he rescued Jewish children and brought them to Palestine with him. There he reunited with and married the woman he had proposed to before the war, who was also a Holocaust survivor. Together they settled on a kibbutz and had eight children, eventually changing their last name to Tzur.

Eli Tzur, their now-67-year-old son, is one of 7,000 Israelis who has donated Holocaust artifacts to Yad Vashem since 2011. Like many children of survivors, he grew up in a home where the subject of the Holocaust was untouchable.

“They barely ever spoke about their experience in the war, and I didn’t ask,” Tzur said. “Many children didn’t ask their parents what happened. They were silent and so were we. We didn’t want to hurt them by opening their wounds.”

Before his father died in 2001, Tzur returned to Poland with him to visit the various camps where he had been a prisoner. Even there, he said, he was afraid to hurt his father, and so he didn’t ask many questions. Only after reading his father’s letters did he finally discover all he had witnessed and felt during the five horrific years of his life that he had tried so hard to forget.

Still, there are some stories and people that have simply been lost to history. Some letters just don’t have enough clues.

Zahavit, whose letter contains only her first name, is one of many elusive survivors whose story is and may always be a mystery. All we learn from her message is that she survived both Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. In her note, written soon after British troops liberated Bergen Belsen, Zahavit writes in Hebrew:

You may not understand me, better us, who went through all of Germany’s savageries. While we were imprisoned, we forgot that we’re people, human beings. We were no more than a number and we didn’t matter to anyone.

Rozett has come close to discovering Zahavit’s roots, but without her last name, any hint of where she’s from and who she sent her letter to, she is merely a name on a piece of paper.

“This is something almost every Jewish family can relate to. It’s like, ‘Why didn’t I ask grandma before she passed away?’ ” said Rozett. “Reading these letters rescues these people from oblivion, but there are pieces of them that you just can’t know. That’s part of what the Holocaust did. It left fragments. We spend a lot of time looking at those fragments and building an understanding, but we’re always going to be missing fragments.”


Haggadah through the centuries…

The Haggadah, together with the Mahzor and the Siddur, is among the most popular liturgical books of Judaism and is the most printed books of Jewish culture. Unlike the Mahzor and the Siddur, however, the visual appearance of the Haggadah has substantially changed in the course of more than ten centuries. While prayer books usually contain a simple text without illustrations, the Haggadah has, since the early manuscripts and printed versions, been adorned with illustrations that reflect the events of the narrated story in various forms and manifestations. The illustrations are intended to provide vivid lessons and to keep the attention of those partaking of the Pesah meal – especially children, who often found the celebration overly long. This is why modern editions of Haggadot often resemble children’s picture books, and even Haggadah comics have been produced. More than 2,700 various Haggadot have been published since the first printed edition.

The Sarajevo Haggadah 

The Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world, originating in Barcelona around 1350.  The Sarajevo Haggadah is handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold. It opens with 34 pages of illustrations of key scenes in the Bible from creation through the death of Moses. Its pages are stained with wine, evidence that it was used at many Passover Seders. 

The Sarajevo Haggadah has survived many close calls with destruction. Historians believe that it was taken out of Spain by Spanish Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492. Notes in the margins of the Haggadah indicate that it surfaced in Italy in the 16th century. It was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 by a man named Joseph Kohen. During World War II, the manuscript was hidden from the Nazis and Ustashe by the Museum’s chief librarian, Derviš Korkut, who at risk to his own life, smuggled the Haggadah out of Sarajevo. Korkut gave it to a Muslim cleric in Zenica, where it was hidden under the floorboards of either a mosque or a Muslim home. In 1957, a facsimile of the Haggadah was published by Sándor Scheiber, director of the Rabbinical Seminary in Budapest. In 1992 during the Bosnian War, the Haggadah manuscript survived a museum break-in and it was discovered on the floor during the police investigation by a local Inspector, Fahrudin Čebo, with many other items thieves believed were not valuable. It survived in an underground bank vault during the siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb forces (Siege of Sarajevo – the longest siege in the history of modern warfare). To quell rumors that the government had sold the Haggadah in order to buy weapons, the president of Bosnia presented the manuscript at a community Seder in 1995.

Afterwards, the manuscript was restored through a special campaign financed by the United Nations and the Bosnian Jewish community in 2001, and went on permanent display at the museum in December 2002.

Birds head Haggadah

One of the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscripts, the Bird’s Head Haggadah, was created in southern Germany, c. 1300.  The book’s illustrations depict the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses receiving the Tablets of the Torah, and the preparation of Passover matzah. In this Haggadah, many of the human figures have bird heads. Adult bird-men are shown with conical hats, officially required Jewish clothing in some parts of Germany throughout the Middle Ages. 

While the depiction of humans with animal heads was widespread in thirteenth and fourteenth-century Germany and France, the exact meaning remains unclear. Many scholars believe that the bird heads reflect medieval Jews’ literal interpretation of the second biblical commandment against representational art depicting humans. 

The Rylands Haggadah

The Rylands Haggadah, created in Catalonia Spain sometime around 1330, is a towering masterpiece of Jewish Art. In addition to pages of piyutim surrounded by ornate decorative and figurative micrography, richly decorated Haggadah text and blessings, there is a 13 page miniature cycle depicting the Exodus story from Moses at the Burning Bush to the Crossing of the Red Sea.

The ‘Golden’ Haggadah

The extravagant use of gold-leaf in the backgrounds of its 56 miniature paintings earned this magnificent manuscript its name: the ‘Golden Haggadah’. It was made around 1320, in or near Barcelona, for the use of a wealthy Jewish family. The holy text is written on vellum pages in Hebrew script, reading from right to left. Its stunning miniatures illustrate stories from the biblical books of ‘Genesis’ and ‘Exodus’ and scenes of Jewish ritual.

The Prague Haggadah

The Prague Haggadah was the first Passover Haggadah book to be printed in Central Europe after the Jews were expelled from Spain (1492 ). As the first printed illustrated Haggadah book in Central Europe it was used as prototype for many illustrated editions of the Passover Haggadah printed afterwards in Europe.

The Prague Haggadah is the first illustrated Haggadah to be preserved in its entirety, and till nowadays it is considered as one of the most beautiful editions of the Passover Haggadah books. 

Although not the first illustrated Haggadah, it is no doubt the first to have been executed with a care for aesthetic taste and feeling, apparent not only in the attractive woodcuts but also in the fine lettering, splendid initials and the general layout.

Printers in different Jewish centers began to produce Haggadah books of their own and drew on the Prague Haggadah in style.

The Prague Haggadah of 1526 set the tone for many future printed Haggadah books. It was described by one authority as “among the finest productions of the 16th century printing press in any language”.

In 1998, a colorized facsimile edition of Prague 1526 was published.  Although the publishers took great pains to provide color where before there was black and white, they also altered this border.


Renaissance regions that didn’t expel Jews reap the benefit today

By: Dr. Ruchama Weiss  &  Rabbi Levi Brackman -

New study published in MIT’s The Review of Economics and Statistics shows that Jews, who became moneylenders in the 16th century, established the first banks, leading to better economies today.

Over half a millennium may have passed, but regions that did not expel Jews during the Renaissance era have measurably better economies than those that did.

Throughout Europe, regions expelled Jewish communities from medieval times and into the Renaissance. In a new study published in MIT’s The Review of Economics and Statistics, Professor Luigi Pascali found that cities that permitted Jewish communities to thrive have GDPs of up to 10 percent higher than those that expelled them.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church forbade its adherents from moneylending, and Jews established what became, the first banks. 

“I argue that cities, in which the local Jewish community in 1500 caused an early development of the banking sector, have more banks today and, because of this, are more developed today,” said Pascali-an economist at Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, Pompeu Fabra University, and Warwick University-in an interview with the Daily Mail, which first reported the study.

“By the beginning of the 15th century, the geographic expansion of Jewish lending was complete and had become a general economic phenomenon in all parts of Italy,” said the researcher.

Pascali compares the economies of southern and northern Italy. Under Spanish control in 1503, a large part of southern Italy expelled its Jews. Jews in northern Italy, which was mostly independent cities or under French control, were permitted to remain.

The economist explains that northern Italy’s 10-percent-higher income could be correlated to the Jewish factor.

Spain, which expelled its Jews under the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, would enjoy a seven-percent-higher GDP today if they had allowed their Jewish communities to remain, concludes the researcher.

Pascali expounded that he would expect similar economic differences based on expulsion or tolerance of Jews throughout Europe.


The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca

By Laura Paull -

 Consider instead a Romanian child’s experience of repression growing up in the Communist era, a time and place so harsh, so dangerous, that her parents feared to tell her that they were Jewish.

Enter now into the vibrant panorama of the Queen Esther mosaics of Lilian Broca, who only discovered as an adult emigré and fully developed artist how much she identified with the story of that brave young woman who used her wits and wiles to save the Jews in ancient Persia.

“My whole childhood existence was an Esther experience,” the artist explained by telephone from her home in Vancouver, B.C., where she haslivedsince1972.“InBucharestwewere repressed in every aspect of our life. Everything was a secret, our family name was changed, and there was no synagogue. Parents didn’t dare speak in front of their children because many children unwittingly gave their parents away by repeating in school something they had overheard at home; people were taken away in the night. You couldn’t trust anyone. So in many respects we lived like Esther. But I only knew this many years later.”

The family escaped Romania in 1958, when Lilian Broca was 12, first to Israel, then making their way to Montreal, where they had family.

“Once we escaped, I carried my Romanian identity like something neatly folded in my pocket, and it came out too in the series,” Broca said. “I was so in love with the Byzantine icons I saw around me as a child.” The part of the Balkan Peninsula where she’d grown up retained the cultural influence of the old Eastern Byzantine Empire, centered in what was then Constantinople - today’s Istanbul.

After many years as a successful painter, in 2002 she attended a lecture where a scholar was showing slides of some frescos on the walls of the Dura-Europos synagogue, in Syria. A scene of the Persian King Xerxes (known to the Jews as Ahoshverosh or Ahashvayrosh) and his Jewish queen, prompted her to begin her explorations.

“My unexpected discovery that one of the earliest if not the earliest written references to mosaics occurs in the biblical Book of Esther, in the passage describing King Ahashvayrosh’s palace, further, contributed to my decision to return to this powerful, singular art form,” Broca writes in her book.

“Esther was young and innocent, and like all the women of her era had to obey Mordechai, the alpha male of her family,” Broca says. “She was beautiful, yes, but also very wise, and she eventually used her beauty in a different way than Vashti did. She didn’t want to die, and had to come up with an idea for survival in a cunning way.”

Broca’s Queen Esther series, as seen in these images, follow Esther’s evolution from a frightened and submissive teenager to a mature and confident queen, who manages

manipulate treacherous political conditions so as to ensure the survival of her people. Broca’s obsession kept her going for seven years; the massive, 10-panel mosaic series was completed in 2009. It has garnered a number of honors for Broca including the prestigious gold medal (for the early panels) at the 2003 Florence Biennale.

‘Throughout my career I have explored relationships and the nature of the human condition through symbols and metaphors. The biblical Book of Esther addresses the themes of sacrifice and female empowerment, two subjects that particularly intrigue me. It encourages women to believe in their own strength even in a patriarchal society ... All women possess the potential to be the assertive Esther – one hidden inside a shy, reserved and obedient girl... As a young woman, Esther fulfilled her role as leader at a time of crisis with intelligence, persistence and dedication. Today we view her as a role model and as such, she contributes significantly to the status of women in society.’ Lilian Broca said

Before we complete this all-too-brief sketch of the art and life of Lilian Broca, let us add, for the record, that she is a fan of Vashti, too.

“I think Vashti is a heroine – I really do,” she said. “I was taken with Esther, because I identified with her. But I have a lot of respect for Vashti. In the past women had no tools except for their sexuality; their survival often depended on how they used their sexuality and there was only a small window of youth in which to do so. I honor her.” 


A special interview with Prof. Antony Arkin in memory of his father, Prof. Marcus Arkin – Part 2

By Steve Linde - Editor-In-Chief of The Jerusalem Post

This year South African Jewry is celebrating its 175th anniversary as an organised community. As Steve Linde, Editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post argued in the first part of his interview with Prof Antony Arkin, in Hashalom last month, “the Jewish community of Kwa-Zulu Natal has a fascinating history...” At the 150th celebrations at the Garden Shul twenty five years ago Prof Marcus Arkin, together with the late Mendel Kaplan, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, and Raymond Ackerman, founder of Pick ‘n Pay were the keynote speakers. Here is the rest of his interview with Prof Arkin in memory of his father.


In 1921, the Jewish community remained under 2,600, fewer than 2% of the province’s white population and only .018% of the all-race total. In the four decades to 1960, the Jewish population more than doubled in size to 6,200, of whom 86% were resident in the greater Durban area.

Natal Jewry produced a number of major business figures. The German-born Karl Gundelfinger was perhaps the most prominent. His family firm specialized in general importation, ironmongery, wholesale and retailing. His real significance lay in his impact on economic policy. He was a strong advocate of encouraging local “infant” industries through tariff protection. As president of the Natal Chamber of industries and later as president of the SA Chamber of Commerce he was highly influential especially after the Nationalist-Labor coalition came to power in 1924.

Aaron Beare joined the small family furniture factory in 1925. His Lithuanian forebears were cabinet makers. Serving mainly a white working class market during the depression years of the 1930’s. Beare Bros began to make prudent use of hire purchase techniques. They added household appliances to their stock and gave up factory production in 1945 to concentrate in retail selling. Aaron Beare launched into a massive program of geographical expansion. He opened many other retail outlets in Durban as well as stores in Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Vryheid, Estcourt and Dundee. By the 1960’s he went national and became a listed public company. 

Throughout this period, much of the import trade in groceries and tobacco products was handled by Jewish wholesalers. They redistributed these goods across the province. One of the oldest and largest was Rosenbach and Co., which was established in 1899. Founded in 1910, out of a partnership between J. Moshal and M. and I. Gevisser. Moshal, Gevisser, Ltd was to become a major public company. Another important whole house was A. Stiller & Co (Pty) Ltd set up in l9l4, which by 1960, maintained a series of branch offices. A relative latecomer was silver, Garbus & co (Pty) Ltd that was established by immigrants from Poland in 1932.

The textile and clothing industries in South Africa during the inter-war years and immediate post-war era were almost completely dominated by Jewish entrepreneurs and firms. Although the Cape remained the main centre, there were indigenous Natal firms. Samuel Peimer founded the Irish Linen co. in 1927. It began by importing linen and Manchester Products, and then began to spin and weave its own linen fabrics in its Pinetown factory. In 1930, Natal cotton and woollen Mills became one of the first factories to manufacture blankets in south Africa. By 1960 its chief executive Victor Daitz had created a national sales organization for its products. Also in 1930, A. J. Cohen set up a small workshop to manufacture inexpensive Khaki shirts. After World War II, the firm concentrated on higher grade clothing, metamorphosing into Cambridge Shirt Manufacturers (Pty) Ltd which by 1960 had become a large concern. 

For over half a century, Phillip Frame was an enormous presence both in the province and in South Africa. Born in Memel, Frame worked as a textile engineer in Lodz, Poland, before immigrating to South Africa in 1924 where he joined an uncle in Vryheid who ran a grain mill. He persuaded a wealthy Jewish shopkeeper in Vryheid, C. J. Balladan, to put up capital for launching his own textile factory. This began production in Brickhill Road, Durban, in 1928. 

By 1960, the Frame organization had become a series of listed major industrial companies. From the Durban head office it operated mills and factories and sales offices around South Africa and set up itw own buying organization in London under the label of SA industrial supplies Ltd. When Philip Frame died in 1979 the group’s workforce numbered well over 30,000. The extent to which his industrial empire depended on his expertise and guidance quickly became apparent. It rapidly disintegrated to less than 6000 employees by the turn of the century. 

In the province’s heavy industry sector, the Jewish input was more modest. ln1937, the Nathan brothers had started a scrap metal business supplying cast iron and steel to Transvaal foundries from redundant railway property. During World War II K. Nathan (Pty) Ltd had become one of the country’s largest iron and steel processors. In 1948, Eugen Lazarus, a refugee from Nazi Germany established Non Ferrous Metal Works. When his sons Bernhard and Gunter joined him in the 1950’s the firm’s refining and metal-trading operations took on a national dimension and then an international one as a major exporter. 

The construction industry also felt the impact of Jewish involvement. Founded by Nicolai Meyerowitz in 1928 the Standard Building and Contracting Co (Pty) Ltd became especially important in the putting up of large apartment and office blocks, municipal housing schemes and the building of hospital complexes. In the field of property on the marketing side the firm of J. H. Isaacs, Geshen & Co (Pty) Ltd was a major Jewish concern. JH Isaacs set up an estate agency in 1902 which grew rapidly and continued after his death in 1921 when his son Edgar took over. In 1935 be brought in Israel Geshen as his partner. The firm’s activities came to cover every aspect of the property market, supported by an imposing network of branches. 

During these decades, a higher proportion of young adults were entering the professions, especially of medicine, law and accountancy, than their counterparts in the rest of South Africa. Both fewer opportunities in commerce and a higher proportion of Natal Jews being of British origin with no language barriers were probable causes. The first reliable occupational breakdown we have (for 1970) tends to support this thesis. At least 20% more economically active Jews were classified as “professional” compared to their co-religionists elsewhere in South Africa. By 1960 then the numerically small community of Kwazulu-Natal of 6169, of which 5353 lived in Durban, had now come to play a significant role in the province’s economic life.


The 1960’s and Seventies represented the high water mark of a distinctive Jewish impact on the KwaZulu-Natal economy. Since then many of the firms which were family- owned and run have gone public or have been taken over by listed companies. Three cases illustrate this trend. 

DURBAN INVESTMENT LTD: In 1954, Alan Zulman and Abe Dubin started a small clothing factory with some ten employees. Expansion was rapid. By 1980 Durban Investments Ltd controlled S. A. Clothing Industries, Cambridge Shirts and Man-About Town. But in 1981, the group the group was taken over by Aaron Searle and his associates. The Seardel corporate headquarters was in Cape Town. 

BEARE BROTHERS: Aaron Beare’s furniture business went public in 1968. By the early 1980’s it had over 200 stores and had swallowed the Game Discount chain. A year after his death in 1991, it was taken over by McCarthy Retail. 

BEACON SWEETS: In 1931, Hymie Zulman founded a small confectionery business. By 1949, it had expanded to enlarged factory premises. By the turn of the century it was the largest user of sugar in the confectionery industry, some 30,000 tons annually, but it had passed out of the hands of the founding family and is now a subsidiary of Tiger Brands.  


The Jewish population of the province reached its height at around 7,000 in 1980. Some 90% lived in the Durban area. Of the economically-active portion, about 30% were classified as professional (This contrasts with less than 20% of the total white population). Some 21% were classified as administrative and managerial, 27% were in commerce, including the provision of technical and financial services, and 17% fell under the heading “clerical.” Thereafter, the influx of Jews from Rhodesia in the Seventies into KwaZulu-Natal drew to a close and net emigration became pronounced. Since the township unrest of the mid-1970’s, there was a significant increase in White emigration. South African Jewry as a whole shrank by 25% over the period between 1970 and 1990, and emigration from Durban was at least in that proportion. Jewish communal records indicate that between 1970 and 1991, some 39,000 Jews emigrated, of whom 4,900 later returned to South Africa.


As can be expected, the destinations have been English-speaking countries and Israel. It is estimated that 30.7% of emigrants live in Israel, 25.2% in the United States, 14.4% in the United Kingdom, 10.9% in Canada and 17.4% in Australia. 

Besides the Zionist pull of aliya, the normal push factors of all emigrants from South Africa such as crime, violence, falling living standards, education and health have all led to a continued loss to the community. 

There was also considerable internal migration. Young adults after completing school or university tended to seek jobs in Johannesburg or Cape Town. Often parents would follow their offspring. There are also those still active in business who departed for the Rand or Cape because of perceived better prospects. The Jewish community of the KwaZulu-Natal province rapidly shrank from 4,095 in 1991 to 2,815 in 2000, to approximately 1,500 in 2015. 

The impression from the records is that the majority of emigrants are families with children and singles in their twenties. This has significantly affected the profile of the community. Since those with transferable skills are more likely to emigrate, a higher proportion of professional occupations are represented. 

The Durban community as a consequence has aged significantly over this period. While the proportion over  65 was 10.3% in 1970 and 19.9% in 1980, by 2,000 this had gone up to 32%. By 2015, it is estimated to be well in excess of 40%. An ever-increasing proportion of aged in the community has led to an ever larger share of communal resources being allocated to this segment of the population. 

The occupational profile by the turn of the century indicated that some 20% of those economically active were now retired. Some 33% could be classified as professional, 29% administrative and managerial positions and 18% provided technical, clerical or other services.


A sizable question mark hangs over the future of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry. Does it have any further distinctive roles to play in the economic life of the province? At a population of about 1,500 Durban has as many Jews as Ireland or Norway. The communities of these countries have frequently been singled out for their enterprise and resourcefulness. Durban-based companies such as Bio-oil, Derivco and Don’t Waste show the hallmarks of innovative entrepreneurship. 

The Jews of Durban may, in fact, become a predominantly retirement community with a significant segment taking no further part in the future of Development of the region’s economy. Much will depend on the future path followed by the economy itself. If the vicious circle of lack of skills, graft, low productivity and crumbling infrastructure continues, the passive retirement scenario will predominate. If, however, there are real prospects for positive growth, it is hoped the province could once again attract the inventiveness and energies of risk-taking Jewish entrepreneurs.

Note to readers: We’d be happy to hear from you if you have any comments. My email is Prof. Antony Arkin’s email is:

Jewish World

It’s Durban Calling! A bird’s eye view of the KwaZulu-Natal Jewish community’s economic history - Part 1

The Jewish community of KwaZulu-Natal has a fascinating history that has been documented in books, newspapers and academic research. We all have our own personal and family stories that have shaped who we are, as individuals and as a collective. What does the future hold, and what role can present and former Durbanites (for the purposes of this article, this term includes people from other places in KwaZulu-Natal) play in helping the community to survive, maintain basic institutions such as a synagogue and a school, and preserve its memories?   

By Steve Linde - Editor-In-Chief of The Jerusalem Post

I recently went to hear a talk in Israel by former South African President F.W. de Klerk, who said that in order to understand the present and prepare for the future, one has to first study the past. Of course, he is right, even if we don’t always learn from the lessons of the past!  

Where did we come from? How did our community start? What was unique about our community? How do you explain the many success stories in our community, especially economic successes? 

For me, the Durban Jewish community has always been a warm and welcoming place, but we should not ignore the deep divisions that split the community historically -- personal, religious, political and ideological.  For the most part, we have been strong supporters of Israel and proud to call ourselves Zionist. There are many of us who will always consider Durban and the surrounding communities in KwaZulu-Natal our home, whether we were born there, grew up there, or even just lived there for a significant period of time.  It is these people – Durbanites, for the most part -- whom, I hope, will find this article interesting.  It is my fervent hope that it triggers positive memories of a once-thriving albeit small community, and motivates you to contribute to the future of what is now a community struggling to survive.

What better person to talk about the history of the KwaZulu Jewish community, with a spotlight on the Durban area’s economic history, than one of the leaders of the Durban Jewish community, Economics Professor Antony Arkin? 

A former Head of Department of Economics at the University of Kwazulu-Natal and the retired Academic Vice-Rector Durban University of Technology, Arkin has also served as Editor of Hashalom, the Durban Jewish newspaper, chairman of the Kwazulu-Natal Zionist Council, Treasurer of the South African Zionist Federation(SAZF), Executive Member of the Council of Kwazulu-Natal Jewry (CKNJ), President of the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation (DPJC), chairman of Arzenu SA, vice-chair of SAUPJ as well as South African delegate to the World Zionist Organization (WZO), JAFI and JNF.  Arkin followed in the prestigious footsteps of his late father, who was also a prominent economics professor, writer and Jewish leader. Prof. Marcus Arkin, a past Chair of the Natal Zionist Council and Director-General of the South African Zionist Federation, passed away on August 30, 2015. May his memory be a blessing!

I asked Prof. Antony Arkin what makes the Durban Jewish community unique?  His response was the following: “The Durban community does have unique features. In contrast to Cape Town and Johannesburg surprisingly few prominent businessmen assumed leadership positions in synagogue affairs. Many, however, were involved in the umbrella organizations of the Council of Natal Jewry, Natal Zionist Council and Durban Jewish Club. This gave a more holistic approach with a much greater awareness that Durban is a single community and all of its components deserve support.”

Another question I asked Prof. Arkin was to name some of the legendary figures in the history of the Durban Jewish community.  His response was lovely:  “I think should be thrown open to your readers. Besides the business leaders I have discussed [see below], key educators such as Sam Ernst and Issy Fisher stand out. Rabbis Isaac Richards and Abner Weiss were hugely influential and communal leaders Sheva Hodes and Josh Goldberg were the backbone of the community for decades.” There are also others in a number of fields: Prof. Aaron Klug, who won the 1982 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and former world surfing champion Shawn Tomson come to mind. I would also include Prof. Antony Arkin and his late father, Prof. Marcus Arkin. As Antony wrote me in an email, “this [interview] is a memorial to him.”

Here is the rest of my interview with Prof. Antony Arkin. 


Four Jewish pioneers played a pivotal role in the establishment of the KwaZulu-Natal region. Nathaniel Isaacs’ Travel Adventures in Eastern Africa in 1836 provide one of the most valuable accounts of early times in the region. He publicized the potential for development based on first-hand experience. His was the first systematic account of the region’s economic prospects.

Benjamin Norden, who came out with the 1820 Settlers and was a Grahamstown merchant, created KwaZulu-Natal’s first export trade. He organized expeditions to collect ivory and other goods between the Eastern Cape and Port Natal. In 1835 he spent three days as the guest of Zulu King Dingaan. A highly lucrative bartering business based on the region’s national resources was developed.

After the British, with some reluctance, annexed Natal in 1845, an influx of settlers under various immigration schemes increased the white population to about 9,000. This was largely the effort of a Bavarian Jew, Jonas Bergtheil, who arrived in Cape Town in 1834 and moved to Natal in 1843. Keen to take advantage of the booming Lancashire textile industry’s need for raw cotton, Bergtheil gathered a group of spinners, weavers and farm workers from the Bremen region and brought them to Natal in 1847. They settled on 54 square miles of land known now as New Germany, close to Pinetown. While cotton growing was not successful the community was to prosper as market gardeners.

It was not raw cotton, but the cultivation of cane sugar which was to provide Natal with a solid base for viable communal farming. It was a Jewish businessman Daniel De Pass who utilized the latest scientific methods to establish sugar production as the region’s most important industry. As an aside, during one of his visits to England, he raised by public subscription a third of the sum required to redeem the mortgage on the Durban synagogue.


Mass Jewish immigration to South Africa occurred during and immediately after the early diamond and gold rushes. Some 40,000 Jewish immigrants arrived between 1870 - 1910, mainly from Russian-controlled Lithuania. Relatively few Jews, however, came to live in Kwazulu-Natal. The 1911 census recorded a Transvaal Jewish community of just under 26,000, some 20,000 in the Cape Province, but only 1,482 Jews in Natal, with the great majority living in Durban. Even the Orange Free State contained a Jewish population twice the size of Natal – 2,808.

While many of the Jewish breadwinners who came to South Africa after the 1870’s started their new lives as itinerant hawkers, who developed into storekeepers and hotel keepers, the majority were small scare artisans. These craftsmen were largely tailors, shoemakers, butchers and carpenters. 

Opportunities during the second half of the 19th century in KwaZulu-Natal for Jewish immigrants to engage in trade or  follow their traditional craft pursuits was greatly circumscribed by the presence of a large, highly competitive and hardworking Indian community. Accordingly, during the half century down to 1920 the Jewish community of KwaZulu-Natal remained largely small and showed few signs of significant growth. Some element of stability had, however, been provided by the establishment of a formal congregation in Durban in the mid-1880’s.

Part 2 of this interview will be continued in the next edition of Hashalom.


Dear Pope Francis, desperation has never been a justification for Jews.

By Gheula Canarutto Nemni -

In the impassioned plea for social justice you made in an address to Kenyan lawmakers in Nairobi last week, you asserted that “violence, conflict and terrorism, are fueled by fear and desperation, born of poverty and frustration.”

Yet nothing, not even desperation, can justify terrorism. The roots of terrorism lie only in hatred-based education. We Jews have a lot of experience with desperation. But our history shows other more constructive ways out of it. Desperation has never been a justification for Jews to commit violent acts in the name of our religion.

We have been paraded through the streets of Rome in chains while our Sanctuary in Jerusalem was in flames. We have been thrown into amphitheaters where hungry lions and spectators waited for our blood. We have been burnt in autos-da-fé, we have been called marranos, our candle lighting and prayers in our ancestral tongue have been banned. We have been expelled from Spain. We have wandered through many countries looking for a new home.

We have been massacred in pogroms, our synagogues sacked, our children enlisted in armies from which they never came back. We have been deprived of our right to work, to own, to vote, to speak. We have been robbed of that dignity which every human being should enjoy by right when he is born.

Our gold teeth were torn from our mouths and our arms branded as if we were animals for the slaughterhouse. We have been told for centuries ‘go back to your homeland’ and now that we are home they tell us ‘get out of there’.

We Jews are an indissoluble part of the historical fabric of our world. The Jewish presence is the common thread in most of the countries on the globe. In every place we arrived on this earth, we produced poets, mathematicians, physicists, writers, politicians, scientists, doctors, inventors. Even when we were closed in ghettos we have never stopped writing, thinking, discussing, producing good. We have never put our lives on standby, not even for a little while.

Despite all this, we have not been covering our heads with ashes for thousands of years. We loaded our destiny onto our shoulders and bound our ancestors’ heritage to our hearts and we went searching for a new place where we could breathe again.

If you have been taught that every instant on this earth is the biggest richness you own, and that life is the most precious gift you received when you were born, there is neither the time nor the will to wallow in self-pity. And there is no room for resentment.

We returned, without our parents, our brothers, our children, our husbands and wives, to Germany, Italy and France. We stood beneath the windows of our homes looking in at strangers now living in places that belonged to us before the war. We rolled up our sleeves, revealing numbers stamped with fire on our arms, and we started everything again from scratch.

Countries interested in migration waves should study Jewish history and our integration model. In every new place we arrived, we had our golden rule: Never slip on your tears.

We have not waited around for compassion from the countries that opened their borders for us. We tried from the very start to integrate ourselves in the social fabric of the place that was hosting us. And while thanking them, we contributed our talents to development and progress, ours and theirs.

There are those who use desperation as a justification for murdering innocents. And there are those who put aside desperation, locking it in the memory drawer, and try to climb back to the top, focusing on new opportunities.

Dear Pope Francis, Secretary John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and hundreds of world influencers who are looking for a reason, for a motif, behind the transformation of individuals into lethal splinters. Even if you delved into the personal, tragic lives of these killers (though in most cases they live at exactly the same standard as those in the society around them), even if it was really like this, nothing, NOTHING, can justify an act of blind violence against another human being. Nothing, nothing, can give the right to one individual to deprive another of his tomorrow. Looking for justifications means only one thing: preparing the soil for the next brutal act, G-d forbid.

History has never mistreated a nation more than it has mistreated the Jewish people. But everywhere that the wind of hate has transported us, we integrated, we learned the local language, reciting by heart Whitman, Eliot and Dickinson. We invented the pareve cheesecake. Integration is something you have to want and work at every single day.

We have never asked the place that hosted us to adapt itself to our rules. “Dina demalchuta dina” - the law of the land must become your law too - says the Talmud. Real integration, even for the most desperate people, can be realised. But it depends, first and foremost, on values transmitted by the religion, families and teachers of those who have just arrived. 

And it depends on the will to become part of society in a constructive and positive way.

Gheula Canarutto Nemni is a professor and novelist living in Milan, Italy. Her most recent novel ‘(Non) si può avere tutto’ Mondadori 2015 tells the story of an Italian Orthodox Jewish girl and her challenges in the professional world in Milan.



By Rabbi Abraham Cooper & Dr. Harold Brackman

The worldwide Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is the twenty-first century’s highest profile anti-Israel global campaign that meets the “three D” (Double standard, Deligitimization, and Demonization) litmus test for crossing the line between legitimate criticism of the Jewish state and toxic anti-Semitism: Never designed to help a single Palestinian, BDS singles out Israel exclusively for criticism, ignoring the major human rights abusers around the world, while distorting the Jewish state’s actions to defend herself from terrorist attacks by means of false and malicious comparisons with Nazi Germany and South Africa’s Apartheid regime.

So it is almost beyond belief that the city government of Munich is allowing a BDS event to be held in the Gasteig Building, a tax-payer funded city building, as part of Munich’s “cultural program.” German Jews are especially appalled by the effrontery that such an event would be scheduled on November 9, the same day that Kristallnacht commemorations are being held to remember country-wide November, 1938 Nazi pogroms that burned German synagogues, attacked and sent thousands of Jews to concentration camps.

Charlotte Knobloch, is a Holocaust survivor who heads the 9,500-members of the Jewish community of Munich, the city where the Nazi movement was originally organized.

Knobloch has warned that: “The BDS campaign disguises the socially unacceptable ’Don’t buy from Jews!’ as a modernized form of Nazi jargon by demanding ‘Don’t buy from the Jewish State’.”

Knobloch denounced the event as “a continued effort to defame, delegitimize, ostracize Israel under the cloak of allegedly legitimate criticism” and launching pad for “a comprehensive boycott against Israel will be announced aimed at hurting economics, science, culture and all areas of life.”

German authorities refused to join her denunciation. The spokesman for Munich’s Social Democratic Mayor Dieter Reiter said he “could not judge” whether the Social Democratic mayor opposes or supports a boycott of Israel. One local politician, Richard Quaas, a Munich city councilman from the Christian Social Union, did call on the city to cancel the rental agreement with the BDS group.

As Germans debate how they will deal with the influx of up to 1 million Muslims, it would also be a good time to remember how their nation dealt with the Jewish minority in the last century. Nazi newspapers started calling for boycotts of Jewish businesses after World War I, despite the outstanding record of the over 100,000 Germany Jews who served in the German Army. As Hitler rose in political popularity in 1930, SA Stormtroopers or Brown Shirts began a sporadic terror campaign including harassment, vandalism, and kidnapping Jewish judges, lawyers, doctors, and anti-Nazi activists.

Following Hitler’s coming to power on January 30, 1933, the Nazi leadership decided on an organized boycott of Jewish businesses. On April 1, the first nationwide boycott was ordered, with Berlin’s 50,000 Jewish businesses in the crosshairs. In broken store windows, signs were posted “Jews Are Our Misfortune!” and “Go back to Palestine!”

The Nazis inspired similar boycotts elsewhere, including Austria. In Poland, the head of the Catholic Church and Polish Prime Minister called for boycotts against Jews. In Hungary, the government passed laws limiting Jewish economic activity from 1938 onwards. In Palestine, the first anti-Jewish boycotts coincided with bloody anti-Jewish riots whose battle cry was “O Arab! Remember that the Jew is your strongest enemy of your ancestors since olden times.”

North America was not immune. In Quebec, French-Canadian nationalists organized boycotts of Jews in the thirties. In the U.S., the Nazi anti-Jewish boycott had defenders in distinguished academic circles, just as anti-Israel BDS campaign thrives on many university campuses today. At a time when Ivy League schools imposed discriminatory admission quotas on Jewish students, Harvard Professor S. B. Fay blamed German suffering during the Depression on anti-Hitler protestors. Fay told the Harvard Crimson student newspaper that Germany’s affairs were “none of any other country’s business.”

Cloaked in the rhetoric of nonviolent resistance, the BDS Movement today is nothing like the nonviolent Montgomery Bus Boycott protest campaign of the 1950s - which invoked Christian love against white racism. BDSers habitually cross the line, deploying historically toxic language demonizing the Jewish State and Jews everywhere.

BDS’ publicly-stated goal is to “end occupation in the territories.” Under siege by terrorists today, Israel had already unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 and is committed to a two-state solution if only it had a willing peace partner ready to accept a Jewish neighbor. Instead, as Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) confirmed to Palestinian students, the BDS Movement is really a public relations stunt designed to prepare the ground for the ultimate goal of the destruction of Israel.

As Germany welcomes twenty-first century refugees, they must not endanger the lives of descendants of millions of Jews who were stripped of their rights, cast out as refugees in the 1930s, ghettoized, gunned down or gassed by the German Third Reich in the 1940s. In 2015, German leaders including those in Munich have a historic and moral obligation never to embrace those who aid and abet forces that would destroy the State of Israel - home to 6 million Jews.



By Rabbi Abraham Cooper

Simon Wiesenthal Center officials sat across from President François Hollande at the Èlysée Palace some eighteen months ago, sometime between the Toulouse Day School and the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher massacres. His words were devastating: “I can confirm that 1,000 French citizens went to Syria and Iraq to train with ISIS or al Qaeda,” the somber French leader told us, adding… “They have returned to France, melted into the general population — many of them armed — and we do not know where they are.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier asked, “How many Imams are there in France and how many have condemned terrorist attacks?” Hollande responded, “Six thousand Imams…and about ten have publicly spoken out…” These days the number has been reduced to one: Imam Chalgoumi of Drancy. The others have been cowered into silence.

So, a year and a half later, here we are, the morning after ISIS plunged the City of Lights into darkness. Now what?

Without question, the terrorist leaders are triumphant:

Despite France’s heightened alerts, the three cells converged on Paris, apparently undetected. One suicide bomber reached the entrance of France’s largest stadium during a soccer match and almost succeeded in detonating himself where 80,000 fans - including President Hollande - were in attendance. How could that happen? Without a doubt, the latest off-the-shelf encryption apps and other Internet technologies must have been deployed to enable the terrorist networks to communicate and evade surveillance.

ISIS was able to infiltrate at least one terrorist within the mass migration to Europe. He was processed along with other refugees on the Greek Island of Lesbos before making his way to Europe’s heartland. This fact, puts more pressure on the entire European Union, but especially on Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop her open door policy to Middle East refugees and migrants.

ISIS is enjoying a huge propaganda victory. There were reports of over 50,000 tweets on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the bloodbath celebrating the mass murders. With a boost from their sophisticated social media marketing strategy, their “triumph” is sure to attract more young recruits and more supporters for the global food-chain of terrorism.

ISIS sees a world leadership, deeply divided in what, if anything to do next. Statements by our President and Secretary of State that, “We will do everything it takes to defeat ISIL” are not taken seriously. The President himself has admitted that we have no strategy. Despite the aerial assassinations of a few ISIS leaders, the terrorists are convinced that America has no appetite for boots on the ground. The Democratic presidential debate yielded a half-hour of semantic sparring over the Islamist terrorists but no specific ideas how they would protect the Homeland. Beyond declaring that we are at war with radical Islamists, most Republican candidates have yet to articulate how they would take on the evildoers. 

ISIS and its supporters are thrilled by every drop of infidel blood spilled, by every tear shed. Their greatest export is fear and they take great pride that they brought the greatest carnage to the streets of Paris since World War II.

So what needs to be done to ensure that the Paris attacks will serve as a turning point and not merely another bloody stop on the highway to hell?

First, President Hollande declared war on ISIS. The United States and other NATO allies should join with France, whether Russia agrees or not.

Yes, with all due respect to Hillary Clinton, these terrorists are at war with us. It’s time to articulate an effective strategy. Someone’s boots - perhaps NATO - will have to get on the ground so that the ISIS snake can be beheaded, instead of innocent Christians, Muslims, and Yazidis. Large-scale ISIS casualties and destruction of their training bases will destroy their nexus to extremists who have returned to Europe. A NATO force would also help secure an immediate humanitarian goal of establishing a safe-haven/no fly zone for the millions of displaced Syrians that would at least slow the flood of humanity storming the shores of Europe.

Secondly, in 2015, we must reject the mantra that, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” ISIS and all groups associated with Islamic extremism are determined to bring humanity back to the Dark Ages. These groups attacking soccer stadiums, concert halls, and restaurants in Paris or stabbing women and children in the streets of Jerusalem have one thing in common — they have declared war on the basic tenets of humanity and decency. Leaders, whether stationed in the halls of political power, on university campuses, or in the pulpits of houses of worship must demand that their constituents denounce all acts of terrorism.

Finally, social media giants must join the war against terror. When will Twitter finally wake up? Why do they continue to allow themselves to serve as the key platform for the cheerleaders of depravity? And Silicon Valley leaders may want to take note that the apps they are generating are not only allowing teens to hide their sexual antics from their parents but enabling mass murderers to threaten us all.

During the Cold War there was a doomsday clock always set a few minutes before a feared midnight of a nuclear war. Humanity was lucky that no lunatic got close to that button. But a new doomsday clock lurks. We need leaders who will forge new alliances to defeat movements who will stop at nothing to destroy our values and our lives.



by Pundit

HASHOLOM November 1940 - Extracts 

CLUB LOYALITY - The Editorial stressed the absence of so many enthusiastic club workers and appealed to more members still resident in Durban to double efforts. 

MORE NEWS ON THEIR TROOPS included a report from the Nairobi Sunday Port of a Yom Kippur Service conducted by Captain Menachemson in Nairobi, which was, so it was reported “attended by a number of Gentiles, including Major A.E. Eaton M.P of Durban”. There was a report of the Yom Kippur for the troops training in the Eastern Transvaal and a “Memorable Succah” in the grounds of a military training depot.

BOARD OF DEPUTIES contained a report of the most recent meeting of the Deputies which contained details of the inauguration, jointly by the Board and the Zionist Federation of the United South African Jewish War Appeal.

D.J.C TENTH EXECUTIVE REPORT took up too much space, in Pundits’s view. But when you consider that it contained reports in brief form of all the following sections, in wartime too, one must 75 years later, be impressed! Culture, Library, “Hasholom”, Dramatic, Stage, Entertainment, Music, Ladies, Luncheon, Tennis, Billiards, Squash Racquets, Bowls, Bar, Gifts and Comforts Fund section, Bursars, July Ball, War Fund donations. It’s not surprising that the Executive reported that it held 51 meetings during the year and that the Chairman, Mr. I.J. Greenberg attended 49 of them. WHEW! 

THE COUNCIL REPORT was much shorter and did not disclose the number of Council meetings held during the year.

MOTIVES OF THE HEBREW UNIVERISTY were described by its Rector, Professor A.H. Fraenkel, as a follow up to the article he had issued for the Rosh Hashanah issue of HASHOLOM (See PAST TENSE a month or two back). 



Pvt. Harry Friedland on his promotion to Lance-Corporal.

Miss Eileen Gitlin and Mr. Harry Levy on their recent engagement.

Mr and Mrs M.Newfield (nee Rika Lipinski) on the birth of a son.


Air-Gunner E.L Braham, and Lieutenant J. Harris, and Leslie Rubin, Jack Berman, Dennis Brown, Jack Driman, Julius Gurwitz, Alec Heneller and Jack Abelson, who had spent some of their leave in Durban


Dr. H.M. Hairman well on his having left Durban recently on Full-time Military service.

HASHALOM November 1965 - Extracts

A GUEST EDITORIAL promoted the United Communal fund (UCF)

The reports of both the Council and the Executive stressed the difficulties through which the Club had passed caused in the main by the members’ lack of support. As a result a Management Committee was appointed to investigate all aspects of Club activity. The most radical feature of the report which was submitted to and approved by a special meeting of Club members was the decision that the Club would discontinue catering for meals and private receptions. The Executive held only 45 meetings this year. In this context it is not surprising that only a couple of the sporting sections reported any real activity though it should be noted that the Luncheon section had a cocktail party in honour of Dennis Gamsy who had earned his Springbok colours for the South African Cricket Tour of England.



Stephen, son of Madge and Sidney Schultz, David, son of Joe and Mildred  Aufrichtig, Dennis, son of Alice and Harold Lange, Gary, son of Leslie and Lili Lazarus on the celebration of their Bar Mitzvahs.

Allan and Carol Hellman and Lyn and Max Nathan on the birth of sons

David and Dawn (nee Lurie) Hyman on the birth of a daughter.

Shirley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S.L Abrahams, and Theodor, son of Mr. and Mrs A.M. Foreman, Audrey, daughter of Dr. and Mrs Barrow Bass, and Jacky, son of Benny and Rhoda Sobel, on their respective forthcoming marriages.

CAN POLITICS BE MORAL? asked Mr. A. Suzman Q.C. in a recent Peoples College Lecture. “History” summed up the learned lecturer, “should teach us that in the long run moralities have a habit of re-asserting themselves, despite the so-called realities. The Wheel of Fortune has a habit of coming full circle.” Is that a lesson that is still valid in 2015?


The World’s Jewish Population is Nearing Pre-Holocaust Levels

- Huffington Post 

JERUSALEM (AP) - The world’s Jewish population has grown to be nearly as large as it was before the Holocaust, an Israeli think tank said in its annual report Sunday.

The Jewish People Policy Institute said there are currently 14.2 million Jews in the world. When factoring in individuals with one Jewish parent and others who identify as partially Jewish, the figure approaches 16.5 million - the Jewish population on the eve of World War II. The Nazis and their collaborators killed about 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

The report said the rise has been due in part to natural growth, mainly in Israel, which has about 6.1 million Jews and one of the Western world’s highest fertility rates.

Avinoam Bar-Yosef, the institute’s president, said more of those Jews were probably identifying as Jewish because it is more “respectable” to be Jewish in the U.S. than it was years ago. He also said Birthright-Israel, which organizes educational trips to Israel for young Jewish people, is likely having an impact.

The tally combines the number of Jews worldwide, but it also includes at least one million secular Jews who are less likely to be connected to Jewish life or institutions. And it includes some 350,000 Israelis who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and are not considered Jewish in Israel. The Pew Research Center, whose count only includes Jews who self-identify as Jewish, projects that Jews will reach 16 million by 2050.

The United States has the world’s second largest Jewish population, at 5.7 million. France is a distant third with about 475,000 Jews, followed by Canada.

The report, which was presented to the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, dubs itself an “annual stocktaking of the Jewish world.”




work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, evaluating the outcomes of all the educational and support programs that the Federation funds, both domestic and international. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is focused primarily on two areas: Promoting and sustaining Jewish continuity, and caring for Jews in need.

Aside from the many local programs that are funded within Atlanta, and the educational and welfare programs that are funded in Israel, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has also partnered with the city of Minsk, in Belarus, which is part of the former Soviet Union. In Minsk, there are some 12, 000 -15,000 identified Jews remaining, most of whom are survivors of the Holocaust, or who are the family of survivors. The Jewish community is relatively impoverished, aging, and struggling to revive itself after many years of oppression and domination. I was deeply saddened by stories of how the Holocaust, Communism, and even modern-day anti-semitism caused so many families to deny, denounce, or be unaware of their ties to Judaism. It was emotional to hear stories of how people - as young as fourteen or as old as fifty three - gradually learned about Judaism, Jewish history, and their family stories as a result of attending the experiential and educational programs that my organization helps fund.

The “pit” in the center of town where thousands of Jews perished in 1942, offers a constant and terrifying reminder of what did, and could, happen to Jews. Yet out of the ashes Jewish renewal is occurring! Families are discovering and beginning to embrace their Judaism, and Jewish pride is slowly blooming. What I witnessed in Minsk was nothing short of miraculous. I experienced programs that are focused on taking care of Jews in need, including the ill, disabled, and elderly. These programs provide medical care and food, as well as counseling and other support and home-care services. I visited the Minsk Jewish community Center where hundreds of Jews gather each day to take part in cultural and educational programs, and to socialize with other Jews. I also witnessed the great strides that are being made to re-energize Jewish families and youth through Jewish schooling (including Bar and Bat Mitzvah programs), Jewish summer camps (for children as well as families), and Jewish expedition programs (that focus on the rediscovery of Jewish culture, heritage, and traditions). Through our partner organizations, JAFI (The Jewish Agency for Israel), JDC (The Joint Distribution Council), and WUPJ (World Union for Progressive Judaism), the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is pouring funds into these valuable programs, all of which are making a worthy impact in terms of reviving and sustaining Judaism and Jewish identity in the former Soviet Union.

For me, this trip was rewarding and meaningful not only on a professional level, but on a personal level too. Both sides of my family originated in Eastern Europe. My father’s family (Swartzberg) were from Rakishok in Lithuiania. My mother’s family (Lippert) were from Riga and Odessa in Latvia. As Jews we can never not feel moved by the sense of commitment and strength that Jewish communities throughout the ages, and in all parts of the world, have shown in the face of extreme adversity and oppression. May the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, and Latvia, go from strength to strength in their brave efforts to revitalize and recreate themselves. And thanks to the generosity and care of Jews around the world, may these efforts continue to be supported and valued.

Linda Bloomberg was born in Johannesburg, where she attended King David School and Wits University. In 1996 she emigrated with her family to Atlanta. In 2006 she obtained her Doctorate in adult education and organizational leadership from Columbia University, New York, where she currently teaches qualitative research and leadership development. She has worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for the past 9 years as their outcomes evaluation consultant. She is also the author and editor of numerous articles and two books.


Jewish Man Who Fled Nazis Funds Rescue of 2,000 Christians From ISIS to Repay ‘Debt’

By Shiryn Ghermezian – The Algemeiner

A Jewish man in the U.K. is funding the rescue of up to 2,000 Christian families from Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq to show his gratitude for the Christians who saved him from Nazi persecution, The Independent reported on Tuesday.

The resettlement project, named Operation Safe Haven, last week arranged the flight of 150 Syrian Christians to Poland, where they will seek refuge. The group aims to provide 12-18 months of paid support to the refugees, according to The Independent. The man behind the project is Lord Weidenfeld, 94, a former publisher who said he has “a debt to repay” to Christians because they provided him as a child with food and clothing, and helped him reach Britain after he fled Nazi-occupied Austria. In 1938, a year before the start of World War II, he arrived in Britain by train as part of the Kindertransport rescue effort that brought thousands of Jewish refugee children to the U.K.

“I had a debt to repay. It applies to so many young people who were on the Kindertransports,” he said. “It was Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England.” 

“It was a very high-minded operation and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians,” he added.

The Safe Haven rescue operation was conducted in partnership with the British branch of the Jewish National Fund, which made the decision to aid Weidenfeld at a board meeting just before Passover this year.

Lord Weidenfeld said he hopes to repeat the work of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized Kindertransport trains that saved 669 youths from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The famed humanitarian died on July 1. Operation Safe Haven has faced criticism for its exclusion of Muslims, who have also been persecuted and forced from their homes by ISIS. 

Lord Weidenfeld defended the project’s focus on Christians saying, “I can’t save the world, but there is a very specific possibility on the Christian side. Let others do what they like for the Muslims.”



By Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis - The Telegraph

He who gives salvation to Kings and dominion to Princes, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, may He bless our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth”. These are opening words of a prayer recited by Jewish communities across the Commonwealth every Sabbath morning and on festivals. Similar versions have been intoned for centuries. The Talmud teaches that “royalty on earth reflects royalty in Heaven” and there is a special blessing that Jews recite when meeting a monarch. It’s no surprise then that Judaism is infused with a natural and deep respect for the Royal Family as an institution.

In Britain, that same respect and affection has also been personal. A warm, reciprocal relationship between the Jewish community and the Royal Family has existed for centuries. Historians talk of a wooden beam that may have been donated by the Royal Family for the roof of the Bevis Marks Synagogue in 1701. The Duke of Cambridge spoke recently of a special Friday night service in 1809 attended by three sons of King George III at the Great Synagogue in London. A century later, the community would cherish the warm friendship of King Edward VII, who referred to Rabbi Hermann Adler as “my Chief Rabbi”.

More recently, the Royal Family has frequently honoured the Jewish community at many special occasions. I felt deeply touched when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales attended my installation as Chief Rabbi in September 2013.

Above all, perhaps, it is on Holocaust related matters that the Royal Family has been most supportive. The Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, sheltered Jewish refugees during the Second World War. She was awarded the status of “Righteous Among the Nations” and is buried on the Mount of Olives overlooking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Queen herself is a patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and hosted a memorable reception for survivors to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. The Prince of Wales recently hosted the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport at St James’s Palace.

In this context, Her Majesty’s visit to Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany is of immense significance – and not only for Jews. The liberation of Bergen Belsen symbolises the role that Great Britain played in bringing about the end of this dark period in our shared history. The heroic acts of the British Armed Forces who liberated the camp are treasured by the Jewish people.

This is the first time the Queen has visited the site of a concentration camp. I will be with her, and as anyone who has visited any camp can attest, nothing prepares one for standing on the same earth as those who perished so brutally at the hands of the Nazis.

It is a unique and powerful experience amid the paradoxical beauty of the Lower Saxony countryside where some of the worst crimes in human history were committed. Members of my own family perished in the Holocaust. It is such an important part of the collective Jewish psyche that for our Monarch to place herself in a position readily to identify with our pain is both heartening and uplifting.

In recent years, the Jewish community has been faced with newer and different types of hatred. Recorded incidents of anti-Semitism have reached worrying levels and we have witnessed appalling, murderous attacks on Jewish targets around Europe. The Queen is herself of the generation which uncovered the Holocaust and had to come to terms over time with its scale and inhumanity. That makes today’s gesture of solidarity and remembrance all the more relevant and appreciated.

This tradition of support from the British establishment has helped to cultivate the archetypal “British Jew”. It is an identity which could not exist but for a proud and rich history of Jews contributing significantly to British society and finding, in return, a country where we could make a home, with institutions which help us to educate our children, care for our families when they are unwell, and to respect and provide for our most deeply held religious principles.

Since Jews resettled in Britain some 360 years ago, we have enthusiastically embraced the values which are at the core of British society. It is these very British values which are now being threatened by intolerance and extremism, which must be confronted and overcome by every faith community. Creating “British religious identities” is one of the keys to defanging fundamentalism. The more that we can integrate faith in a British context, embracing both tradition and modernity – the more tolerant and understanding our society will be.

The Jewish prayer for the Royal Family concludes: “In her days and in ours, may our Heavenly Father spread the tabernacle of peace over all the dwellers on earth” Let us all say Amen to that.

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is the current Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. The  Johannesburg born Rabbi is widely regarded as a strong pastoral leader, with a focus on traditional Judaism. He attended Herzliya High School in Cape Town and obtained a BA in Education and Classical Hebrew from the University of South Africa, while studying at various Yeshivot in Israel.  He previously served as the Chief Rabbi of Ireland.



By Colin Plen

It might seem haphazard, but there is a reason for the naming of every street in a municipality. It might be that the councillors of a city decided to use their own names when naming the streets in their town or a new suburb in an attempt at immortality, or there might be a historic reason for a Council wanting to bestow immortality on a chosen leader of men. 

One land development company which has set up townships that became suburbs throughout South Africa, has a policy that their directors name the streets according to the names of family members. This might be the reason why Glenashley has road names like Adrienne, Ashley, Daphne, and Lydia, and other suburbs in Johannesburg and Cape Town which are Glen- somethings, also have similar names.

Some years ago the Durban Council decided to change the names of some roads in the town and regardless of criticism they went ahead and renamed some roads making it difficult for old-timers of Natal to find their way around. But in doing this they chose 2 Jewish names. Part of the M4 freeway is named for Ruth First, the wife of Joe Slovo, both staunch members of the Struggle for a liberal South Africa.  The name First is a Jewish name having been used in Lithuania meaning a Prince. The name Slovo is also a Lithuanian name meaning either, depending on which part of the Russian Empire his forefathers came from, a slave or glory. Joe Slovo Road is in KwaNdengezi as well as in the city.

Near the Davenport Shopping Centre, Mutual Square there is a Cohen Road. I have been trying for many years to ascertain who the Cohen was, but all I can be sure of is that the Cohen had Jewish forebears.

In the Point suburb (it says in my Atlas) Sol Harris Crescent is a major landmark. It runs behind the Elangeni and the Maharani Hotels.

Hollander Crescent in Morningside has a very distinguished pedigree in that F.C. Hollander was a Mayor of Durban, a city councillor for some years, and was elected to the Senate. I thank Judge Alan Magid for his assistance in this.

A historical Jew of less influence was Jonas Bergtheil who wanted to introduce cotton growing to this country and brought in German immigrants. His father was Jewish but it appears that all the farmers that he brought were Lutheran Christians. Of interest is the fact that the street name in New Germany is Bergthiel instead of Bergtheil.

Nathaniel Isaacs was a Jew who came to South Africa in 1825 when his ship was wrecked off Natal. He explored the country and made friends with Shaka and Dingaan . He has a road named after him in the Point and in Shulton Park. 

There is a Yiddish word Stiebel which means a small or makeshift place of prayer. There is a Stiebel Street near the Blue Lagoon, and also one in Nzumbe on the South Coast. For all sorts of reasons I can understand that it is unlikely to have been named after a Jew but I must point out that in Sandton there is a Chabad Street!

In Bloemfontein there was a family with the name of Baumann and they were Jewish. But I have been assured that the Baumanns of Durban, who have a road named after them, alongside Beth Shalom on the Berea, were not Jewish. But both families were bakers. Bauman means a neighbour, like our South African buurman

When you travel down the South Coast after Umbogintwini  there is a turnoff for the Moss Kollnick Drive. Moss Kollnick was an engineer.

While there is a dearth of Jewish names in Durban, I was surprised to find that on the lower South Coast, there are no less that 6 roads with Jewish names. Aside from the Stiebel mentioned above in Nzumbe, there is a Tanchum Road in Shelley Beach, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer road in Palm Beach; there is a Kahn Road and a Feinberg Road in Margate.

We must include roads which have a Jewish history, even though they might not be named after Jews. Around 1902 my grandfather M.J. Plen and his brother C.Z.Plen, who was the grandfather of Zander Plen, started a fertilizer business in Sarnia in Pinetown. Their sons, Leon and Harry took over the business in about 1945 when Leon returned wounded from the War. My uncle, Leon, was on the Pinetown Council and when Sarnia was officially laid out, probably around 1960, they named the road that the fertilizer factory stood on, as Bullbrand Road. The factory was Bullbrand Fertilizers!! The company no longer exists having been swallowed up years ago, but the road is still there with its Bullbrand name. And also in Sarnia is Leon Place, named by the council after Leon Plen.  Near to Leon Place is Pastoll Road. Jack Pastoll was an uncle to Leon Plen’s wife, Hannah, and he ran the Fairy Glen Hotel and had a farm in the area. 

In Umhlanga we have a Mendoza Road. I am not going to claim that Mendoza Road was named after Daniel Mendoza but I just want to mention that Daniel Mendoza was a Jew who became famous in the 17th Century for his success in barefist fighting. He even wrote a book about the science of boxing as he was so successful in it.  But I won’t claim him just as I won’t try to claim that Stanger is named after Max Stange!!  (note the difference in the spelling)  Or that Heilbronn (in the Free State) is named after the Heilbronns.

I would very much to hear from readers who disagree with any of my suggested histories, and also readers who can add some names to my list. My email address is



By Sue Jacobson

APATHY can be defined as a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. It is the absence or suppression of passion, emotion or excitement.

APATHY is shameful, uncaring, indifferent, destructive and highly contagious.

Over the last few years our community numbers have dwindled, putting the burden of the community squarely on the shoulders of a few. These individuals and organisations have the onerous task of providing education, welfare, religious instruction, community and cultural interaction and general support to those of us that are left in this little community. However, this does not mean the rest of us cannot, should not participate and lend our support.

Throughout the year, our community calendar is punctuated with a variety of functions, meetings, educational classes and community enrichments. While each of these have their own “target audience,” they express eternal hope that the event will capture some “new” support and expand their base within the community.

Sadly, the converse is true. Our community members turn a blind eye to invites, often citing busy schedules, work and in the case of children, over populated extra mural activity schedules. The other ever popular excuse is that their friends or those of their children are not going.  Is our community suffering from burn out, perhaps? Are there too many functions, too few community members?

If your community is so important to you and your family, surely you will pencil in community activities along with all the other family activities. You may need to prioritise some functions over and above others. I understand that parents today often both work, that children are busier than ever. It becomes a juggle, but it does not have to be impossible. Children should be taught from early on, by example, that community involvement is paramount to the survival of their community. They need to be taught that there are many wonderful opportunities that the community will afford them; however, as with everything in life, there is a price. The price is participation! 

If we are unable or unwilling to rethink our community participation the resulting action is that we are teaching our children to be apathetic, to be non-committal and unenthusiastic towards the very community that has supported us, nurtured us and provided so much to us in the past. 

We need to see more participation from the younger generations and their children in all aspects of the community, especially at family orientated functions and educational programs.  We need to lead by example and teach our children to be passionate and excited about our community and what it affords us. Attend those meetings, bring in fresh ideas, send your kids to camp, let them try it even just once, you, mom, may be surprised to find they enjoy it. Come to all the advertised functions, even if it is just for half an hour, lend your support and care.

Hanna Reese Carpenter wrote:


They’ll tell you apathy isn’t healthy

But I am still alive

I’m existing

But only just that

Don’t be that person that walks away because you did not want to get involved or felt it had nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with you.

APATHY is our silent killer!



By Stan Hart

My father, David Ernst, who recently died aged 73, was a Marxist anti-apartheid activist who survived torture, hunger strike and three years in prison in South Africa.

Born in Johannesburg into a traditional Jewish family, he was the son of Sam, a teacher and educationist, and Jayne (nee Chanani), an accounting assistant. In 1959 David went to the University of Cape Town to study medicine, followed by the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal). But he spent much of his time at both institutions involved in left wing political activity and fighting injustice. He became active in the anti-apartheid struggle, taking huge risks to help banned communist activists stay in contact with each other.

In early 1966 he was arrested and tortured by special branch officers in Pretoria, and held under a law that allowed for detention without trial for 90 days. In protest he began a hunger strike, demanding to be released or charged. He lasted 32 days without food until he was eventually charged alongside fellow activists Vic Finkelstein and the lawyer Rowley Arenstein, under the Suppression of Communism Act. As a result, he was imprisoned for three years at Pretoria central prison.

After his release in 1969, David was placed under house arrest but was then awarded a United Nations scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, to read medicine. He left South Africa on a permanent exit visa at the cost of his South African citizenship.

In Britain he remained politically active, and worked with Maurice Ludmer, one-time editor of Searchlight magazine, and others in the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement of the 1970s. Having qualified as a doctor at Birmingham University in 1974, he was also part of the Junior Hospital Doctors Association team that successfully negotiated with the government in 1975 for better working hours and pay for NHS doctors. By 1978 he had become a surgeon.

In Cambridge, David had met his future wife Teresa Gonçalves, a nurse, and started a family. They eventually relocated to Lisbon, Portugal, in 1983, where David spent the rest of his life running a successful medical practice.

He is survived by Teresa, by his children, Daniel, Simon and me, Joseph, 



Tisha b’Av approaches. A day of commemoration of sorrow and pain, and a call for introspection and reflection. On Tisha b’Av we take upon ourselves the burden, and the grace, of our connection to all Jews past, present and future, in times of suffering, as in times of joy. Maintaining that solidarity isn’t easy, and it takes work, on Tisha b’Av itself, and the whole year through.

Jews love to argue, above all with one another. The higher the stakes, the higher the decibels, and at times, things can get ugly, and worse. From the Bible onward, death and destruction have been seen not only as challenges to overcome but as occasions for us to come to grips with our own flaws and responsibilities. 

The Second Temple, the rabbis of the Talmud famously said, was destroyed in 70 CE because of “sinat chinam,” literally free hatred, or hatred for no reason. Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook (1865-1935), the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of modern Palestine and the leading theologian of religious Zionism, famously said that the Temple will only be rebuilt through “ahavat chinam,” freely given love. However, perhaps it’s worth focusing on a different dimension of Rav Kook’s teachings - and that is how to fight with one another.

Today’s debates are ferocious, but so were the Jewish arguments of the last century.  Zionists, socialists, nationalists, Orthodox traditionalists, liberals and more argued intensely, often bitterly, over how best to secure Jewish physical and cultural survival. Kook, who made aliyah from Eastern Europe in 1904, found himself at the centre of those debates and tried, with the aid of vast learning, theological daring and his own richly conciliatory personality, to find a way to forge some kind of peace while honouring the integrity of different positions.  In one of his reflections, he wrote that three forces are at work within all people: “the holy, the nation, humanity.” 

All three have truth on their side, and must try to appreciate one another - not by wishing away disagreement but recognizing the integrity of each other’s positions: Nationalism’s rootedness in real love of one’s community, Orthodoxy’s rootedness in a flaming desire for God, liberalism’s rootedness in an ultimately divine perspective of all humanity as created in God’s image.  What synthesizes all three elements - religious commitment, identity and ethical universalism - is, Kook continues, a sacred energy deriving from and driven by God.

Kook urges us to engage in a studied appreciation of our opponents and the genuine values animating them, while also taking a genuine stand on behalf of the ideals in which we ourselves truly believe. He urges each one of us to recognize not only that our opponents are fellow human beings – and, in the context of intra-communal debates, fellow Jews - but also that they have a piece of the truth that may be unavailable to us. God and His truth are large, and He speaks as best He can in a tortured, fragmentary world.

Much has changed since Kook’s time: the Jewish people have been faced with crueller fates and more complicated dilemmas than he could have imagined, but his ideas point toward a way of thinking, of arguing, passionately and heatedly, while keeping a sense of our ultimate solidarity alive.

Yehudah Mirsky teaches at Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and is the author of the recently published “Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution.”


An Address by the German Ambassador to South Africa

Esteemed Holocaust survivors, Mary Kluk, National Chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and Director of the Durban Holocaust Centre, Rabbi Zekry at the Durban Hebrew congregation, Excellencies and distinguished guests; 

I would like to thank the Durban Holocaust Centre for the kind invitation to address you tonight. I feel exceptionally privileged to join you at this very special event. This is also a humbling and moving moment for me, for any German citizen who addresses survivors of the Shoah or their children.

As we observe Yom Hashoah it is with humility that we bow our heads to honour the victims and the survivors of the Holocaust. We bow our heads to those who helped survivors and those who resisted, sacrificing their lives to preserve human dignity.

On November 9th, 1938 – the “night of the broken glass” - the lights went out across Germany. All civilized values completely collapsed, leading to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

Allow me a few remarks on post-war Germany’s attempts to confront the darkest and most painful chapter of its history.

In the first post-war years, taking a hard and honest look at the Shoah meant confronting an overwhelmingly suppressed and split conscience in Germany. Many Germans could only grapple with the past through the particular prism of their own personal suffering during WW II and the post-war rubble of a devastated Germany.

It took events like the Nuremberg trail in 1945-46, the Eichmann trial in 1961 in Israel, the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt from 1963-65 and a series of other trials against Nazi perpetrators in Germany itself to begin an honest, public education about the history of the Shoah.

It took time. Essentially it was the first post-war generations who had to ask themselves the hard questions about why, who and how this happened, not to mention the lack of major domestic resistance as it unfolded. They justly argued that Germans must face up to their responsibility, rooted in the Nazi’s rise to power in 1933, for the brutality and mass suffering, including their own misery in the aftermath of the war.

In 1970, it was still considered a highly controversial gesture in Germany when Chancellor Willy Brandt laid a wreath at the memorial of Jewish ghetto in Warsaw and fell to his knees on the wet stone floor, words failing him. Having been part of the resistance against the Nazi regime, he was under no obligation to kneel – but he did so for all those who should have knelt there, but could not, would not or dared not to do so. Today, the vast majority in united Germany agrees that it was a great gesture that helped modern Germany regain its dignity.

And it took 40 years until the majority of Germans accepted the assessment spelled out by President von Weizsäcker in 1985, when he described Germany’s unconditional surrender in 1945 as “a day of liberation” for Germans. Referring to the destruction of post-war Germany, the integration of almost 12 million German refugees and the deprivation of freedoms in communist East-Germany, the former President said: “We may not regard the end of the war as the cause of flight, expulsion, and deprivation of freedom”. The cause, he went on “lies at the beginning of the tyranny that led to the war. We cannot separate 1945 from January 1933.”

President von Weizsäcker spoke with authority, authentically and convincingly. Not least because he was born in 1920, had served as an officer in the German army in World War II and fought on the Eastern Front. His father, Ernst von Weizsäcker, was a high-level diplomat in the Nazi period and was tried in Nuremberg in 1947 for “crimes against humanity” during the war and found guilty.

This speech helped set a new tone for how Germans viewed and faced their past. Remembrance was not perceived as passive contemplation of history, as something remote and abstract.

The Holocaust became shockingly alive as we began hearing and reading in school and at home first-hand accounts of victims and survivors. Remembrance gradually turned into active, assertive and public remembrance, in educating and teaching the past to future generations, in alerting them that the horrors of the past may be unthinkable today, but that this does not make them impossible tomorrow. Germans may not always do all of this very well, but we fully accept the challenge.

This is why it is so important, that Holocaust survivors tell and publish their individual stories, give their own personal, first-hand accounts, and thus pass on their authentic experiences, their powerful admonitions to future generations – in their own words.

This is why it is so important to have places of remembrance, to visit the Nazi death camps such as Auschwitz in Poland, to visit Yad Vashem in Jerusalem or the Holocaust Memorial in the very heart of Berlin.

This is why scholarly research about the role of the Nazi regime and German society at that time is important, including the role of government.

To mention just one example: In 2005, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher commissioned an independent panel of renowned historians of different nationalities to study the role of the German diplomatic service during the time of the Nazi terror regime. When this study was officially presented in October, 2010, then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had this to say: “This is a book we need. It clearly states that the Foreign Office was an active part of the heinous policies pursued by the called Third Reich…. We are ashamed by how the Foreign Office and many of its staff members brought such guilt upon themselves during Nazi rule.”

I believe it is accurate to say that today – 70 years after WWII – it seems obvious that the vast majority of Germans share and echo this assessment about the colossal failure of the German establishment in the 1930s and early 40s, notwithstanding our highest respect and admiration for those few individuals who actively resisted the terror regime and to whom we pay tribute.

Today, Germany recognizes its undivided and enduring historical and moral responsibility for the Shoah.

We remain separated by guilt - yet we are grateful that what matters today is not what separates us, but what unites us - our joint conviction of “never again”.

“Never again” seems an easy formula to agree to. But “never again” should not be misunderstood as a simple belief of “that was then and this is now”. Learning from the past means more than just not repeating it, more than believing its meaning is clear, and we now may advance - unencumbered by past errors – into a different and better era.

The idea that our societies exist and live without precedent would be an illusion. The twentieth century still greatly influences our world. Look around us, at the situations in the Middle East, Nigeria, the DRC, Sudan–or the Ukraine. Fear as an ingredient of political life is re-emerging in many countries: fear of foreigners – even refugees and asylum-seekers – not just here in Durban, but in my country and other countries as well, of the uncontrollable speed of change, of unemployment, of open borders, of the free exchange of unwelcomed opinions. Today too, we have to resist the notion that governments, pressure groups and societies fall victim to the temptation to turn these fears to political advantage. In this sense, we cannot deny the relevance of past experiences to our present challenges. If we don’t know where we come from, we do not know where we are going.

Against that background, “Never again” teaches us immensely important lessons.

First and foremost it encourages us – and future generations – to speak up, to take timely and determined action against anti-Semitism, racism and any form of xenophobia – as many have done today here in Durban. To speak up and take action before the tipping point. Because - as history and the present so vividly illustrate – after the tipping point, after missing the chance to take effective action, after accommodating, all we may have left to say is what so many did say in 1945: “we tried to do what we could”. At that point, there was only so much that could still be done. And clearly, that was not enough.

If we fail to recognize the dangers of indifference and denial, we deny our history - and undermine our single – our shared civilization.

“Never again” also calls for establishing a practice of international law that holds the perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable for their actions. Essentially, the Nuremberg trial, and the trials that followed it, paved the way for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Let me be clear: The main object goes beyond punishing perpetrators for crimes against humanity. Preventing those crimes is the ultimate challenge. For, by the time we are prosecuting and punishing, we have partly failed. And if we do not even prosecute, we have failed altogether. The international community has made progress in ending impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, as defined by the UN conventions. But we need steadfastness and unwavering commitment for what still remains a long way to go. This is why the implementation of international law and strengthening the rule of law is so important.

Hence, calling to mind the Holocaust, the bitter memory of the worst tragedy of humankind to new generations against the passage of time is and will remain our common challenge. For the German government, active remembrance is also expressed in its historic responsibility for Israel’s security. This responsibility, as Chancellor Merkel has emphasized before the Knesset, is part of Germany’s “Staatsraison” and a cornerstone of German policy.

Each country must decide how to educate, examine and explore its own difficult past. Comparing the way other countries take on this challenge or inviting institutions from other countries to present their views on facing our difficult past - as this exhibition does - can be helpful. But there is no blueprint, no template.

I am aware of the current debate in South Africa surrounding the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue from the UCT campus and the debate about South Africa’s past that this invokes. I will not comment on this debate, as it is a truly South African discourse. But this debate illustrates how much the past is still with us and will continue to influence us for some time to come. I do hope that these events will trigger a deep, engaging, honest and nuanced deliberation and that its results will be beneficial to the future development of this country.

Today, we should have trust in ourselves, in the awareness of the richness, as well as the burdens, of our history. We are united in building on the lessons of the past while making sure that the past does not steal our present.

In this spirit, we are immensely grateful to the members of the Jewish community in Israel, here in South Africa, and around the world for reaching out to us, reaching out to modern Germany, in fact for helping us in successfully re-establishing Jewish life in all its richness as an integral part of our society.

I thank you.


Tree Grown From 2,000-Year-Old Seed Has Reproduced


By Laura Clark –

Get out the cigars - Methuselah, a Judean date palm tree that was grown from a 2,000 year old seed, has become a papa plant. Elaine Solowey, of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, recently broke the good news to National Geographic:

“He is over three meters [ten feet] tall, he’s got a few offshoots, he has flowers, and his pollen is good,” she says. “We pollinated a female with his pollen, a wild [modern] female, and yeah, he can make dates.”

Methuselah sprouted back in 2005, when agriculture expert Solowey germinated his antique seed. It had been pulled from the remains of Masada, an ancient fortification perched on a rock plateau in southern Israel, and at the time, no one could be sure that the plant would thrive. But he has, and his recent reproductive feat helps prove just how well he’s doing.

For a while, the Judean date palm was the sole representative of his kind: Methuselah’s variety was reportedly wiped out around 500 A.D. But Solowey has continued to grow date palms from ancient seeds discovered in the region, and she tells National Geographic that she is “trying to figure out how to plant an ancient date grove.” Doing so would allow researchers to better understand exactly what earlier peoples of the region were eating and how it tasted.

At 2,000 years old, Methuselah’s seed isn’t the most aged to be used to grow a plant - not by a long shot. Back in 2012, a team of Russian scientists unearthed a cache of seeds from a prehistoric squirrel burrow that had been covered in ice. They eventually succeeded in germinating the 32,000-year-old specimens, which grew into an arctic plant closely resembling the modern narrow-leafed campion.


Julian Lurie inducted to the MTN Radio Hall of Fame


By Michelle Shapira

Each year, the MTN Radio Awards presents awards to people in the radio industry who are specifically nominated by their peers for recognition. The Hall of Fame Awards go to people who have left an indelible mark on the industry. During April, Julian Lurie was inducted into the MTN Radio Awards Hall of Fame for his long service in the radio industry.  

Julian’s association with radio began back in 1968, when he was approached by then English radio service, to provide live commentaries and reports on the SA Formula 1 series from Roy Hesketh Race Circuit in Pietermaritzburg. Later this extended to all forms of national motorsport, involving travel to different centres to do the commentaries.

Later Julian reported on motorsport events for Radio Port Natal as well, and was given a motorsport slot on the Friday morning breakfast show, which was later extended for the Saturday afternoon sports program. 

In 1985, Julian was approached by the then manager of Radio Port Natal, and asked if he would like to host a road test program. He jumped at the opportunity and continued to do the “Test Drive” program until ECR was sold to private enterprise and moved away from the SABC. 

In 1993, when South Africa regained its Formula 1 Grand Prix, Julian went to Johannesburg as an accredited journalist to cover the Grand Prix for SABC news Durban, Radio Port Natal and Radio Lotus. That began his long and happy association with Lotus FM, which he still enjoys. In around 1995 Lotus FM took over the “Test Drive” program which is still aired on Sunday mornings. In addition he also has contracts with SABC Sport and does a weekly motorsport program and contributes motorsport news to the SABC Radio News Department.

Julian has also done commentaries for various TV motoring programs, including moto-X and Super-X and believe it or not, has also done wrestling commentaries for television. 

With regards to his motorsport achievements he was awarded Natal colours for rallying back in 1980 and in 2006 was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award that South African Motorsport can award.

Mazal Tov Julian! 


The Islamic State

By Paula Slier

This speech was originally given by journalist Paula Slier at the Durban Jewish Club under the auspices of the Kwazulu Natal Zionist Council and the Council of Kwazulu Natal Jewry during March.

If you had asked me to speak here two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to talk about the gruesome facts and figures I can quote today. I wouldn’t have been able to talk about people being exterminated. On our watches peoples are being slaughtered. But you didn’t ask me to talk here two years ago. You asked me to talk here today.

Since 9/11 there have been 24000 terrorist attacks worldwide – that translates into three to four a day. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world – three-to-five percent of them are radical. That translates into 80 million people. Islamic State (IS) did not come out of nowhere. It evolved from Al Qaeda in Iraq that garnered support from among Sunni Muslims after the Americans entered Iraq in 2003 and alienated the minority Sunni dominated regime of Saddam Hussein. The Arab Revolution and in particular the Syrian Revolution in 2011 paved the way for their growth into Syria until some of the fighters broke away in 2013 declaring a new group – the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Its goal is to create a greater Muslim state - caliphate - based on Sharia law, eventually across the world. 

Today IS is in control of large swathes of Iraq, Syria and now Libya. It is headed by an Iraqi, Abu Baker Al Baghadi, who in 2004 was in the hands of the Americans and was released because he was perceived as being a ‘low level prisoner’. IS is the richest terrorist organization ever, operating on two-to-three billion dollars a year, funded from oil reserves in its hands and money it receives from sponsors who include, albeit unofficially, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

As journalists, we face the problem of reporting on IS because it’s dangerous for us to enter their territories - at least a dozen of my colleagues and humanitarian aid workers have been beheaded by them. They have in their hands a British war photographer and journalist, John Cantlie, who they’ve appointed their own “IS correspondent.” When coalition airplanes were bombing Kobane, a Syrian village on the Turkish border, and it was too unsafe for Western journalists to enter the village, they paraded him on rooftops and had him “report” for their propaganda purposes. 

At the same time - reporting from among their enemies – the Kurds fighting them - is also challenging. Knowing who to trust is the most difficult. You never know which Kurd for example has a family member in the hands of IS and who would hand you over for their freedom, or for money. When we visited the refugee camps we would keep changing our car and number plate so noone could keep tabs on our movements. 

I travelled with the Peshmerga – Iraqi Kurds – deep into IS terrirotry. 

We travelled to Rabia, a town on the Iraqi-Syrian border that just three days earlier had been evacuated by the jihadists. It was too dangerous to enter the deserted houses lining the sandy roads as most had been booby trapped by IS militants when they were forced to retreat. At the hospital, which had served as their headquarters, the sight of corpses rotting in the corridors became an almost grim defining trademark. One of the fighters warned me that some IS jihadists were still hiding and that two had been forced out the day before – they came out firing in all directions.

A 12-year-old boy told me the only thing he’d manage to rescue from his home was his school bag and every night he sat outside and redid homework from a year earlier. From the camp he could see his house which now had an IS flag waving on its roof. His dream was to become a doctor; now he picked cotton for 18 hours a day so his family could survive on the three dollars he got for it.

Among those ISIS is exterminating are minority groups like the Yazidis, Assyrians, Turkmen and others. An ancient faith, the Yazidis number around 700 000 worldwide – most of them are concentrated in northern Iraq, land that is now in the hands of IS. The jihadists are doing the most horrific things to them, especially the women and children. They are selling them from as young as a few years old at local markets for prices that range from a hundred to four hundred dollars each.  It is heartbreaking to hear the stories in the refugee camps. One woman wept recalling her 27-year-old sister who was in the hands of IS. She said her sister had managed to phone her once and terrifyingly tell her that they were being used as sex slaves. She told her sister to try and kill herself, and then looked me straight in the eye, horrified, and asked what kind of sister tells her sister to kill herself. Her sister replied that two of the girls had tried, but the jihadists had stopped them and then beaten them to a pulp as a warning to other girls not to follow suit. One man told me the jihadists had his two wives and 14 children. They had also managed to phone him once, weeks earlier, and say they’d been threatened with having their arms chopped off if they were caught trying to phone out. 

There are not many heartwarming stories. I was told of one. A sheikh recognized the two daughters of his former Yazidi neighbour being sold at the market. He bought the girls and drove them to a Yazidi checkpoint. He stopped the car some distance away and gave the girls a white piece of cloth to wave and walk the rest of the way alone as he could’ve been killed if he’d gone on further.

It’s difficult to know what the international community should do. The CIA estimates there are between 50-200 000 fighters with ISIS – each week 1500 new recruits reportedly sign up. Since June 2014 there have been more than a thousand airstrikes at the cost of more than a billion dollars and yet the group controls today more territory than it did then – roughly the size of the United Kingdom. As one Peshmerga soldier told me, “when we hear the planes coming, it’s music to our ears”. But pilots are afraid to fly after seeing the footage of the Jordanian pilot burned alive by the jihadists after they captured him. The alternative - putting boots on the ground – also doesn’t seem a viable option. Can you see any American mother supporting her son going back into Iraq?”

The Russians warned the West to be careful of who they were aiding in Syria in the fight against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. The West was giving money and weapons to the rebels, but the rebels are a rag tag group and from among them is Al Nusra, Al Qaeda and now IS fighters. 200 000 people have died in the Syrian civil war, three million are refugees and nine million are internally displaced. As a Shia country, Iran, would be a natural partner for the West in its fight against IS but because Iran is on the side of Syria and also because of the sensitive current nuclear negotiations, it’s not so easy. Turkey is playing a dirty game and has been accused of aiding the jihadists while also being part of the anti-IS coalition. 

What does this mean for you and me? The problem facing Europe, the United States and Africa is what happens when these fighters come home. There are 12 000 foreign fighters among IS, there are 3000 European Union citizens, 500 of whom are women. Most have joined for religious reasons, but they are also paid $1000 a month. They participate in a 22-day indoctrination programme at the end of which they swear allegiance to Al Baghadi. Afterwards they undergo a two month military training course in Raqaa, Syria.

The European Union is considering reintroducing border controls and there are calls to revoke citizenships. But many of the jihadists are reportedly being smuggled back into Europe. There are also groups in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan and north Africa who have pledged allegiance to IS – among them Boko Haram who are intent are establishing their own Islamic state in North Africa that will share resources, infrastructure and military capabilities with IS in the Middle East.

There is a belief among the jihadists that if they are killed by a woman they won’t go to heaven. There are units of Kurdish Syrian women who are fighting on the frontlines against them. I spent some time with sixteen and seventeen year-olds and asked them if they didn’t think they were gambling on their future by dropping out of school to pick up a gun. Each one told me the same thing: “If we don’t do this, we won’t have a future.” The group reportedly has training camps in South Africa and are recruiting in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.   

It seems as if the world is finally waking up to the fact that IS is on our doorstep.



HASHOLOM - April 1940 - Extracts

CHARITY AT HOME was the title of an impassioned editorial which stressed the need for the Community to support an appeal (authorised, as was necessary, by the Council of Natal Jewry – CNJ) which had been launched by the Durban Jewish Benevolent Society and the Durban Jewish Women’s Guild “for funds to enable them to satisfy the demands made upon them”.

FACTS ABOUT JEWISH PIONEERING reported details of a lecture recently given by Mr A. Levine in which he deplored the lack of knowledge among Jews of their own history. Mr Levine asked “Did you know that:

Christopher Columbus made his voyage into unknown seas in a fleet manned by Jewish sailors, on which he was guided by nautical tables compiled by one Jew, printed by another and presented to him by a third?

The Dutch East India Company included among its shareholders the Jews Stephanus Cardozo and Elizabeth Pinto?

Among the 1820 Settlers there were at least 80 Jews?

The first Merino sheep brought to South Africa were imported by a Jew, Thalwitzer?

An eminent Afrikaans theologian and scholar, the founder of the Dopper Kerk, was a Jew, Jan Cachet?

Pundit does not vouch for the correctness of these statements and others which space does not allow me the room to repeat, but HASHOLOM’s April 1940 edition reports them, so they must be true!!

KILLED ON ACTIVE SERVICE was the caption to a photograph of Pilot-Officer Albert Greenberg, who had been killed on active service with the Royal Air Force. He was the son of Mr and Mrs L.M. Greenberg of Durban, a nephew of Mr Justice Greenberg and cousin of Mr Lionel Alleson. I infer that P.O. Greenberg must have been the first Jewish serviceman with Durban connections to have been killed in World War II because this was the first report of such a loss in HASHOLOM since the war broke out.

IN TOWN AND OUT - April 1940


Mr and Mrs Max Moshal and Mr and Mrs Max Cohen (nee Dorothy Leonard) on the birth of sons;

Mr Maurice Rosen and Miss Lily Bloomberg, Mr A. Levine and Miss C. Hoddes, Miss S. Beare and Mr R Budlender, and Miss Sonia Stark and Mr Alex Strasberg, on their respective recent engagements;

Mr Hyman (Sonny) Fobb and Miss Jane Stein on their marriage;

Miss Rita Leibowitz both on attaining her majority and on winning the Natal Operatic Dancing Championship.

Extended good wishes to:

Miss Eve Shultz on her recovery from her recent operation;

Mr Aubrey Levine who had recovered from a recent bout of enteric fever;

Mr E. Seligmann who was up and about after his recent disposition.

HASHALOM – April 1965 – Extracts

The issue contained no formal editorial but commenced with something better - an extract from a speech by Abba Eban, titled TOAST TO THE STATE OF ISRAEL. Pundit believes that no editor of HASHALOM (or for that matter, HASHOLOM before it) has ever been as eloquent as that great Israeli Foreign Minister.

HEBREW UNIVERSITY CELEBRATES ITS FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY contained a full report of the celebrations held on Mount Scopus campus including details of several of the keynote addresses. There was a footnote containing a report of three substantial endowments which had been made to the University in association with the celebration: one of $ 100 000 by Dr Andre Aisenstadt of Montreal to provide fellowships in higher mathematics and theoretical physics; one, to the tune of one million dollars for the purpose of a student loan fund, by Mr James Ross of Youngstown, Ohio, and one by Mr and Mrs Saul Furman of New York City, in the sum of $ 200 000, to establish a capital fund, the income of which was to be devoted as to one half to cancer research and the other half to the award of four scholarships.

IN TOWN AND OUT – April 1965


Merle and Brian Ellman, and Mona and Ronnie Bear on the birth of sons;

Merrick and Ida Silberman on the birth of a daughter;

Jack Pastoll of Sarnia on celebrating his 80th birthday;

Anne and Mark Lipschitz on their silver wedding anniversary;

Mervin (Rocky) Muravitz and Vera Mofson, Mercia Cimbelan and Robert Strieman, and Joan Lewis and Roger Ellison on their respective engagements;

Helene Goldberg and Selwyn Levitan, Lynne Aufrichtig and Frank Falowitz, Ilana Rubenstein and Leo Dubb, Eileen Borg and Lionel Phillips, Gloria Savell and Frank Schneider, and Jill Addleson and Lester Kalmin on their recent marriages;

David Goldberg, son of Dr and Mrs I. Goldberg, who passed his Intermediate (Hebrew language medium) and final lawyers examinations in Israel.

CLUB DAY 1965 was held on 24th May and HASHALOM advertised it extensively on a two-page spread. Anybody remember Club Day?


It did so in March and the celebration consisted of both a religious service and a social and commemorative reception. The service was conducted by Cantor F. Metzger of the DUHC and Rabbi A.T. Shrock delivered a sermon, an extract of which was also published under the title: “O Lord, I love the Habitation of thy house, and the place where thy Glory dwelleth”. Among those present was the Lord Bishop of Natal, Vernon Inman, who, speaking at the reception, conveyed the greetings of the Christian community.

The province of Natal must have been in ecumenical-mode in March 1965, for apart from these PMB celebrations, involving the DUHC Rabbi and Chazen and the Anglican Archbishop of Natal, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Dennis Hurley, addressed a very well attended meeting at the Club, presided over by Rabbi Shrock, on “Relations between Roman Catholics and Jews in the Second Vatican Council.” The Archbishop is reported to have said: “Love and Justice are common to Jews and Christians. In common pursuit of these we can go ahead in peace. The future is pregnant with tremendous possibilities. With prejudices dispelled, understanding and brotherhood lie ahead.” The Archbishop was accorded a “tremendous ovation”.

Unfortunately, the impression we have (or at least Pundit has) is that the sort of understanding and brotherhood the late Archbishop prophesied still lie very far ahead.


The Orange Farm Ball

By Howard Feldman – Times of Israel

The dance card had been completed before the ball began. The streets outside the SA–Israel Expo that took place in Sandton, Johannesburg yesterday were always going to see protests and picketing, demeaning and denial and the regular well-worn toasts to hatred, to racism and to anti-Semitism. So no one was surprised or even disappointed. It was pretty much business as usual.

Except for one startling aspect. Mainstream South African press this morning reported that the BDS “bussed in” protestors who had no idea as to why they were there. They quote a woman from an impoverished area with a prettier name than it warrants – Orange Farm - that she was not aware as to why she was there or whom she was supporting or even protesting against. And she was not the only one. It seems that the “catchment” area for the BDS rent-a-crowd was this area situated around 45km outside of Johannesburg.

The irony of this should not be allowed to go unnoticed. Orange Farm has a population of around 100,000 people. It is an “informal settlement” with few paved roads and has most people living in shacks. Only small areas of Orange Farm have been electrified. Access to clean water is limited and when it rains the “dongas” on the roads fill with muddy water that makes living there almost impossible. It is poverty stricken with more than 40 percent of the population unemployed. It is a stain on South Africa’s record of transformation. Its people are desperate, but they have done nothing to deserve being exploited, being paraded and being used to further a political and racial goal of an organisation that claims to support human rights, but ignores their plight.

The rhetoric of the BDS outside the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg was desperate and ill-concealed. In many ways we have been spoiled by the slick pretence that tries to separate Jews from Zionists, and the BDS has tried for some time to convince us all that it is not all Jews they detest. It’s only the Zionist ones. Despite the famous “Shoot the Jew” and other priceless humanitarian comments, the BDS has spent a lot of energy trying to sell a concept that pretty much no one has bought. Sunday’s protest, perhaps due to lack of success, dissolved very quickly and real agendas and racism quickly exposed. “You Jews don’t belong in South Africa!” “This is not Israel, we will kill you!” were some of the poisonous comments recorded from the ranks of the BDS.

The atmosphere inside the conference facility was a completely different matter. Multiple exhibitors, attendees and delegates such as the Jewish Agency’s Natan Sharansky and Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat mingled with the crowds, allowed photos and debated concepts and gave support to those contemplating aliya, those wanting to invest and those who were just checking out the options for some time in the future.

The last item on the well-worn dance card is always the review. And one can’t look at the day without wondering; when the sun sets and the bus has silently transported the residents of Orange Farm back to their shacks that are unlikely to have electricity or water or security; back to a place where it is best to be indoors after dark and back to a place where lack of education and of employment makes the future precarious and fragile; it is then that one has to wonder how the BDS could have been so cruel and so cold and so uncaring to the people of their own country. And one has to indeed wonder, if their agenda is not humanitarian relief, then what it really is.

Howard Feldman is a lawyer, a physical commodity trader by industry and a writer by obsession. 


The Three Secrets of Redemption

By Rabbi Dr Pinchas Zekry

The abject bondage of our ancestors in Ancient Egypt was originally intended to be four centuries. Nevertheless Hashem redeemed the people Israel after 210 years.

Our Sages attribute this redemption to three principal factors. The Israelites did not change their names, nor their language, nor their dress and our Sages say that in the future too, Israel  will be redeemed by preserving these selfsame three elements:- Hebrew names, the Hebrew language and Jewish dress. What is their essential importance?

NAMES: Use your Hebrew Name and call your children by their Hebrew names The Book of what is commonly known as Exodus is called Shemot in Hebrew (literally “Names”) and the Torah does not fail to make a point of stressing the names of the Tribes, and earlier in the Torah, the meaning of these names is brought down in the valedictory blessings pronounced by the Patriarch Jacob upon his children. Due to our centuries of exile, Jews have lost the practice of naming their children with Hebrew names. Mostly, there is a Hebrew name for the Britmilah, Barmitzvah and at the Chuppah, but often otherwise forgotten, and the English name (often very Christian) is used for the most part by religious and non-religious Jews alike. Whereas it could be claimed that this has been the result of Anti - Semitism, today we live in a free society. We do not have to hide our Jewishness, thus, giving our children Hebrew names, and not only for Aliyah Torah, is the right thing to do. Moreover, with the rebirth of the State of Israel, it has actually come back into vogue.

LANGUAGE: Develop your knowledge of Hebrew When we look at the Hebrew language is not just one of many languages. This is Lashon Ha-Kodesh (the Holy Language) in which Hashem addressed the Jewish people, and in which the Torah was given. It never ceases to amaze me that highly intellectual people with the command of several languages struggle to read the Siddur. In contrast an African Zulu-speaking person who worked for us spoke fluent Hebrew. He had been employed in Israel for a year. When I inquired, “It must have been difficult for you to learn a Semitic language?” he replied, “I needed the job. I just had to do it”. It all boils down to a question of priority, and recognition of the importance that attaches to it. And really all it takes is a small investment of time needed to learn a fluency in reading Hebrew. To do so is in itself a Mitzvah, as well being helpful in following the service. Sadly, very often the mourner at the funeral of a close relative is unable to recite the Kaddish in Hebrew, and battles with the English transliteration.

DRESS CODE:  When we come to the subject of attire, some may think of a traditional Jewish style of dress. At the core of the principle of dressing the Jewish way, is Tzniut (modesty). If ever there was a time when this was a matter of urgent momentum, we need only to look around at the shameless display by advertising in the media of revealing fashions, even nudity. Young children, too, are exposed to this trend. Clothes are not merely pieces of material. The way one dresses expresses the values of a person, sending out a message. And that is why our Sages stressed a code of dress that conforms to the attributes of modesty. 

Thus in our day, to keep our Jewishness steadfast, and to combat the dangers of assimilation, the three areas of conduct that redeemed us from Egypt: Names, Language and Dress Code will go a long way. Give your child a Hebrew name and let him or her use it. Read Hebrew on a regular basis and use it wherever possible. And dress modestly.

In the merit of these pillars may we all truly be blessed.



HASHOLOM – March 1940 

“The Light on Scopus” was the title of the Editorial, inspired by the visit to Durban of Dr Walter Fischel, Professor of Oriental Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  The visit of the learned professor, who had been seeking to enrol South African Friends of the Hebrew University, must have created enormous influence on the Editor, for the Editorial was immediately followed by an article about the visit headed by a large photograph with a panoramic view of the then campus of the University.


This contained a description of what were regarded as unfair and inaccurate attacks on Jews having been made in Parliament and in the Opposition supporting Press and the Board’s actions to refute these attacks.  The report stated that the Executive Council of the Board had “noted with appreciation” the fact that the Minister of Justice, Dr Colin Steyn, had publicly, in Parliament, refuted such allegations, and that Mr Morris Alexander K.C., M.P., had taken the Opposition to task for creating a Jewish issue on a matter without any justification whatsoever.

OUR LONDON LETTER by the Rev. Michael Adler

The disturbing menace of air attacks had caused many Jewish children to be evacuated to areas which contained no facilities for religious observance or Jewish education and urgent steps were being taken to fill the vacuum.  Rev. Adler reported that Professor Selig Brodetsky M.A., Ph.D., the eminent Zionist, had been elected unopposed to succeed Mr Neville Laski K.C. as President of the Board of Deputies.  In that connection, Rev. Adler modestly reported: “I have closely watched the remarkable career of the new President, since I taught him Hebrew at the Jews’ Free School”.


March 1940 was represented by Edgar Henochsberg K.C., depicted in very youthful Scout attire surrounded by piles of various kinds of reports, Club, statistical and legal, and carrying a “Notice of Meeting”.

IN TOWN AND OUT - March 1940


Miss Adele Cohen and Mr Harry Barkham, Miss Ada Finn and Mr Joe Sklarchik, Dr B. Bass and Miss A. Klagsbrun, and Mr Solly Avrich and Miss Dorothy Lowenberg “who are to be married this month”;

Mr and Mrs E. Jacobson, Dr and Mrs M. Helman, Mr and Mrs R. Silverstone, and Mr and Mrs H. Kronenberg (Zelda Wartski) on the birth of sons;

Miss Jeanette Stiller and Mr George Kahn, Miss C. Samuels and Mr I. Harris, and Mr Harry Jacobson and Miss Gertrude Bessarabia (of Johannesburg) on their respective engagements;

Master Ivan Levy “who celebrated his Barmitzvah”.


Under this heading Bertha Friedman argued that, in seeking “status compensation for their centuries-old position of national minority”, Jewish parents had crowded their children into professions, which in South Africa had enabled the anti-Semite to use “this Jewish profession-phobia as part of his programme against the Jews”. She therefore argued that Jewish children should instead be encouraged to undertake trade apprenticeships as “part of the normalisation process which is the basic principle of Jewish activity in Palestine.”  I wonder what COSATU (which did not exist in 1940) would have said about that.

HASHALOM – March 1965 – Extracts


This is the heading of a long (two page) Editorial which gives 16 reasons to support the U.C.F.  Each of those reasons is a beneficiary of the Fund which together make up the fabric of the Jewish Community.

HASHLOM paid tribute to the late Dr Barney Moshal by enumerating his many services to the Club and the Council of Natal Jewry and to the Cultural life of the Durban Jewish Community.

Then followed a full page TRIBUTE TO THE LATE DR BARNEY MOSHAL penned by the lyrical pen of S.E. (Pundit wonders if that can have been Sam Ernst. Was he still in Duban in 1965?). The tribute contained the following passage: “There burned within him the quiet flame of love for his people and its culture.  His views on Jewish life were neither rigid nor static. A keen and incisive observer of the Jewish scene, he gave unobtrusive, effective leadership to all efforts to strengthen ‘Jewishness’ in whatever form it expressed itself”.

TRUDE WEISS-ROSMARIN was about to visit Durban to open the Women’s U.C.F. campaign. Hence the editorial already mentioned.  And now followed a full page biography with the titles of most of the learned and interesting books she had written. The writer summed up his subject by call her “the First Lady of the Jewish lecture platform” who had a great personality and was, in addition, “erudite, eloquent, independent, challenging and original”. With that introduction to her audience it must have been a record Women’s U.C.F. Campaign.

IN TOWN AND OUT – March 1965


The following and their parents on the occasion of their Barmitzvahs: Allan, son of Barbara and Lennie Daniels; Allan, son of Mr P.W. Winnik and Mrs Siegried Hess; and Michael Alan, son of Adele and Charles Greenberg and the late Edgar Hack;

Doreen Held and Gerald Diner, and Judy Middeldorf and Solly Nankin, who had recently announced their respective engagements;

Evelyn Kahn and Colin Plen who had recently been married;

Shelley and Archie Leibowitz on the birth of a son;

Aubrey and Lorraine Deift, Ronald and Mavis Davimes, and John and Hermione Cohen, on the birth of daughters;

Morris Schaffer, who was the Vice-Chairman of the U.C.F. in Natal, on his appointment as assistant manager of the South African team to compete in the Maccabiah in Israel in August 1965.

A page of the March 1965 issue of Hashalom records three separate activities in Pietermaritzburg (“Pmb.”): firstly, that on 28 March 1965, the Pmb. Jewish Community would be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of its first synagogue, which was still standing; secondly, that the Annual General Meeting of the Pmb. Women’s Zionist Society had been held recently, and had been attended by Mrs Queenie Goldberg, Chairman of the Durban Women’s Zionist League and Mrs Rose Silbert, the Provincial convener; and thirdly, the newly-founded Pmb. Social Club had held its inaugural Social evening at the Herzl Hall, Pmb.

(Note from Pundit: Did you notice that there was no such thing as political correctness in 1965? A female chairman was called a “chairman”.)


After Copenhagen, what next for Europe?

By David Harris – Times of Israel 

As a result, we will have all the right symbolic gestures, which I don’t wish to minimize. There will be visits to the synagogue, solidarity events, statements of anguish, and affirmations of collective will and determination. But will they really change anything on the ground? That remains to be seen.

With each such bloody outrage, we earnestly hope that something might be learned because we don’t want to believe that history must continue to repeat itself in this alltoo-familiar cycle of killings, vigils, and mourning.

And yet, after 15 years of engaging with European leaders to get their attention, help them understand what stares them in the face, and press for sustained action, I’m not quite ready to bet the family farm that the day after tomorrow will be all that different than the day before yesterday.

Even so, I desperately want to believe that Europe, with all its dazzling achievements since the end of World War II, can still strengthen its resolve, stiffen its spine, and fully understand the stakes involved, however late in the day it is. 

Here is what I wish would happen now. 

First, the European Union should quickly organize a high-level conference to discuss the rise in anti-Semitism, as evidenced by repeated terror attacks, EU polls showing rising fear among Jews, and statistics in countries like France and the United Kingdom revealing a major spike in anti-Semitic incidents. It ought to discuss and adopt a comprehensive plan of action, and then implement and monitor it.

Second, European leaders must understand, as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has, that anti-Semitism is not only an attack on Jews, but also an assault on Europe

and its values. The two cannot be separated. That was amply illustrated in the attacks in Paris last month and in Copenhagen this month. In the end, if there is no other choice, Jews will leave Europe, but where will Europe go, unless, that is, it is prepared to succumb to the jihadist threat?

Third, call a spade a spade. For many Europeans, there is no hesitation in identifying the source of anti-Semitism when it emanates from right-wing extremists. But when anti-Semitism, including deadly violence, springs from within a segment of the Muslim population, verbal acrobatics all too often come into play. If you can’t name the adversary, how can you effectively fight it?

Of course, this problem is not unique to Europe. In the United States, we saw the massacre at Fort Hood ludicrously labelled “workplace violence” rather than the jihadist violence it so obviously was, and our government’s refusal to refer to “Islamist” or “jihadist” terrorism, even when the perpetrators themselves do.

Fourth, stop tying anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, as if the two are Siamese twins. AJC’s Brussels office has been trying for months to encourage a European Parliament hearing on anti-Semitism, only to be met with insistence that any such meeting include Islamophobia. Why this demand to join the two together, when the majority of incidents occurs against Jews, when Europe has a particularly ugly history of anti-Semitism, and when the principal attackers of Jews invoke their Islamic faith?

Fifth, recognize that we confront both a short- and long-term menace that won’t be overcome by even the most eloquent of speeches and the most symbolic of acts. Rather, it requires a full-court, sustained effort by individual governments (and, of course, by the EU) using the resources they have the capacity to mobilize, joined by the determined efforts of civil society.

Sixth, connect the lessons of the Holocaust to the present-day threat to the Jews.

I’ve witnessed too many Holocaust-related events where murdered Jews are mourned – Jews who, tragically, cannot be brought back to life – but that totally ignore the current dangers to living Jews. A refusal to connect the two quite frankly empties these commemorations of much of their meaning and sincerity.

Seventh, don’t apologize for European values of democracy, human dignity, openness, and pluralism. Europe has built something to be proud of and that is well worth defending. It is, after all, to Europe that refugees and immigrants are seeking to go by any means possible to escape failed or failing societies, and not the other way around. It’s high time to stand up in defence of these noble values and do everything possible to ensure that newcomers embrace them as well.

And last, but by no means least, it is important to understand that the jihadist barbarism which Europe is experiencing first-hand is not much different from what Israel has been facing for decades. Why, then, does Europe continue to try drawing a distinction, when, in reality, none exists? The same jihadists who hate Europe detest Israel, and the same jihadists who wish for Israel’s annihilation aspire to no less for Europe as we know it.

Since hope springs eternal, here’s hoping for the dawning of a new day, starting right now.

David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).


Rona and Barney Band... To us, Sandra, Noel and Sally, they were just Mom and Dad

- By  Sandra Band Gibbs

Mom, whom three generations of Durban’s Jewish congregation knew and loved from her 35 years as teacher and principal at Sharona. To her staff too, she was Mom, confidante and friend. Dad, who after years in the hospital sector in Durban, retired to the Rachel Finlayson Pool to become a professional sun worshipper. Mom, who loved us and disciplined us with equal passion. Dad, quietly spoken, with his characteristic dry sense of humour, supported her every decision.

Their story began on the luggage wagon on the platform of the Heilbron station when Dad proposed to Mom before returning to his hometown, Joburg. After the wedding in 1949, it was rumoured that the drive to Champagne Castle for their honeymoon, took two days, so bad were the dirt roads at that time.

Every afternoon during their retirement, both of them would be found in their favourite coffee shop, where they knew not only the names of the owners and their staff, but also those of all the children in their families. They continued that tradition when they emigrated to Auckland in 2001. 

Four years ago, Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was given several months.More determined than ever, she embarked on a frenzy of LIFE. She continued shopping for clothes, reading her favourite murder and mystery novels and caring for Dad who’d been diagnosed with dementia. She remained cheerful, upbeat, never referring to her illness, and looked forward to our visits twice or more each year. Her positive and outgoing personality affected and amazed all her knew her. But that was Rona!!!!

In 2013 they moved into Shalom Court where they were once again both loved and highly respected. Dad’s dementia and its accompanying symptoms had advanced rapidly and it was Mom who then needed more assistance. Dad retained his deep love for his family and most of all his love for Rona, despite his increasing deterioration mentally and physically. Sadly and most unexpectedly, Mom was beaten by a fatal heart attack at the end of November, followed by Dad’s passing just 3 days later. Always the gentleman, he allowed her to go first. They will both be sorely missed and never forgotten by everyone who had the honour of knowing them. They were true legends of their time.


Give peace a chance: A letter to Fatima

By Steve Linde

It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter to my late sociology professor, Fatima Meer, after a recent visit to Durban, where she taught me in the 1980s.  Fatima, you supervised my thesis on the emergence of Gandhi as a charismatic leader in South Africa, and I later travelled with you to the United States to be your teaching assistant at Swarthmore. When I moved to Israel in 1987, however, you severed all contact with me, and declined to reply to any of the postcards and letters I sent you. Although your grandfather had been Jewish and you had many Jewish friends, you abhorred the idea of a Jewish state, believing it was racist and undemocratic. Boycotting me achieved nothing, other than causing me pain.  On a grander scale, boycotting Israel or Israeli products only hurts the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Your spirit pervaded my week-long stay in Durban.  In the local “Satyagraha” newspaper, I chanced upon an article titled, “Calls to boycott Israel intensify.” In the article itself, I found no trace of the philosophy of Satyagraha, Gandhi’s pursuit of truth and non-violence. It quotes a humanitarian aid worker, Dr Mad Gilbert, as “likening Gaza’s occupation to that of South Africa’s apartheid,” and making a plea to boycott Israel, “the same way the world did against apartheid South Africa.”  In response, let me counter that, although Israel does impose a blockade on Gaza, it withdrew from the territory unilaterally in 2005.  Furthermore, drawing a parallel between the flourishing Israeli democracy and the repressive apartheid regime is simply false. Making such a comparison only denigrates the victims of apartheid.

Muhammed Desai, the national coordinator of BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement), is quoted in the article as calling for “the solidarity of people around the world to bring real, direct pressure on Israel until it complies with all relevant international laws and to take action to end companies’ and governments’ complicity in Israel’s human rights violations.” Desai, who recently voiced the view that publicly chanting “Shoot the Jew” is no big deal, is hardly a leading proponent of Gandhian passive resistance. And Israel respects human rights as well as the rights of women, minorities, including Christians and Muslims, as well as gays much more than any of its neighbours. Desai’s appeal to boycott Israeli companies will not help break the current impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The Palestinians themselves do not support BDS, and many of the companies being targeted (especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem) employ a predominantly Palestinian workforce. It is also worthy of note that relatives of senior Fatah and Hamas leaders from Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Syrians wounded in the civil war in their country, routinely receive medical treatment in Israel. And there was no talk of boycotting the field hospitals Israel dispatched in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to combat Ebola. 

While I was in South Africa, the latest local firm to be targeted by BDS was Woolworths supermarket chain and its share-holders for selling figs, pomegranates and pretzels from Israel.  A student activist even resorted to the repugnant act of placing a pig’s head in the kosher section of a Woolworths store in protest of the chain’s support for Israel. This is clear anti-Semitism, which should not be tolerated in the new South Africa. Woolworths, admirably, has refused to buckle under the pressure. “We can confirm that we have not stopped [selling] Israeli products,” said a statement published on the Woolworths website, noting that less than 0.1 percent of its food comes from Israel. “We respect our customers’ right to make individual purchasing choices, which is why we clearly label every product’s country of origin and fully comply with government guidelines on products from Israel.”

During the week that I was in Durban, I was inundated with questions about the Woolworths boycott when I met with local journalists. And more prominence was given in the media to the Woolworths boycott than to the barbaric Palestinian terrorist attack at a Jerusalem synagogue on November 18, in which four rabbis were butchered during morning prayers. The subsequent death of a Druse Arab policeman from the wounds he sustained in the gunfight with the two terrorists received almost no press coverage. Upon my return to Israel, I felt compelled to give my take on the Woolworths boycott.

What would Gandhi have said? He may indeed have supported a non-violent boycott against Israel, but he surely would not have sanctioned the use of savage violence by the two terrorists against innocent Jews praying to God.  What would Mandela have said? During his visit to Israel in 1990, which I covered, Mandela squarely backed the Jewish state’s right to exist in security, while calling on it to hand over the territories captured in the 1967 Six Day War for the establishment of a Palestinian state. “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders,” I heard him say quite clearly after meeting with then-foreign minister David Levy in Jerusalem.

Surely South Africa and the entire world should be encouraging both parties, Israel and the Palestinians, to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a deal to peacefully end their bitter conflict. Encouraging the Palestinian Authority to make unilateral appeals to the United Nations and other international bodies, while several countries make symbolic pronouncements in favour of a Palestinian state, as Spain, Sweden and the British Parliament have recently done, can only be detrimental to any chance of peace between the parties. 

Israel should not have withdrawn unilaterally from the Gaza Strip; it should have negotiated the withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority. The hasty pull-out enabled Hamas to seize power in the Strip, sabotaging any opportunity for a negotiated peace settlement. Hamas, after all, is a terrorist group bent on Israel’s destruction. Similarly, the Palestinians should not be encouraged to act unilaterally. Their current leadership, under President Mahmoud Abbas, must be urged to put an end the current cycle of violence and resume a peaceful dialogue with Israel. 

When US President Barack Obama visited Jerusalem last year, he stated his support for Israel unequivocally. “I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” Obama said. Peace must come to the Holy Land, Obama declared, adding: “We will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbours.”

Peace is what Obama wants. It’s what Gandhi and Mandela would have wanted. It’s what you should have wanted, Fatima. It’s what most Israelis and Palestinians want too. BDS is based on a false premise, that Israel is an apartheid state. It is the Palestinians, not Israel, who should be pushed to renounce violence and show they are genuinely interested in peace. It is the Palestinians who should be reprimanded for resorting to terror, inciting violence and aspiring to create a state devoid of Jews – what the Nazis called “Judenrein”.

Israeli leaders have said repeatedly that they are prepared to make painful concessions and negotiate the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. Successive Israeli governments have made generous offers to their Palestinian counterparts, only to be rejected time after time. Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert all offered most of the West Bank and even part of Jerusalem, but were spurned by their Palestinian counterparts. 

Israel did not initiate the conflict in Gaza this past summer. It was purposely provoked by Hamas.  Israel wants peace. But true peace can be achieved only by direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. South Africa, which has been a beacon to the world in replacing apartheid with a rainbow nation, can play a positive role in advancing this process. Because it is by definition against the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arabs, BDS can only cause harm and hinder an ever-desirable peace accord. Boycotting South Africa is not what really ended apartheid. Peaceful negotiations between Mandela and de Klerk, two leaders of vision, did. Boycotting Israel will not result in the establishment of a Palestinian state. Only direct talks between the parties will.

Fatima, I was gutted when you cut off contact with me. When you died in 1990, I wept. Today you would probably be a vocal supporter of BDS. But does boycotting Israel or Israeli goods benefit anyone, especially products that are helpful to humanity, such as medical and agricultural technologies? Isolating Israel, an island of sanity in a tumultuous Middle East, is wrong. So is endorsing Palestinian terror, which only demeans the Palestinian cause. And so is BDS. Let’s rather support engagement by the parties in a peaceful dialogue, free trade and the search for a comprehensive, lasting and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The writer, a former Durbanite, is editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. The views expressed are his own. Mr Linde’s very first published article appeared in Hashalom. 


What’s Purim got to do with Harvard’s rowing team?

- By Michael Laitman – The Jerusalem Post

There is a famous Jewish joke about a woman who goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Purim cards. She says to the clerk: “May I have 30 Purim stamps please?” “What denomination?” asks the clerk. “Oy vey, has it come to this?” she sighs, “Okay, give me 14 Orthodox, 6 Conservative, and 10 Reform!”

Humour is a great thing because it makes tough situations much easier to bear. It’s great also because it makes hard truths easier to swallow.

The joke I just mentioned points out our fragmentation. There is nothing wrong with diversity. On the contrary, Jews have always used arguments and debates as a means to deepen the understanding of spiritual questions that require further scrutiny. The problem begins when diversity becomes enmity.

Especially now, with the growing hostility toward Jews and toward Israel, we cannot afford to behave like nothing has changed. Remember the HUC (Hebrew Union College) rowing team that always came in last until they decided to spy on the perennial winners, the Harvard team, and discovered that you’re supposed to have one guy yelling and eight guys rowing, not the other way around.

Our spiritual “coaches” have always told us that to succeed, we have to stick together. Whenever we ignored their advice, we suffered. Two thousand years ago, our nation became so rebellious against the notion of unity that we fell into unfounded hatred. This resulted in an exile from the land of Israel that spanned two millennia. Now the growing anti-Semitism is reminding us that we have neglected the one thing we need to focus on.

There is a great passage in The Book of Zohar (Aharei Mot) that I often quote whenever discussing the importance of unity for Israel: “‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together.’ These are the friends as they sit together, and are not separated from each other. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then they return to being in brotherly love. The Creator says about them, ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together.’”

So our unity is our asset, and the more disunited we initially are, the more valuable will be our asset.

Immediately following this excerpt comes another statement that always moves me: “And you, the friends who are here, as you were in fondness and love before, henceforth you will also not part until the Creator rejoices with you and summons peace upon you. And by your merit there will be peace in the world, as it is written, “For the sake of my brothers and my friends let me say, ‘Let peace be in you.’”

This last quote seems like the flip side of a statement that is made against us all too often lately: “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” But when you read these words, it’s easy to see why unity is so crucial to our existence, and how it can help as a remedy against the growing anti-Semitism.


Matriculants 2014

Joel Kaplan

Joel achieved a Bachelors Pass from Eden College. He has already begun working in a management position and will continue to do so while studying a Bachelor of Business Administration Marketing degree.

Amy Groer

Amy received a Bachelors Pass with one distinction. She intends to study a Bachelor of Education Degree at Varsity College.

Keyla Aufrichtig

Keyla Aufrichtig attended Durban Girls College, achieving 3 A’s and 4 B’s. She will be studying Visual Communication Design at Stellenbosch University.

Jordan Shapira 

Jordan matriculated with a Bachelors Pass and 3 distinctions from Westville Boys High. He will be making aliyah to Israel in mid-2015, where he will be joining his brother Liam who made aliyah last year.

Leanne Bear 

Leanne achieved 4 distinctions and her plan for this year is to study a Bachelor of Arts in Animation at AFDA Film School in Durban.

Shirel Berchowitz 

Shirel attended Crawford College in La Lucia. She achieved 6 A’s with 1 remark pending (79%), which will hopefully make it 7. Shirel has enrolled to study at the IDC University in Herzliya, Israel.

Gemma Krausey

Gemma achieved A’s for all 7 Matric subjects she wrote at Durban Girls’ College. She will be studying medicine at WITS medical school in 2015, joining her brother Asher who is in 3rd year Medicine.

Jake Lenferna 

Jake matriculated from Clifton College with an A for Maths Lit. He plans to study at AFDA in Durban to do his Bachelor of Arts in Motion Picture.



Hey there all you PAST TENSE fans (all five of you), know that you are about once again, to be short-changed. It happens every February, because unlike his predecessors of 75 and 50 years ago, the Editor has decided not to publish a January issue of his magazine. In an ordinary month, it is a labour that Hercules would have shirked, to reduce all the material in a monthly issue of a 75 year old HASHOLOM and a 50 year old HASHALOM into one page of a 2015 HASHALOM; but this month the task is doubled, and you are the ones missing out. 


HASHOLOM – January 1940


Mr Philip Wartski on his 87th birthday (2015 oldies seem to be a lot older than that);

Mr Dodie Friedman on his election as Vice-President of the Natal Pharmaceutical Society;

Mr and Mrs George Silberman on the birth of a son, and Mr and Mrs S. Isenberg (nee Evelyn Cohen) on the birth of daughter;

Mrs F. Lange on her promotion to Commandant of the Red Cross

HASHOLOM – February 1940


Miss A Pels and Mr J. Goldberg on their engagement;

Mrs Mark Fielding on her appointment as Assistant Quartermaster in the new detachment of the Red Cross;

Mr and Mrs M. Morrison of Escombe, on their silver wedding;

Mr and Mrs Alf Bierman on the birth of a son;

Mrs Maie Lipinski and Mr John Hern on their marriage;

Mr Esmond Jacobson on proceeding to Rhodes University “to complete his commercial degree”.


Rev. J.V. Coetzee, the editor of Die Kerkblad, suggested in an article that the Church should combat discrimination against Jewish citizens. To this a correspondent (M. van der Ahee) took exception and declared that Jews should be deprived of their vote and segregated. Dr Coetzee responded forcefully: “We deprecate the violent anti-Jewish sentiments which are revealed and cannot approve of them. They are not in accordance with Christian religion and belief”.

The Free State Nationalist paper The Volksblad reported that at a Dingaan’s day celebration in Bloemfontein, the Rev. George Thom had said: “The history of the Jews corresponds greatly with our history... The similarity between the exodus from Egypt and the battle of Blood River is irresistible”.

There had been a bitter campaign in the Nationalist papers against the publication in the press of the names of people who had been interned.  Most of them alleged that Jews were the informants and “that people have been interned to please the Jews”.


Under this heading HASHOLOM, February 1940 reported on the successful establishment of a Children’s Shabbat Service by the Durban United Hebrew Congregation. A half-page photograph of its committee accompanied the story. Seated in front were: Maurice Menachemson (dressed in the robes of the Shammes), Sam Milner, Mannie Sol and Morris Schaffer (clearly the Chazan). Standing in the second row were: Leon Lewis, Harry Proops, Zionah Manachemson, Bernice Jacobs, Sonia Schaffer, Stella Kirson and Roger Bloom.


HASHALOM – January 1965


The parents of Allan Price, Lawrence Cline and Myron Panovka, who had recently celebrated their Bar Mitzvah;

Anne (nee Moshal) and Kurt Jagerman on the birth of a daughter, granddaughter of Dr and Mrs B. Moshal;

Dr Leslie Linder and Vivienne Adley and Marcus Davidson and Madeline Usher on their respective marriages;

Dr Gershon and Mrs Abel on the birth of a grandson, born to their daughter, Evelyn;

Alan Magid, Chairman of the Club, on a recent (?) birthday. Come, come, Hashalom, everyone knows that Alan’s birthday is in May.  The offence is compounded by the publication of a happy (and YOUNG looking) photograph of Alan and Brenda, holding a birthday cake!

HASHALOM – February 1965

Bade farewell to Goldie and Bertie Barnett who were leaving Durban to settle in England where their daughter Sheila, had recently presented them with a grandson;


Dennis Gamsy on his selection for the Springbok Cricket Team to tour the U.K. later in 1965.

Frankie Querido and Lester Blou, Elaine Spilka and Ken Manasse, Sheila Saul and Michael Ratner, Arlene Saacks and Kenneth Foreman and Janice Saacks and Jack Friedberg on their respective marriages;

The parents of the “following Bar Mitzvah Boys”: Trevor Lavender, Keith Channoch of Dundee and Michael Hack;

Dave Faiga “on his Bar Mitzvah as Chairman of the Natal Amateur Billiards Association”;

John and Anna (nee Abelson) Moshal and Annabelle (nee Linder) and Clive Parnell on the birth of daughters;

Rodwan Jackson and Judith Garb, Lynne Aufrichtig and Frank Falowitz, Morris Liss and Minnie Garb, Tikvah Ehrlich and Sorrel Berman, on their respective engagements.

HASHOLOM – January 1940 instituted a new feature: Club Personalities

No.1 was of course, Mr Sol Moshal, who was depicted by means of a caricature (which was not, in Pundit’s estimation, a particularly good likeness), sitting on the roof of the Club juggling balls representing some of his many communal interests and activities.

Club Personalities No.2 – HASHOLOM February 1940

Mr Julius Greenberg, the newly elected Chairman of the Club, was depicted as a very muscular Popeye shoving spinach (representing “bright ideas”) down the throat of a recumbent Olive Oyl who, in her turn, represented the Club.

I mention in passing that HASHALOM, February 1965, contained an editorial tribute to Norman Edinberg who was about to leave Durban for Johannesburg. This was accompanied by a description of Norman, written by Norman, which is quite funny as anything else he had written for HASHALOM. Bon Chance, Norman! 

And that, until next February (I should live so long) is the end of this year’s labour of Hercules. Sorry I had to omit so much of local and historical interest. But you have to blame the Editor for that.


Durban son elected Western Cape Chair of SAUJS for 2015

- By Michelle Shapira

The recently elected Chairperson for SAUJS Western Cape for 2015 hails from Durban. Yoni, the son of Dedee and Yitzchak Levi, attended Crawford College La Lucia and was introduced to Talmud Torah in Grade 9. Talmud Torah had a great impact on him as it exposed him to new dimensions of Judaism above just going to shul. In Grade 11 Yoni also went to Israel on the Encounter tour. It was a wonderful experience which saw him forming lasting friendships with students from King David schools in Johannesburg. It was then that Yoni decided that he wanted to become an active participant in the wider Jewish community. He matriculated in 2013, with full colours for academics and for leadership, achieving 5 distinctions in matric. 

Yoni chose to go to Cape Town because of the large Jewish community there. He is currently doing a degree in Business Science at UCT. In his first year he joined SAUJS Western Cape in the position of religious officer, where he was responsible for organising all religious events, such Holiday and Shabbat dinners. Yoni was also involved in dealing with Israel Apartheid Week activities held on the UCT campus, which had a great impact on him.  During his first year with SAUJS Yoni saw the potential to take SAUJS Western Cape to a new level and get Jewish students together by doing ‘fun’ Jewish activities, outreach in the community, as well as playing an active role during IAW.  Yoni recently attended the World Union of Jewish Students Congress in Israel.

On behalf of the Durban Jewish community, Mazal Tov to Yoni and may we wish him every success in his term as Chairperson!


Doctor’s refusal to treat Jewish woman tops the Wiesenthal Center’s 2014 survey of anti-Semitic incidents


Published on Monday, the Wiesenthal survey says 2014 “was a year of unprecedented explosions of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hatred.”  The list, it adds, “shows how pervasive anti-Semitism has become around the world and is tragically indicative of burgeoning threats and challenges to the Jewish people not encountered since the end of WWII.”

The second worst incident in the survey was the Jerusalem synagogue attack in November, which left four Jewish worshippers and one Druze policeman dead, as well as the two attackers.

The survey also condemns the reaction of Jordanian parliamentarians, who prayed for the killers, and the condolence letter sent by the country’s prime minister to their families.

Third on the list is the rape of a Jewish woman in a Paris suburb in December and the beating of her partner.

Other incidents on the list are the invitation of two “notorious Israel-bashers” to address a party meeting in the German Bundestag; the proposal of a Turkish newspaper columnist that Turkish Jews be taxed to pay for the damage to Gaza during the summer war; and the declaration by Sweden’s deputy parliamentary speaker that the country’s Jews should abandon their Jewish identity.

The full survey is available on the Wiesnethal Center’s website:


Merry Christmas

Lauren Shapiro

Five-year-old Ariel approached his father this morning

with a look of deep concern on his little face. “What’s

up, Ari?” asked Dad. “Well, Daddy, I’ve been

thinking. I don’t think Father Christmas is going to

bring me any presents this year.” Daddy thought

about this carefully and explained that Father Christmas

doesn’t visit Jewish houses; that Christian children get

presents at Christmas time, and Jewish children get them

at Rosh Hashana and Sukkot and Pesach and Chanukkah

(overcompensating? Nah!). Ariel waited patiently - even

patronizingly - for him to finish, then he sighed and said,

“No, Daddy. That’s not it. The problem is that we don’t have

a chimney!”

Of course my kids know who Father Christmas is. They’ve been

exposed to Christmas their whole lives. From September each

year, the shops shine with tinsel and ring with Christmas carols.

There are bauble-adorned trees whichever way you look. The TV

screens Christmas specials of all their favourite cartoons. We just

can’t escape it, I told myself each year, until I realized that there’s

nothing to escape from, no reason to run away in fear. Granted,

some of those large, loud shopping centre Santas can be a bit scary,

especially when they’re promoting

products on commission, but the idea

that Christmas is happening in many

homes across the country shouldn’t

strike fear into our hearts.

Some of my kids’ best friends, babysitters and teachers are

Christians. Or Hindus. Or fundamentalist atheists. And that’s okay.

Hashem knows there are other religions out there. He created

them. When Hashem chose the Children of Israel to be His

people, He could have obliterated the other nations with a neat

bolt of lightning or a quick tsunami or something. But He didn’t.

They’re supposed to be here. Hashem put them on this earth with

a purpose. Each religion, each human being on this planet, has value

to bring to the world. Their mere presence is a blessing: without

difference, we couldn’t have respect. Without respect, we couldn’t

find true fulfillment in life, because nobody can feel the contentment

of dignity without respecting others.

The “December Dilemma” is not about protecting our children

from the peril of exposure to other cultures. There is no danger in

diversity. Except in cases of force and torture – and unfortunately

our people have known plenty of those – one culture need not

fear being subsumed by another. There’s room for all of us on this

sacred soil.

Judaism is not a proselytizing religion, because it recognizes the

value that differences can bring. The trick is to be strong in your

own faith, secure in the knowledge of what is important to you: the

rituals, traditions and beliefs that add value to your life, and which

you would like to pass down to your children.

Now, of course the big question on the minds of all readers except

perhaps first-year philosophy students: that’s a lovely theory,

Lauren, but how do we do it?? Practically, is it possible to raise

proudly Jewish children who love their culture, but respect others’?

Of course it is. My mother did it. (That’s a little shout-out there,

Ima. You’re welcome.) Plenty of parents have done it. I know

lots of Jewish families who hold their values dear and tight while

appreciating the rights of others to do the same.

How do they achieve what seems like a miracle in a postmodern

world where culture is muted by materialism, and faith is diluted by

aspirations of insipid social sameness? Having a sense of community

is a big support. Kids are more likely to embrace their religion when

it’s a natural, normal, comfortable part of their lives, not something

tense that’s put on for special occasions. Jewish schools and youth

movements can help to build this community, and joining one of

the many Jewish organizations around (plenty of which have youth

divisions) gives religion a sense of purpose.

Going to shul as a family can help. Shul gives structure to the wafty

ideas of the faith. It’s an opportunity to learn, to pray, and to connect

with Hashem. Routine shul-going makes children feel comfortable

in Hashem’s house, and open to asking questions which will help

them learn and grow in their faith. Socializing with other Jewish

people reinforces shared values. It’s hard to understand religion in

a vacuum, and surrounding yourself with people who are exploring

the same path is comforting and companionable. And you don’t

always have to be the one to bring the teiglach.

Taking part in interfaith activities is a

great way of teaching children about

how various cultures can work together,

without one trying to assimilate the

other. We’re blessed to live in a country

that values unity through diversity, giving us precious opportunities

to raise a new generation of educated, tolerant leaders – the true

embodiment of tikkun olam (improving the world). Right now my

little boy is a bit distracted by all the glittery lights on the Christmas

trees, but when he grows up a bit perhaps he (and his little brother

and sister) will appreciate a different kind of light – that of being a

light unto the nations. Until then, forgive me, I caved into his nagging

and bought him a string of silver tinsel from the supermarket. When

he’s not playing tug of war with his siblings, he wears it as a boa.

Festive, in any case. But I’m drawing the line at the electronic singing

Santa that lights up and dances each time he croons “jingle bells”.

Happy holidays, people. Until next time.


South African Jewish Museum awarded 2014 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Recognised as a Top Performing Attraction as Reviewed by Travellers on the World’s Largest Travel Site

The South African Jewish Museum announced that it has

received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award.

The accolade, which honours hospitality excellence, is given

only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding

traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying

businesses worldwide. Establishments awarded the Certificate

of Excellence are located all over the world and represent the

upper echelon of businesses listed on the website.

When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor

uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that

takes into account reviews ratings. Businesses must maintain

an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five,

volume and recency of reviews. Additional criteria include a

business’ tenure and popularity ranking on the site.

“Winning the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a true

source of pride for the entire team at South African Jewish

Museum and we’d like to thank all of our past visitors who

took the time to complete a review on TripAdvisor,” said Gavin

Morris, Director of South African Jewish Museum. “There is

no greater seal of approval than being recognised by one’s

customers. With the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

based on customer reviews, the accolade is a remarkable vote

of confidence to our business and our continued commitment

to excellence.”

“TripAdvisor is pleased to honour exceptional hospitality

businesses for consistent excellence,” said Marc Charron,

President of TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of

Excellence award gives top performing establishments around

the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback

from those who matter most - their customers. From Australia

to Zimbabwe, we want to applaud exceptional hospitality

businesses for offering TripAdvisor travellers a great customer


About The South African Jewish Museum

The museum narrates the story of South African Jewry from

its early beginnings, set against the backdrop of South African

history over a period of more than 150 years. We cover a

number of areas of interest, including South African history,

mining, commerce, Eastern European history, contemporary

South African politics as well as an overview of the Jewish

community’s contribution in all its aspects of South African

history and conscience.

The South African Jewish Museum offers an extensive, fully

subsidized, non-denominational education outreach programme

for schools and learners from disadvantaged communities, as

part of our on-going commitment to nation building and social


An exclusive documentary film - “Nelson Mandela. A Righteous

Man”, is screened throughout the day, a documentary, which

has won wide acclaim at the Brighton, Vancouver and Toronto

Film Festivals.

Tel: 021 465 4546 |

Museum Hours: Sun. to Thurs.10:00am - 5:00pm

Fri.10:00am - 2:00pm

Closed Saturdays and Jewish Holidays



HASHOLOM – December 1939 - Extracts


The editorial made special mention of the stress that the Chairman of

the Club had, at the Annual General Meeting, placed on the importance

of culture in the life of the Club.


The banquet in honour of Senator and Mrs F.C. Hollander under the

chairmanship of Mr L.S. Ditz, Chairman of the Durban Jewish Club,

was attended by 200 guests, “including representatives of every Jewish

institution in Natal who gathered to pay homage to a distinguished son

of Israel and his energetic helpmeet”. Mr S. Moshal, President of the

Council of Natal Jewry (C.N.J.) proposed the toast to “Our guests”

and, in doing so, stressed Senator Hollander’s contribution to the

growth of Durban and Natal. Other speakers were Mr N. Meyerowitz,

Chairman of the Durban United Hebrew Congregation and Mr W.

Cranko, President of the Durban Jewish Club. The report states that

“A very happy interlude was the presentation to Senator Hollander by

the grand old man of Durban Jewry, Mr Phillip Wartski, of a substantial

cheque subscribed to by a coterie of members of the Club to show

their practical appreciation of his unselfish devotion to public duty”.


• Mr A.J. Werth, Nationalist MP for George, said in the course of a

speech in the Johannesburg City Hall: “General Smuts told us we

would make war, but we are standing with our hands behind our

backs. That is the Jewish way of making war”.

• Miss A. Clemens in a letter to Die Volksblad (14/12/39) attacked

the Government Information Officer because he criticises the

German Churches, but says nothing about “our Sundays which

are desecrated by the Jews”.

• It was reported in The Rand Daily Mail (11/12/39) that a German

Jew who had been an officer in the German Army had been given

documents by the Nazi Party in Dresden exempting him from

anti-Jewish persecution “on account of his military service to the

Fatherland”. He had, however, left the country in 1939 because

he could not make a living.

• The Natal Mercury (11/12/39) reported that Miss Kate Vos, a South

African woman employed by Zeesen Radio, had joined the Nazis

“after having been persecuted by the Jews and even her own

singing teachers”. She had acknowledged in letters to friends that

she was very anti-Semitic and was convinced that South Africa was

being ruined by the Jews.

• The Rev H.P. Junod of Pretoria wrote to The Rand Daily Mail

(9/12/39) as follows: “Many people in South Africa fully realise the

terrible conditions imposed on our fellow men of Jewish descent

overseas, and the recent details published about the so-called

Jewish state being created near Lublin, which is nothing but a huge

concentration camp, are further proof that anti-Semitic madness

is proceeding apace”.

IN TOWN AND OUT congratulated:

• Mr and Mrs Arnold Miller on the birth of a daughter;

• Miss Pearl Liebowitz on her engagement to Mr Jack Shenker of


• Miss Rae Cohen on her marriage to Mr P.K. Kaminer;

• Mr Edouard Seligmann on his marriage to Miss E. Shapiro of


• Master David Gevisser on his recent Bar Mitzvah;

• Mr and Mrs J Blumenthal on the birth of a son.

HASHALOM - Decmber, 1964 – extracts


A guest editorial under this title reported that at the Annual General

Meeting of the Club, “the Chairman, the Honorary President, one of

the Honorary Vice-Presidents, a member of the Council who is also

the President of the CNJ, all looked back on the glory that is past”, and

then proceeded to dispute that the glory was indeed past. The Editorial

ended on a very optimistic note: “The Jews of Durban will again make

of the Club - of our Club and their Club - a Centre with a Jewish spirit”.

Well, have they?


On 26 November 1964 Henry Katzew delivered a lecture at the Club

on the topic “Glut of Ink - What are we to do?”. The text of the lecture

which occupied 5 pages of pretty small print in this issue, was closely

reasoned and interesting, but Pundit wonders what Mr Katzew and his

audience would have thought of the volume of works that see the light

of day digitally fifty years later.

IN TOWN AND OUT congratulated:

• Gloria Savell and Frank Schneider, Elaine Spilka and Kenneth

Manasse, Audrey Bass and Jacky Sobel, and Ilana Rubenstein and

Leo Dub on their engagements;

• Mr and Mrs Sam Abelson and Mr and Mrs Jack Abelson on their

recent marriages;

• Alec Rose and Reenie Berg, Esme Freed and Aubrey Weintraub,

Avril Chananie and Morris Katz, and Colin Silver and Myra

Cooperman on their marriages;

• Proud parents of recently-born daughters – Mr and Mrs David

Beare, Mr and Mrs Natie Seid, Mr and Mrs Gunter Lazarus and Dr

and Mrs Jeff Chanoch;

• Parents of recently-born sons – Mr and Mrs David Gevisser, and

Mr and Mrs Solly Bivick;

• Dr and Mrs B. Moshal on the birth of “another grandson in Israel”;

• Aura Bilchick and Ilana Rubenstein on obtaining their B.A. degrees

and David Earnst on his B.Sc.


On 22nd December 1964, the Club and the Council of Natal Jewry

marked the 70th birthday of Mr Sol Moshal, the Honorary President

of both organisations at what was described as “a get-together in the

Club Lounge”. Mr Arnold Miller, President of the CNJ and Mr Lionel

Abrahams, President of the Club, paid tribute to Mr Moshal “and

presented him with an illuminated address containing resolutions

passed by their respected Councils”. We are told that “Mr Moshal was

not prepared to do any talking on this occasion” but he was very moved

after the resolutions had been read and the folder presented to him.

The event was illustrated with two photographs, one of Mr Moshal and

his wife, Gretchen, seated in the Lounge, and the other of Mr Moshal,

holding his ubiquitous pipe, standing between the two Presidents.

1964-2014. Fifty years difference. The Club no longer has a Tennis or

a Bowls section, or an Entertainment, Dramatic or Culture Section.

But there is a Moshal as Honorary President of both the Club and the

CNJ’s successor the CKNJ. And, what is more, he recently celebrated

his 70th birthday.

As Alphonse Karr (1808-1890), a French novelist and journalist, of

whom Pundit had never heard until he researched the saying in The

Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, said (in French of course): “The more

things change, the more they remain the same”.



By Abraham H. Foxman - JTA

In thinking about Kristallnacht, we

should also consider the outpouring of

violence against Jewish communities

in Europe this summer and draw the

right lessons for today. It is rightly

said that the Holocaust began not

with gas chambers but with words.

The significance of Kristallnacht in the

history of the Holocaust is the passage

from anti-Jewish legislation and anti-

Semitic rhetoric to violence against

Jews. And therein lies the lesson for


To be clear, in today’s democratic Europe,

there is no risk of a new Holocaust. Invoking

such a possibility obscures rather than

illuminates the serious situation of European

Jewry. Comparisons to Kristallnacht,

however, are apt. This summer in France,

Germany and elsewhere in Europe, we saw

anti-Semitic rhetoric followed by assaults

on Jews and attacks on synagogues, Jewishowned

shops and other Jewish institutions.

The differences with Kristallnacht are stark

and significant, but the similarities cannot

be ignored. Not on this anniversary - not

at a time of great insecurity among Jewish

communities in Europe.

Two synagogues in Paris were attacked

during anti-Israel demonstrations this

summer. In one case, 200 Jews were trapped

inside while a mob armed with bats tried to

invade the synagogue. Roger Cukierman, the

head of the French Jewish community, made

the connection explicit: “We’ve never seen

anything like that. It resembled Kristallnacht

in 1938 in Germany.”

And in Germany, where people chanted

“Jews to the gas” at anti-Israel rallies and

where Molotov cocktails were thrown at

synagogues, Dieter Graumann, the president

of the Central Council of Jews of Germany

said, “These are the worst times since the

Nazi era.”

The British Jewish community’s security

agency, CST, said that July had the highest

number of reported anti-Semitic incidents

in any one month since it began keeping

records three decades ago. The highly

esteemed former Chief Rabbi Jonathan

Sacks, hardly an alarmist, wrote at Yom

Kippur that the Jewish community suffers “a

degree of apprehension I have not known

in my lifetime. Anti-Semitism has returned

to Europe within living memory of the


European Jews were terrorized by

Kristallnacht, and among elements of society

on the continent today they are being

terrorized again by anti-Semitic hatred

especially, but not only, linked to the Israeli-

Palestinian conflict. The terror is not from

one night but from an accumulation of

incidents over the past years.

During the Israeli military’s Operation

Protective Edge this summer, and during

Operation Cast Lead in 2009, ADL reported

on anti-Semitic incidents and rhetoric

around the world related to the Israel-

Hamas wars. We saw incitement to violence,

demonization of Jews and Israel, blood libels

and other anti-Semitic vitriol. Too often

these words led to assaults and vandalism.

Those attacks have caused vast numbers

of European Jews to no longer feel free to

live openly as Jews. The European Union’s

human rights agency surveyed eight major

Jewish communities in Europe in 2012

and found widespread insecurity. One in

five Jews had been the victim of an anti-

Semitic insult, harassment or assault, and

one in three worried about being physically

attacked over the next 12 months. Two out

of five Jews always or frequently avoided

wearing a kippah or Star of David in public.

Anti-Semitism never left the continent, but

its recent transformation from rhetoric

to violence, including murders at a Jewish

school in Toulouse and the Jewish museum

in Brussels, has caused a sea change in the

confidence of Jewish communities across

Europe. Most European political leaders

have condemned the anti-Semitic incidents

in their countries, but the indifference

among the public is shocking and dismaying.

If the hatred espoused and acted out by the

anti-Semites and the apathy of European

citizens overtake the efforts of the wellintentioned

political leaders, European

Jewish communities will have a dim future:

communal self-segregation, individual

withdrawal from Jewish communal life or

emigration. “Never again” stands. There will

not be another Holocaust. But Kristallnacht

is another story. Let us learn its lessons, not

to avoid another Holocaust but to avoid a

different disaster - the slow terrorization of

Europe’s Jews into permanent fear, faced

with the awful choice of abandoning their

identity or fleeing.

Abraham H. Foxman is the national director of

the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust




By Michelle Shapira

The Ron Castan Award is a prestigious

Australian honour that recognises

individuals whose work in their chosen

humanitarian fields has done much to

aid the plight of those less fortunate

both in Australia and abroad.

At a recent ceremony, Dr Hilton Immerman OAM, CEO of the

Shalom Institute and Shalom College at the University of New

South Wales, was acknowledged as the recipient of the Ron Castan

Award for 2014, largely for his engagement with the Australian

Indigenous community, namely through the Shalom Gamarada

Indigenous Scholarship Program, which sees Australian Indigenous

students through tertiary degrees.

“In Australia, there remains a shameful gap between Indigenous and

non-Indigenous Australians,” Immerman said. Dr Immerman feels

very strongly about the need to oppose racism and discrimination in

all its forms, and to try to make a meaningful difference to the lives

of the disadvantaged,” Immerman said, adding that the core Jewish

value of tikkun olam is a driving force behind his efforts.

Hilton moved to Durban with his parents at the age of two. He

attended Sharona/Carmel Primary School and Glenwood Boys’

High School. He then completed a BA (majoring in English and

Philosophy) at the University of Natal, followed by a UED (University

Education Diploma). This was followed by an astonishing further

6 degrees: B.A. Hons (UNISA); M.Ed. Admin.(University of NSW);

M.A. (Brandeis University, Boston); Jerusalem Fellows (Hebrew

University); Ph.D. (University of NSW).

In 2004, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)

for services to Adult Education and Leadership Development.

He has served as honorary consultant to a number of not-for-profit

organisations and has lectured on diverse areas such as leadership

training and development, experiential education, the portrait of the

Jew in English Literature and Jewish responses to the problem of evil.

Hilton is married to Marilyn (nee Rosenberg), also a resident of

Durban, attending Durban Girls’ High School followed by a BA at

the University of Natal. They have 2 sons, Kevin and Michael, a

daughter-in-law and 2 grandchildren. Hilton is the brother of Alwyn

Immerman, a stalwart member of the Durban Jewish community.

Mazal Tov to Hilton and the Immerman family on this accolade.

The Durban community is indeed proud to be counted among the

influences which have led to the admirable qualities recognised by

this award to Dr Immerman.


The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth

You’ve got to be kidding me. Twenty bucks for a tooth? I knew the price of petrol was through the roof and that bread and milk have just gone up again, but this is simply ridiculous.

My eldest child’s just gotten his first wobbly tooth, so I did what any modern mom would do: texted my Whatsapp group to ask the going rate for the Tooth Fairy these days. I was flabbergasted. I still recall with fondness the little embroidered Tooth Fairy pillow from my childhood, with a special pocket just big enough for a 50c coin. Now it’s twenty South African Rand for a single tooth?? Anti-Semites propagandize that the Jews are bent on global financial domination. They’ve got it all wrong – it’s the Tooth Fairy! This is totally beyond the ambit of any equity! It’s insane!

While I was processing this assault on reason (and my wallet), the almost-six-year-old was looking rather down in the tooth, forlornly fingering the offending wobbly and asking me why he had to lose his teeth. I suddenly felt terrible for telling him all these years that if he didn’t brush his teeth they would fall out. Of course that’s true, but neglecting to inform him that they were all going to fall out anyway was probably a tad manipulative.  

However, I’ll admit, that little misrepresentation was nothing compared to my perpetuation of that pan-cultural conspiracy theory, the Tooth Fairy. I consoled him that if he put his grimy little incisor under his pillow, she would slip in in the middle of the night and leave him a present.

Did I outright lie to him? Eish. Yes. I did. Sorry. He just looked so distraught at the prospect of losing his tooth that I felt I had to sweeten the deal a bit. Now I was racked by all kinds of guilt, having lied to my son (twice, technically), committed myself to forking out R20 for every one of my three children’s baby teeth (60 in total), and wondering if I had caused deep psychological trauma by giving little Ariel mixed messages about life, the universe and everything (probably).

I mean, for a start, is the tooth fairy even Jewish? I’ll promise you one thing: if she’s now wangling twenty bucks for a lousy old tooth, she must have worked for a firm of good accountants. Finklebaum, Shmeistein and Elf, perhaps.

But seriously, when I ask if she’s Jewish, I don’t mean can she bake a bubka or was her mother related to Mrs Cohen’s sister’s cousin. I mean: is the concept of the Tooth Fairy something Jews can believe in?

Many religions feature characters that aren’t precisely flesh and blood. Christians have Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny; Hindus believe in a variety of gods that take physical form; the Chinese have their dragons. Jews don’t have anything like that.

Or do we? We may not believe in fairies, but we do believe in angels. Maybe they won’t put twenty bucks under your pillow, but they bring other things into our lives, like light and love and guidance. The Talmud states that every blade of grass has an angel watching over it. Why shouldn’t every tooth?

I explained to Ari as gently and truthfully as I could that everyone’s baby teeth (he resented that term, so I switched to milk teeth, which he didn’t seem to mind as much) have to fall out in order to make room for the bigger, stronger teeth that would grow in their place.

As he nodded sagely (or as sagely as a five-year-old with a grubby face and a tooth hanging half out of his mouth can muster), it occurred to me that we all need to let go of things we’ve outgrown to make room for bigger, better things to come into our lives. And they won’t necessarily come immediately. There will be those awkward gaps in our smiles, in our knowledge, in our spiritual development, while we wait for the new pearly whites (or pearls of wisdom) to grow.

And hopefully, like the teenager who can finally smile with the confidence of a full mouth of gnashers, we too will be able to smile with the conviction of a heart full of wisdom. Perhaps there’s a link between wisdom teeth and knowledge after all. (Pity that so many of us have to have them removed.)

I ended our little DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation) by telling Ari that now he really needed to step up his daily dental routine because if he didn’t take care of his adult teeth then they would fall out too. He gave me a look of cautious skepticism, but I could see that he was quite taken with the term “adult” teeth.

That afternoon we went shopping for fabric to make a special little pouch in which to keep his tooth safe for the Tooth Fairy. It is ludicrously disproportionate to the size of his tooth, in order to accommodate the ludicrously disproportionate reward.

I’m now opening a parallel career path because writing just doesn’t pay enough. If you need someone to wash your car, walk your dogs, fluff your pillows, etc, I’m your girl. Only twenty bucks an hour.

While I’m slogging away, I pray that my guardian angel will help me negotiate the next parenting challenge with a little more grace and faith. And I hope that she accepts Mastercard, because I’m hanging onto my teeth for now, thank you very much. Until next time.






Readers were reminded that ‘Big events are always apt to swamp little ones’, but the Club would shortly be holding its A.G.M. and ‘When the war is won life must resume its normal course. During its course the thread may be worn thin in parts but it must never be allowed to snap.  Obviously we all have a duty to carry out and, and to the best of our ability, that duty must be: “CARRY ON!”’


An article congratulating its subject on his appointment as a Senator recorded that he was born in Birmingham in 1875, had arrived in Durban “nearly 40 years ago”, served in the Durban City Council from 1905 until 1914, having been Deputy Mayor in 1908-09 and Mayor from 1910-13. He was elected to the Provincial Council in 1914 and had been duly re-elected ever since.  Among several other prestigious offices, Sen. Hollander had served as President of the Durban Hebrew Congregation from 1905 to 1925 and was at the time an Honorary-Vice President of the Durban Jewish Club.


It was reported that after a lengthy debate the S.A. Jewish Board of Deputies had resolved not to support a proposal that separate Jewish units be established “for national defence purposes”.  

LONDON NEWS LETTER from Rev. Michael Adler D.S.O. described how the war had affected U.K. Jewry. “This was particularly marked during the recent High Festivals. The public services in the Synagogues, by the request of the Chief Rabbi, acting in conjunction with the Air Raid Precautions authorities were greatly shortened and none held after dusk, thus excluding all but a very brief form of Kol Nidrei. The sounding of the Shofar was subdued...”.  

Rev. Adler also reported that the official attitude towards ex-German Jews in the House of Commons was “extremely friendly” and that it was likely that “the valuable services of many of them will be enlisted for valuable war work”.

HASHOLOM reported verbatim extracts from three favourable reports which had been published in the local press about Anne Moshal’s production of Elmer Rice’s play “Judgment Day”, and “Spectator’s” own longer and more critical report about it.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN STAGE - all political, remember - reported:

Cape Nats adopt anti-Jewish resolution

In a speech at Koringberg, Dr Malan referred to the Jewish question “which hangs like a cloud over South Africa. Behind organised South African Jewry stands organised world Jewry. They have robbed the population of its heritage so that the Afrikaner lives in the land of his father but no longer possesses it.”

At the Cape Nationalist Congress, Dr Malan characterised the Labour Party as “the protagonists of unorganised Jewry in South Africa and the footboard of the Communism”.

“Die Burger” (6/11/39) reported in a panel in bold type a report from Pearston stating that there are now no Jews left in Pearston as the only Jew has left for Somerset East. Pundit was surprised to find when he Googled Pearston (for he had never heard of it) that it still exists.

This issue of HASHOLOM includes six full pages containing the full reports of the Executive and Council of the Club to be presented at the A.G.M. to be held on 12 December 1939.  Pundit feels it inappropriate to bore his increasing readership of 2014 with any more detail than that.

There is, too, a short story, “Happy Ending in Tiberias” by Louis Golding, a sad story with a happy ending, and a heart breaking article (“Jews in Ostmark – the last phase”) describing the fate of the former flourishing Jewish population of Vienna after the Anschluss.



Leon, son of Mr and Mrs Marcus Lewis, and Harry, son of Mr and Mrs S.J. Lange, on the occasion of their respective Bar Mitzvahs;

Mr Phil Lazarus of Cape Town on his engagement to Miss Hesse Geshen;

Mr Jack Scott on his marriage to Miss L. Fisher.

Welcomed back:

Miss A. Miller from overseas;

Miss Rose Alper from her broadcasting tour.

HASHALOM - November, 1964 – extracts

EDITORIAL (headed “Guest Editorial” though the guest remains anonymous) deals with the “Role of the Rabbi” and concludes that it is, or should be, essentially that of a teacher.

Then, proving that things never seem to change, the next five pages are taken up with the Reports of the Council and the Executive to be presented at the forthcoming A.G.M.

IN TOWN AND OUT recorded

Condolences to the families of the late Sam Ritz, Harry Duchen, Max Sandler, Minnie Hanreck, and Tamar Leon.

Congratulations to: Dr and Mrs Jos Hillman on the their son Michael’s engagement; Arline Sacks and Kenneth Foreman, Vivienne Adley and Dr Leslie Linder, Doreen Glaser and Anthony Levy, and Frankie Silbermann and Viv Klaff on their respective engagements;

Congratulations to Dr and Mrs S. Zail, Arnold and Hilda Kaplan, Arnold and Rosemary Zulman, Basil and Shani Zive on the birth of sons, and Mr and Mrs Ronnie Aziz and Dr and Mrs Gerry Immerman on the birth of daughters;

Congratulations to Barry and Betty Blumenfeld on the birth of their son “which makes Jean Foreman a grandmother”;

Mazaltov wishes to the parents of Helene Beare, Marilyn Davidowitz, Diane Hackner, Sandra Isaacs, Sandra Lain, Melanie Mendel, Janet Sank, and Jocelyn Stark on the occasion of their Bat Mitzvah, and to Leon, son of Mr and Mrs M. Cramer and Robert, son of Dr and Mrs G. Gordon on their Bar Mitzvahs

Next came the regular amusing short story by Norman Edinburg dealing, on this occasion, with his no doubt apocryphal fear of flying.

To mark the twelfth anniversary of the death of Chaim Weizmann and accompanied by a photograph there followed a moving tribute to the first President of the State of Israel written by Abba Eban in his usual impeccable style.

This was followed by an extract from “What the Jews believe” by Philip S. Bernstein on the Festival of Channukah.

A report on the activities of the CNJ (no K in its name then) included a report on “Jewish Book Month” which included addresses by Judge S. Miller on “the Jew in Shakespeare” and by Mrs Bella Schmahmann on “Marlowe and the Jew of Malta”.

A report on the AGM of the Durban United Hebrew Congregation recorded that it had been attended by “some 90 members”, and on Founders Day, the Union of Jewish Women had honoured Professor Elizabeth Sneddon as its “Woman of the Year”.

Readership of PAST TENSE has increased by 150% in the past year. A year ago its readership was two (Pundit and his daughter) and careful market research has recently revealed that a Durban family of 3 has been added to the list. Pundit is about to seek an equivalent increase in his salary!


Contest to build a kosher hut attracts entrants from far and wide

Dave LeBlanc - Special to The Globe and Mail

When I was in high school and university, I performed better on tests when I studied actively rather than passively; by writing things out, longhand, on a pad of paper the night before, I found my brain would retain facts better than if I’d just read and re-read those same facts in a textbook.

This is why I think Judaism has got it going on compared to Catholicism. While I was forced to memorize things my childhood brain couldn’t possibly grasp (and then recite them at Sunday mass), Jews regularly do things that turn abstract concepts into reality.

When I first learned of the festival of Sukkot and the practice of building a sukkah - a temporary shelter that protects one from the elements - in one’s own backyard, I thought of how wonderful a teaching tool it must be. Taking their meals in this little hut for a week, a family will have meaningful conversations about the fragility of life, how they’re grateful to have a house with plumbing and heating and, most important, about the hardships their ancestors endured while wandering the desert.

And when a structure is this meaningful to a people, it’s only natural to want to share it with others. So, in 2011, non-profit housing agency Kehilla hatched Sukkahville, a competition to re-imagine the little religious structure while raising awareness about affordable housing. Based on Sukkah City, a similar competition held in New York City the year before, Sukkahville was a roaring success, despite taking place in a parking lot.

“It started in a very modest way,” laughs Ed Applebaum, 58, a principal at Montgomery Sisam Architects and chair of Sukkahville since its inception.

That first year, architects, artists, designers and students created sukkahs out of wood, wire, milk crates and just about everything else, all while respecting strict laws to keep them kosher. In 2012 and 2013, corporate sponsorships increased and Sukkaville expanded, taking up residence at Mel Lastman Square. Teams arrived from all over the globe to try their hand; the winners in 2013 - non-Jews I might add - came all the way from Cyprus. This year, the competition will take place at Nathan Phillips Square.

“This has been a fully open design competition,” explains Mr. Applebaum. “Most of the applicants have not been Jewish, and most of the applicants that have won have not been Jewish.

“It’s important to prescribe what the rules are, and what the conceptual basis is behind what a sukkah means and the whole notion of creating a primitive hut, but using those laws in a contemporary manner with contemporary materials and with a contemporary form and expression so that it’s exciting and new.”

Briefly, here are some of the laws for building a sukkah: Inside must be no smaller than 27 by 27 inches but no larger than 100 square feet; it must be taller than 38 inches but no taller than 30 feet; walls can be made of any material, but must be sturdy enough to withstand an ordinary wind and, finally, the roof structure must be covered with something “that grows from the soil and is completely detached from the ground” that provides more shade than light while inside (at night, one must be able to see the stars).

Sukkahville entrants - this year there were more than 100 - are first judged by a panel of rabbis. Those that survive rabbinical scrutiny are judged next by a “celebrity” panel that chooses eight finalists. 

These lucky eight must then take their conceptual work and figure out how to construct it, as all will be put on public display in a little more than a week.

Representing Toronto in 2014 are Ryerson architectural science students Nivin Nabeel, Daniel Bassakyros, and Louise Shin. While Mr. Bassakyros had never heard of a sukkah when approached by Ms. Nabeel in May (after she’d seen a posting), he quickly agreed to join the team.

“It’s good practice – it hones our skills for design, and thinking how things are put together,” he says.

While it took the trio a month to come up with “Cloud & Light,” the real work began once they’d been awarded finalist status. Ms. Nabeel remembers it took a full two weeks just to select the right type of wood to build the structure, and Mr. Bassakyros laughs when he thinks of holding Tyvek samples up to the light to see which would best allow their sukkah’s walls to glow at night.

Managing a team of first-year students enlisted to help construct the sukkah was even more challenging: “It’s a completely different experience than just doing renderings,” says Ms. Nabeel.

Their design, which looks like a tall, stepped skyscraper, has a double layer of Tyvek as its skin; lighting is hidden between the layers to represent “a lantern, a beacon,” explains Mr. Bassakyros, since the Jews were led out of the desert by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.

To bring that image into the 21st century however, the team considered how today, in big cities, day and night are less distinct: “It’s almost like the city never sleeps,” says Mr. Bassakyros. “Sometimes night is like day, so we made a sukkah that embodies the idea that day and night are one.

“It’s like the sukkah that never sleeps,” he laughs.

Sukkahville 2014 took place on Oct. 14-15 at Nathan Phillips Square outside Toronto City Hall. To find out more visit


Going where the Ebola is


Sally Oren - The Times of Israel

Well ahead of the Israeli government’s recent decision to send mobile emergency clinics to West Africa, IsraAID was providing psychological assistance to the families of Ebola victims and educating local communities on prevention techniques. We are recruiting Israeli health care workers to join in our efforts. Wherever we are needed - even in the most perilous sites - IsraAID will be there.

Founded in 2001, IsraAID is committed to aiding the victims of natural and human-made disasters throughout the world. IsraAID workers - most of them volunteers - were the first on the ground in earthquake-shattered Haiti, in war-ravaged Africa, and in four hurricane and tornado-stricken areas in the United States. IsraAID has applied Israel’s expertise in emergency medical care, search-and-rescue, post-traumatic stress therapy, and the treatment of sexually abused women to more than a million people in twenty-two countries. And, unlike most relief organizations, IsraAID does not only deal with the disaster but remains to train local psychologists and aid professions to carry on its crucial work.

First in Washington and since returning to Israel, I have been privileged to serve as a goodwill ambassador for IsraAID. My first mission was to Tohoku, Japan, where the 2011 tsunami killed twenty thousand people.

A mere hour’s ride out of Tokyo, our express train crossed a landscape that was utterly devastated but - in the uniquely Japanese fashion - cleaned up. Apart from its barrenness, the countryside showed no sign of that disaster, but the same could not be said of the survivors. They bore the deep psychological scars and none more tragically than the children. IsraAID was there to help.

Arriving in Japan just four days after the tsunami, IsraAID participated in the massive clean-up and helped rebuild schools. But the long-term need, we realized, was psychological, specifically helping the survivors overcome the horrors they had witnessed. So we set up workshops for expressive art and dance therapy that were specifically adapted for the local cultural needs. Together with a music therapist, I worked in a school equipped with Geiger counters in each classroom - radiation remained a threat - and taught Israeli folkdances to children ages three to six. Dancing and art provides non-verbal venues for these children, many of them orphaned, to express their feelings of fear and loss. Though we did not share a common language, we bonded with these rural Japanese. As several of the children took my hand, I felt immensely proud and fulfilled to be an Israeli aiding my fellow human beings.

Since then, I have worked with IsraAID in Ormoc, in the Philippines, which was nearly destroyed by a typhoon, and in Jordan, aiding Syrian refugees. In Jordan, especially, the thought that Israelis could be dispensing food and hygienic supplies to those who are technically at war with us was deeply moving. The recipients knew who we were and openly showed their gratitude. Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs work side-by-side in providing life-saving relief to our northern neighbours who, we immediately saw, were people just like us.

By every international standard, IsraAID is an amazing success. In Japan, which only reluctantly accepted international relief, a local board has been established to support the organization’s continuing activities. IsraAID remains in the Philippines as well and as in South Sudan, where we focus on gender-based violence. But now IsraAID is facing one of its most daunting challenges: the Ebola epidemic in Africa.

We Jews often stress our commitment to tikkun olam - the work of improving the world. Through a universalist notion that might place our devotion to humanity’s needs before those of Israel and the Jewish people, tikkun olam can be achieved through the goodwill of the Jewish State. IsraAID enables Jews to fulfill that global vision through Israel and its highly-skilled and dedicated volunteers. From post-tsunami Japan and now in Ebola-plagued Sierra Leone, IsraAID is making tikkun olam a reality.

Sally Oren is an IsraAID Goodwill Ambassador and the wife of Michael Oren, Israel’s Former Ambassador to the US.



South Africa classmates reconnect like only they know how

Decades removed, at a private game reserve in South Africa, the unique bond felt by the Class of 1984 at Durban’s Carmel College had endured. Twenty-four graduates from the now defunct Jewish high school had gathered for a reunion of the class precipitated by its 30th anniversary.

“The relationships between us were very much like brother and sister,” Warren Bank, an advocate in Johannesburg who conceived of the reunion, said of the class. For three days this summer, the classmates enjoyed the type of camaraderie that they said surpassed any close group that transports itself decades back.

They cited their hometown’s small and dwindling Jewish community, Carmel’s powerful Jewish-Zionist orientation that bound students to Israel and world Jewry, and the intense pull of what Bank termed the “Durban Diaspora.” Or, as Judith Dubin put it, “the South African experience” of Jewish dispersion and large-scale emigration prompted by her homeland’s upheavals preceding and following the fall of apartheid. “So many of us fanned out after college,” said Dubin, a television producer who lives in New York City and attended the reunion. “You look for those anchors to reinforce who you are and where you came from.”

Carmel’s deep influence on its alumni keeps the institution very much alive in graduates’ hearts. Nearly all the 1984 graduates have relocated – like most young Jews from Durban. The city’s Jewish population today is 2,000, down from 7,000 in the 1970s. Some of the 52 Carmel graduates settled elsewhere in South Africa, principally in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The others left for Australia, Canada, England, Israel and the United States. But with so many of their parents remaining in Durban, graduates often visit. Wherever Carmel alumni travel, in fact, they like to rustle up a few classmates to reconnect.  

For the first unofficial reunion, the classmates came together for a welcoming kiddush following Friday night services at the Durban United Hebrew Congregation, known as the Great Synagogue. There was a Sabbath dinner at the nearby home of a classmate, Kevin Baitz.  And on a Sunday morning they visited their old school – Carmel closed about a decade ago, its building now housing another school. The current principal hosted a formal tea.

But the centerpiece would be Saturday’s overnight stay at a lodge in the Tala Private Game Reserve – no spouses and children allowed. The carved-out space and time were reserved for the graduates alone to recollect their youth and delve into their adult lives. “The kinship is something quite special, and you don’t ever have that with someone you meet subsequently,” Bank said. “You have that shared experience.”

Some who didn’t make it back to South Africa could still join in the festivities. At the Friday night dinner and at the Tala lodge, where attendees schmoozed deep into the night around the fireplace (this being winter in the Southern Hemisphere), far-flung classmates spoke to their old friends via Skype. At one point, nine graduates from abroad were participating electronically.  From San Diego, Calif., Anton Monk said he could see the “ear-to-ear grins” of his ex-classmates. “It was like we never left South Africa,” added Monk, who moved to Southern California as a teenager. From Israel, Stanley Behrman later emailed his classmates apologizing for having talked too much during the two Skype feeds.

“But it was clearly way beyond my control,” he wrote. “As each person hooked up to the call, my emotions went on tilt. I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry, but I did want to reach out and give each person a huge, long hug. I felt like we could have chatted for another 10 hours, and it still would not have been nearly enough.”

Dubin said the reunion’s experience “reinforced for all of us the need to keep doing this.” She hopes another reunion will be held within five years.

Monk said the wide dispersal of the class actually might be preserving the ties. Had the majority settled in Johannesburg, for example, “I’m not sure [the reunion] would have had the same meaning,” he said.

The Carmel classmates are endowing their hometown with additional

meaning, launching a fund to benefit Beth Shalom. The institution provides “a safe haven for the elderly from our community - many of whom are our relatives or friends,” Kim Lombard wrote in an email to her classmates.

“Our success has much to do with the community in which we were all raised and I believe has contributed to the strength of the bonds we formed and continue to derive much joy from.”



David Arkin

Sitting around the Shabbat lunch table in early May, on the eve of her departure to Poland, my wife, Tali, mentioned that she was travelling there with her parents and other extended family to consecrate the new Ohel where their Rubin ancestors, the four rebbes of Glogow, were buried. Tali explained that the Rubin Rebbes were direct descendants of the Ropshitz Hasidic dynasty (Rav Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz 1760-1827). Our hostess turned to me, and jokingly asked if I had checked my ketuba, for marrying into a Hasidic sect should increase the dowry to have been paid before my wedding!

Jokes aside, the ohel was officially opened May 12, 2014 amongst much fanfare, in the presence of the Rubin clan, Chief Rabbi of Poland, representatives of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the mayor of Glogow, scores of the local townsfolk, and local media and press. The project (led by my in-laws and ex-Durbanites, Urri and Cochava) took over four years to come to fruition. 

With the pace of modern construction, entire towns, huge stadiums, and big highways could be built in this time. Yet, as one can see from the pictures, the end product is a modest-looking fence and gate, enclosing a modest-looking ohel and tomb-stones, all amidst the beautiful forested town-center of a small shtetl in southeastern Poland. Well, it was a shtetl. Nowadays, Glogow Malopolski (its full-name) is pretty nondescript and has a population of around 5500 souls (none of them Jewish). It’s not entirely in the middle of nowhere, for it is only 12 km from Rzeszow and its busy airport. But for all its modesty, the structure represents a cemetery dating back to 1712, and over two centuries of Jewish life in a shtetl that ended in the Holocaust.

After the Nazis threw Polish Jewry into disarray, the descendants of the Hasidim of Ropshitz fled mainly to UK (and then Israel) and the USA. Today, one half of the Rubin clan is based in UK and Israel, whilst the other half are largely in New York State, in Hasidic communities. From what I understand, there was little or no contact between the families on either side of the Atlantic, until a cousin in Monsey got in touch with a cousin from the UK in early 2010. The Monsey cousin is one of the grandsons of the Dinover Rebbe shlita, who is thought to be last-living Jew actually born in Glogow. Grandfather instructed grandson to research his ancestral burial place, which was the catalyst for renewed contact.

From the outset, arguments about the best way to go about restoring the cemetery were rife. For a start communication was a strain: the Rubin Hasidim in the USA spoke only Yiddish (very poor English and no Hebrew). The Rubins in the UK and Israel spoke no Yiddish. The Monsey cousin wanted to erect an ohel quickly, cheaply and illegally, whilst the Anglo-Israeli side wanted to do it by the book, in partnership with the Polish authorities. Back in 2010, Urri was diagnosed with cancer. He vividly recalls talking on the phone in the midst of a chemotherapy treatment in London with his distant American cousin, getting more and more upset, until Cochava took the phone away. Almost a year later, after he had recovered, he travelled to Poland for the first-time to see the town where his father of blessed memory (also Naftali Zvi named after the Dynasty’s founder) grew up. He even saw (from the outside) the original house (complete with an empty mikvah at the bottom of the basement!) where his father lived as a child.

So if Dummies ever did publish a book of this nature, it would consist basically of two chapters. This is thanks to fantastic cooperation between all levels of Polish government, the Polish courts, and Jewish NGOS’s after the fall of communism in the late eighties/early nineties in restoring Jewish heritage sites. This cooperation is largely responsible for the emergence of “Holocaust Tourism” into the country. Dummies Guide: Chapter one - Make a claim in order that the asset is listed on a registry of formal Jewish assets. Chapter two - Prove communal ownership through a local court. FODZ - the Polish acronym for the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland - was incredibly efficient in driving the process. The NGO has three aims: reclaim Jewish communal properties by providing legal services, manage returned properties, and protecting properties. The small professional staff of ten oversees Jewish heritage sites outside the major cities, covering two-thirds of Poland’s Jewish sites on 90% of the land. 

Once the Polish courts had approved the claim, work began on constructing the perimeter fence (the original fence was retained on one side). The tricky part was identifying where the ohel was thought to have stood, and the location of the graves. An archaeologist was recruited, and after some excavation, the original ohel floor was unearthed! All during this time, the Rubins were busy building family trees and reconstructing the Hasidic dynasty, discussing and arguing over who may have been buried where, and on what date. The archaeologist managed to resolve the puzzle by dating the stones approximately corresponding to the yarzheits of all four the former Glogow rebbes - confirming that all four were indeed buried there. The penultimate step of the project was the construction of the new ohel, over the site of the original one, though this was delayed by legal issues and the weather, till the Spring/Summer when the ground was soft enough to build.

The final part of the project was the opening ceremony. This in itself took several months to plan, as it involved coordination with a whole horde of dignitaries mentioned at the beginning of this article. Unfortunately, in the end none of the US-based Rubins travelled to Poland for the opening. In addition to the ceremony, Urri planned an action-packed three-day, whirlwind heritage tour taking in nearby stops on the tourist Hasidic route: Lucant and its renovated shul, as well as the Kever (grave) of the Rebbe of Ropshitz, Ropczyce, Lezajsk, and a mass grave in the Glogow forest. Driving around the Polish countryside in a bus, literally from grave to grave, obligated the Rubins to confront the spirits and memories of their murdered ancestors (some of whom the touring party were named after). This no doubt gave them a sense of pride at their rich family heritage. But perhaps the most surprising part of the whole trip was meeting the local townsfolk in Glogow and visiting the family house, this time from the inside. The elderly Poles were happy to talk and share their memories. Some openly confessed to pilfering tombstones from the cemetery over the years. One elderly lady told Cochava and Tali that her brother had a Jewish girlfriend whom he hid during the war. The Gestapo found out and killed him when he wouldn’t betray her hiding place. To this day she doesn’t know what happened to the girlfriend. In the family house, Urri saw both the Mikveh which served the community, as well as the attic in which his father and brothers used to play.

I doubt whether my children will be able to demand royalties for being descendants of a Hasidic dynasty, but I certainly intend one day to take them to see the restored cemetery and Ohel that their Saba and Safta built.




Deb Findlay

One Friday morning in March 2000, I was walking tiredly along a very long road in Rome. Logic dictated that I take a bus; fear of getting carried away to an unknown, unpronounceable destination deterred me. I plodded on, calculator in one pocket, Italian dictionary in the other.

Eventually I came upon a portable shop, which consisted of two barrows, manned by two Italian men. The shop stocked t-shirts and souvenirs, and I stopped to buy gifts for my children.

As I debated the merits of various sizes with the young assistant, the older man handed a brown paper packet to a customer standing nearby, and wished him “Shabbat  Shalom!” I turned around. (Well -wouldn’t you have done the same?)

The store owner introduced himself expansively: “My name is Libero!” and explained to me in Hebrew (“You speak Hebrew better than you speak Italian, Signora!) that his name meant “Freedom”. His family had lived in Rome for hundreds of years. His mother had recently made aliyah and was living up to her name, in Haifa. He told me that many Roman Jewish families had similar businesses that catered to the tourist trade, and I was reminded of a young man I had met outside the Pantheon many years before, who had seen my Magen David, and told me he was Jewish. (Actually, at the time, I kept hearing my father’s dire warnings about handsome strangers echoing in my head and I wasn’t over friendly!) On this occasion however, I was intrigued. Here was an Italian man, a little older than I was, who spoke the most beautiful melodic modern Hebrew. And (thanks to Issy Fisher) I could understand him!

The conversation flowed as conversations between strangers often do. The buses and the cars sped by, but I was in no hurry to take my life in my hands and leave the hospitality of the barrow, for the hazards of Roman traffic.

When I had completed my shopping, Mr Libero insisted that I choose a shirt for myself, because he wanted to give me a gift. “You are a Jewish woman, and I am a Jewish man. You could have bought your gifts and walked on, but you stayed and talked to me. We are Jewish people, and the Jewish people need to look after one another in the world.”

Fourteen years on, as Israel emerges from yet another bloody battle for its right to exist; as the tidal wave of anti-Semitism swells like a tsunami, and hate speech is spewed at Jewish communities here and abroad, my thoughts return to that Friday morning in Rome. I have long since “outgrown” the t-shirt with the “Roma” slogan, but I have never forgotten the friendly dark-eyed man, with silver hair, whose words were the greatest gift of all. “We are Jewish people, and the Jewish people need to look after one another in the world.”



Michelle Shapira

For the past 9 years, the Mail & Guardian has chosen 200 young South Africans for inclusion in a booklet highlighting their achievements and holding them up as role models for the youth of South Africa. Daniel Sheward, a doctoral student at the University of Cape Town, has been chosen for the 2014 edition of their booklet.

Born and raised in Durban, the youngest son of Anita Sheward, brother of Jason Stout and Ryan Sheward, Daniel attended Carmel College. He later studied for a BSc in biomedical science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, before moving to Cape Town where he completed honours in infectious diseases and immunology, followed by his master’s in medical virology at UCT. He also underwent training at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg. Within the scope of his doctorate, Daniel has been part of a pioneering study aimed at beating HIV.

“Vaccines represent the best tools we have to control infectious diseases and have saved hundreds of millions of lives. However, HIV has proven to be an unprecedented challenge and has sent vaccinologists back to the drawing board,” he says. “I am trying to understand the immune response, particularly the development of antibodies, to HIV in infected individuals, and to use this to inform the design of a next generation of vaccines.”

Regarding the motivation for his field of study, Daniel says “I was passionate about science and simply wanted to be involved in an important field. Infectious diseases sounded rewarding. South Africa had been hit hard with HIV and Aids so I started out in an HIV lab at UCT and haven’t looked back.”

On behalf of the Durban Jewish community we wish Daniel a heartfelt “Mazal Tov”, and every success in this important endeavor!



Well, here we are again. Le’Shanah Tovah to all of you, even those who don’t regularly read PAST TENSE.  It’s your loss!

HASHOLOM - “Rosh Hashonah (original spelling) Annual”, September 1939.

I have just spent 3½ days reading all the material in the issue’s 72 foolscap pages. Available space limits this report to the simplest summaries of some of the most interesting articles. For the same reason, some have had to be omitted.

EDITORIAL - “The Wider Issue” - stressed the desire for the “establishment of peace triumphant and everlasting.”

“WHY AM I A JEW?” asked Chief Rabbi J. L. Landau in a learned article, which covered historically the answers that had been advanced over the centuries and concluded that “the Jewish soul with all her national hopes and longings will ever remain invincible”.

RABBI IN WESTWARDWOLD was a short story by the famous Jewish writer, Louis Golding.  

THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION TO WORLD SANITY by Professor Norman Bentwich, professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University, stressed, in this context, the work of Einstein and Freud.

RICHARD WAGNER, A JEWISH RENEGADE, by Felix Gross Ph.D advanced the theory that Wagner was the illegitimate son of a Jew. We Jews have a bad habit of claiming that prominent people are somehow connected to us, but do we really want Wagner?

Cecil Roth, the famous historian, in his article “ISRAEL - the Eternal Protestant”, advanced the theory that Mordechai who “bowed not, nor did he reverence” Hamman, symbolised the Jewish people.

Professor Rabbi Israel Abrahams of Cape Town in his article “THE BIBLE AS LITERATURE” argued that the “Book of Books” is at once sacred, historical and a literary masterpiece.

Eric Rosenthal, later a famous participant in international quiz competitions, wrote an interesting analysis of the U.S.A. in “A SOUTH AFRICAN LOOKS AT AMERICAN JEWRY”.

In Senator Dr Edgar Brookes’ article on THE JEW AND THE NATIVE, the Senator made a plea for real friendship with the African (this was 1939, remember).

Dr James Parkes, a non-Jewish writer, looked at the question of Jewish-Gentile relations in an article entitled WAYS FORWARD and concluded “we need more toleration of different views, more clarity”.

Edgar Bernstein (described in an editorial note on his article as “a young South African writer”) in THE JEWISH NOTE IN LITERATURE argued that East and West had met in literature through the strong influence that Jews had exerted on writers of all periods by “the very individual and personal Jewish conception of God”.

In a learned article under the title HELLENISTIC JUDAISM, Dr Theo Ronsheim discussed “a study of ancient racial interaction”.

Further articles which I do not have the space to review were “Symbols of Peace” by Hugh Harris; “Isaac Abravanel” by the Rev. S Levy; “The Jew and the Zulu War of 1879” by S. Rochlin; “Ideals of Redemption” by D. Meirowsky; “Martin Buber’s Psychology of the Jew” by Dr J. Sachs; “The Yishuv to the Galuth” by S. Ben-Aharon of Jerusalem; Our struggle” by Rabbi A.H. Freedman; Lionel Feitelberg reviewed “Palestine in 5699” and “The Year in Review” by Ben Avi.  All these articles were lavishly illustrated with photographs of the authors and their subjects.

Then there is a two page spread of photos of the Club itself, interior and exterior, as well as busy tennis courts, bowling greens and squash courts and those wonderful snooker tables of blessed memory.

And that is not all. Hasholom also contained full annual reports of all the various sections of the Club and the very active communal organisations with more photographs of prominent members of the community.

And the advertisements which made possible the publication of such a literary and visual pleasure are worth studying because in themselves they represent a kind of economic history of Durban.

That brings us to 

HASHALOM - September, 1964

It starts with 8 pages (quarto size, not foolscap) of New Year Messages illustrated with photographs, from Mr Alf Stiller, President D.J.C.; from Mr. Alan Magid, Chairman D.J.C. (does anyone remember when Alan wore black rimmed spectacles?); from Mr N. Philips Q.C., President S.A. Jewish Board of Deputies; from Rabbi A.T. Shrock; from Mr E.J. Horwitz, Chairman of the S.A. Zionist Federation; and from Rabbi Dr M. Miller.  Each of them urged their readers to do better in the coming year.

Then followed a page which contained posed photographs of the Council and Executive of the D.J.C. and then a Guest Editorial, whose message in a nutshell was: “We must look into our minds and into our hearts; we must drive out craven fear and expediency”. Inspiring stuff isn’t it?  

The reader of the 1964 Rosh Hashanah Annual must personally have breathed a sigh of relief upon coming to the first article in the issue - “THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN JUDAISM” by Rabbi Israel Abrahams, Chief Rabbi of Cape Town. In summary, the learned Rabbi concluded that “The position of women in Judaism is not inferior to that of men, it is different.”

Then followed an article by Arrie Silbermann, who, we are told, was a Past President of the United Hebrew Institutions of Benoni, on “REFLECTIONS ON THE HEBRAIC SPIRIT OF BROWNING”. Browning?  Hebraic spirit?  Wow!

Bernard Sachs reminisced on “THE ARTS OF THE OLD DAYS” in which he referred to the Yiddish Theatre in South Africa and some Jewish musicians he termed “the Music Makers”.

Then we come to a short story by Betty Meisheker, the well-known S.A. author, followed by “A non-Jew’s impressions of KIBBUTZ LAHAN” by Clive Brinkworth, a South African journalist who had recently visited Israel.

Then follows a page of poems by Joel Nathan, and “THE MALAISE OF THE JEWISH PRESS” by well-known journalist Henry Katzew.

I confess that I turned with some relief to a short story of domestic comedy from the pen of Norman Edinburg, whose sense of humour lightened HASHALOM in the 60’s.

Next Rabbi Goss discussed “The Inner Eye”, a collection of essays by Chaim Greenberg.  As one would expect from an article by Rabbi Goss, it was both well researched and interesting.

Dr Zelda Jacobson had delivered the Morrison Memorial Lecture on “THE BOOK OF ISAIAH” and the text of her lecture was fully reported.

The last contributed article is a careful, but fair analysis by Neil Hirchson of some of the errors made by Dr Arendt in her notorious book “Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil”. One wonders why someone as clever as Arendt could have been so wrong.  

This article takes us to page 57, and the remainder, to page 88, consists of reports of all the Sections of the Club, and all, literally all, the Jewish and Zionist organisations in Durban.

Well there it is. In a straight competition, which would you prefer?  In 1939, there were no messages, and considerable reading matter. In 1964, there were 6 messages, and much less to read. The older one, in my opinion, wins hands down!



 - Pundit



Rev. Michael Adler reported:

Much interest had been aroused by the work to prepare “our” refugees for an agricultural life in Palestine.

Twelve MP’s, of whom one was Jewish, had recently had an interview with the Colonial Secretary in order to urge the advisability of establishing Jewish colonies in the Negev, “now practically empty, but in ancient days teeming with population”.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN STAGE (not Thespian, remember).

“Die Suiderstem”, while supporting the principle of freedom of speech, declared that the law of defamation should be extended to permit a civil action to be instituted by a member of a group which had been defamed as at certain meetings held recently on the Parade, Cape Town. In addition it advocated support for criminal sanctions against what in 2014 would be called “hate speech”.

In dealing with recent controversy about Jewish refugees, the “Natal Witness” argued that “provided a right choice of immigrant is made, nothing is more fruitful to the nourishment of the State than an infiltration of people determined to make good and to become good citizens of a new country.”

Under the headline “NATIONALISTS AND THE JEWS” it was reported that the Jewish problem was discussed at several recent meetings of various organs of the Nationalist Party at which some Nationalist MP’s and other leaders made anti-Semitic and pro-Greyshirt statements.

“Die Suiderstem” argued that the extensive publicity given by organs of the Nationalist Party to the alleged “communist menace” was “a cloak” for the Nazi leanings of the Party since it had incorporated the Grey shirts and Blackshirt elements.

“The Sunday Times” revealed that the South African Police were carrying out extensive investigations into the smuggling into Southern Africa of firearms and ammunition “by Nazi agents”.



Mr. H. Moss Morris who had been elected as a delegate to the World Zionist Council;

Miss Adele Cohen and Mr. H. Barkham, Dr. S. Fine and Miss H. Solomon, and Miss Tilly Woolf and Mr. Jack Malkin, on their respective engagements;

Miss Freda Rosenbach and Mr. M. Muravitz, Mr. Jack Abelson and Miss D. Ovedoff, and Mr. M. Goldberg and Miss T. Mendelon on their respective marriages;

Jack Droyman and Julius Gurwitz on winning the Club mens’ doubles tennis championship;

Len Saul on winning the Tenth Year Commemoration Cup for tennis. (This congratulations was rather muted by the immediate following sympathy expressed to Jack Droyman for having sprained his ankle when leading two sets to one);


The Culture Section reported on three lectures held on 18 July under the chairmanship of Dr. B. Moshal: “Vocational Guidance for Jewish Youth” delivered by Mr. A. Levine; “The Jewish Education of Jewish Youth” by Mr. David Harris; and Mr. Sandler (was this Max?) on “The relationship of Jewish Youth to Sport and Physical Training”. Lively discussion on all three lectures, participated in by many of the “usual suspects” of the time, followed.  In addition, a well-attended lecture in Yiddish by Rabbi Kossovsky on the topic “The Future of the Jewish People” was held. It was reported that the audience was held “spellbound” and Rabbi Kossovsky “ended on an optimistic note of firm conviction that the Jewish people would yet survive even this darkest hour of their existence”. Mr. S. Goldberg, so it was reported, “showed himself to be thoroughly bilingual” in proposing a vote of thanks.

The Dramatic Section reported on a production to be staged at the Criterion Theatre, jointly with the Durban Repertory Theatre, which was to be directed by Miss Leontine Sagan, the famous South African Producer.

The activities of the Tennis, Squash, Ladies, and Men’s and Ladies’ Bowls Sections were also extensively reported.

And World War II was less than a month away!



“A Hebrew page was introduced in these pages several months ago. Not only the Editor, but the Club Executive gave its blessing and without fuss or fanfare ‘Hebrew Corner’ made its appearance”. And it was still there when the Editorial was written!


Like the title? It was a headline to some humorous verse, which unfortunately there is insufficient space for Pundit to quote in full.  To whet your collective appetites, here are the first two lines:

“I’m the Gargarin

Of Mea She’arim”

Pundit’s three readers (who now include Malcolm Smith whose letter to the Editor Pundit much appreciated) should enquire at the CKNJ office for volume 42B of the collected Hashalom if they wish to follow it up.


The 1964 IUA Campaign was launched at a banquet at the Club, attended by 200 men. Although the report does not say so, there was at least one lady present, the wife of the guest of honour, Canadian Judge Freedman. She also appears in the photograph a the head of the report, together with Mr. A. Levine, Chairman of the Zionist Council, Rabbi A. Miller, Mr. H Liepmann, Mr. Cyril Davidson, Chairman of the Campaign, Rabbi Dr. A.T. Shrock, and, in front, Judge Freedman. Judge Freedman’s speech, promoting the IUA campaign was fully reported.


Reported that Mr. Sam Ernst, the Regional Director of Jewish Education, and Mrs. Ernst had recently celebrated their Silver Wedding and had been the guests of honour at a luncheon at the Club “attended by leading members of the Durban Jewish community. Mr. P.A.M. Magid presided. He was supported by Mrs. Magid, Mr. and Mrs. A. Stiller and Mr. and Mrs. G. Kane. Mr. Stiller is President of the Club and Mr. Kane is Chairman of the Jewish Educational Council”. Pundit wonders why Mr. Magid required the “support” of five people. Was the wine flowing so freely?


June and Julian Berman, Maureen and Dorian Cohen, Pam and Ken Levy, and Sandra and Gordon Seef, on the birth of sons;

Sandra and Reuben Kravat on the birth of a daughter;

Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Miller on the birth of a grandson in Johannesburg;

Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Gar, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Bass, on their recent marriages;

Dr. and Mrs. J. Hellman on the marriage of their son, Alan;

Advocate R.N. Leon Q.C. on his recent re-election as President of the Convocation of the University of Natal and to the Bar Council;

Mr. and Mrs. P. Baum and Mr. and Mrs. B. Gevisser on the bar mitzvah of their sons;

Mr. and Mrs. M. Muravitz on their Silver Wedding anniversary.

In view of the limited space available to me, I can merely mention in passing an article or short story written by May Natalie Tabak, who is described as “American Author, Kindergarten Teacher, Poetess and social Worker”, under the title “My Grandmother had Yichus - The Great Jewish Intangible”, which deals in such detail with the importance of yichus to a certain generation of Jews that one finds some joy in the manner in which the Bobba received her comeuppance. This is certainly one for the HASHALOM OMNIBUS if it is ever collected and published.

The note to be found under “Mincha on the Moon” applies to this article as well.



- Michelle Shapira

Our beautiful cover image was created by American Jewish artist, Judith Joseph. Judith tells Hashalom that “In The Forest” was inspired by a photo of a beautiful white peacock, against a lawn of emerald green. She thought it would be interesting to paint peacocks in white, and paint the world around them in the colors we expect peacocks to be. The image became a metaphor for the idea that the world becomes what we send out into it: our actions, words and emotions. Thus, with everything we do, we re-enact the Creation of the world.

Painter, calligrapher and educator, Judith has created hundreds of commissioned works for individuals and public institutions. Her specialty is the Ketubah (Hebrew illuminated marriage contract, an illustrated calligraphic work used in Jewish weddings). Judith has a degree in art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received Illinois Arts Council Artist’s Fellowship Awards in 1998 and 2004. 

Judith reports that her art is heavily influenced by her childhood, which was encamped between the poles of Jewish culture and learning, and art.  She attended Hebrew school, but her best Hebrew education was foreign language classes in her public high school. Her father shared his love of Jewish history and literature.  Her mother studied art history and exposed her to medieval and renaissance illuminated manuscripts, which fascinated her, and led to her love affair with the Ketubah.  Judith began making ketubot at the age of 17, right as the art form was experiencing the beginning of a great revival, which continues to this day.  To date, she had lettered and illuminated over 500 ketubot.

In addition to making ketubot, Judith is involved in painting, print-making and calligraphy, and she teaches painting classes. She is currently teaching a Beit Midrash for artists, which teams her with Jane Shapiro, a Torah scholar, to explore art-making using Torah study as a source of inspiration. The class will culminate in an exhibition.

An extensive portfolio of her work may be seen at:



- Michelle Shapira

Steven Firer was awarded an LLM degree by the University of the Witwatersrand recently. Steven grew up in Durban and went to Carmel College. An auditor and chartered accountant by profession, and a technical partner at Nkonki Inc, he was challenged by a company director regarding his legal knowledge in respect of an audit back in 2010. His reaction to this encounter was to get a law degree. He also has a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Bachelor of Accounting Sciences degree, an MBA and a Doctorate.  

The focus of his LLM thesis was the regulation of the liability of auditors in the event of negligence by the directors of a company that they had audited. Steven said of his achievement “Getting a law degree was about more than just proving a point. I wanted to gain credibility and make a difference in the accounting industry”. 

A father of four, Steven attributes his success to the support of his dear wife, Desiree. Steven is the son of Marcia Firer, resident of Beth Shalom. Marcia is justifiably proud of her son and we wish Steven and his family Mazal Tov on this outstanding achievement.





The Musical received a rave review. I mention it because unlike most theatre reviews, it contains “a special tribute to the backbone of all big stage productions - the backstage staff, Cliff Rosenthal, Sonny Fobb and Alec Wartski and their gang of industrious stage hands.”

LONDON NEWS LETTER contained a number of reports which are of historical interest:

“The new campaign for the purchase of land in Palestine began last week with…. a dinner at the Savoy….and the sum of £ 33 000 was collected… Among the speakers was Mr. Jan Masaryk who called himself the refugee from Czechoslovakia…”

“The violence on the part of a few hot-heads in Palestine is being severely condemned both in the community and in the general press.”

“The ominous quiet on the part of Germany during recent weeks has evidently been the outcome of the movement to join up Russia to France and England in an anti-aggression alliance.” Whoever wrote this plainly did not understand the people with whom they were dealing. Within a month Hitler and Stalin had agreed on a non-aggression pact and on the 1st of September, Hitler invaded Poland and started World War II - Pundit

“England has now about 750 000 men under arms. Young Jews are pouring into the armed forces of the Crown with a spirit of loyalty that is being recognised in all quarters.”


A further debate in Parliament on Jewish immigration.

A committee appointed by the Minister of Education to consider whether facilities for medical training in South Africa were adequate had found that of 1189 medical students in South African universities, 421 (35%) were English, 328 (30%) were Afrikaans, 421 (35%) were Jewish. (75 years later, Pundit wonders why Jews were then treated as separate from the “English” or “Afrikaans” sections of the student population).

While the large majority of the South African media were definitely opposed to anti-Semitism, a large quantity of anti-Jewish propaganda is being disseminated.

A certain group which was agitating for a neutrality policy insinuated that Jews were in favour of war.

Certain political groups and the Dutch Reformed Church had embarked on a crusade against Communism, which had revealed a tendency to associate “the foreigner” or “the Jews” with Communist influences.



Miss Jayne Chanani and Mr Sam Ernst, and Miss Hannah Lax and Mr Abrahams, on their respective marriages;

Mr & Mrs Gerald Linder on the birth of a daughter;

Miss Eve Schultz and Mr M. Gluckman on their engagement.


Under this heading Hasholom reported on the activities of:

The Culture Section which on 19th June had held a seminar on “The Jew in the World”.  Mr Harry Moss Morris spoke on “The Jew in Palestine”, Rabbi Friedman on “The Jew in British Guiana”, and Mr Sol Moshal on “The Jew in South Africa”.

The Tennis Section reported on various matches to be played and mentioned that “owing to the large number of members in the club, it has been found absolutely imperative to start a waiting list.”

The Luncheon Section reported on Luncheons with an impressive list of guest speakers held on 1st, 8th, 15th and 29th June and 6th and 13th July.

The Ladies’, the Entertainment, Squash Rackets (sic), Mens’ and Ladies’ Bowls Sections all of which were very active.

Sic transit gloria mundi!


The Editorial (with apologies to the Zionist Record) celebrated the 60th anniversary of the death of Theodor Herzl, the 30th anniversary of the death of Chaim Nachman Bialik and the recent decision of the Israeli Government to transfer the remains of Ze’ev Jabotinsky from exile to be re-interred in Israel, with brief biographical notes.

The Editorial was followed by a report of the forthcoming arrival of two celebrities who were to visit the community - Canadian Judge, Mr Justice Simon Freedman, and Mrs Freedman, from Manitoba, and Netania Davrathi, an internationally famous Israeli lyric soprano.  Judge Freedman was to be the main speaker at the opening of the 1964 Israel United Appeal campaign at the Club on 16th August and Ms Davrathi would be the guest artist at a Donor Dinner in aid of the I.U.A. to be held at the Butterworth Hotel on 12th August.

Then followed an interesting interview with Mr I.A. Maisels on the topic “Why I took over the I.U.A.”. He was, of course, not describing his commercial takeover of a huge financial profit-making house, but giving reasons why he, while extremely busy in his profession, found himself compelled to assume responsibility for the major undertaking of leading the National I.U.A.

Following the I.U.A. theme, the eye is then caught by a handsome photograph of Cyril Davidson accompanied by a report of his having accepted the office of Chairman of the local I.U.A. campaign. A potted biography related to his education at Durban High School, his business career, his marriage to Ettie Stiller, their two children, Wendy and Marcus, and the fact that “Wendy (Mrs Aubrey Josephson) has presented the Davidsons with four lovely grandchildren.”

And that, thinks Pundit, is a convenient time to finish this copy of Past Tense, with the good news that, apart from Cyril and Ettie, all 




Gavin Rabinowitz 

IOANNINA, Greece (JTA) - When the Jews of Ioannina gathered in their whitewashed-stone synagogue, it was to commemorate 70 years since the Nazis destroyed their community.

But the March 30th gathering also served to highlight a source of present-day sadness: the withering of the unique 2,300 year-old Romaniote Jewish tradition.

Ioannina, a postcard-pretty town in northwestern Greece with a medieval fortress perched by a bright blue lake and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, once was the centre of Romaniote Jewish life. Today the community numbers fewer than 50 members, most of them elderly. The last time the community celebrated a bar mitzvah was in 2000.

“We try to do our best to keep the traditions, but the numbers are very hard.”

“It is very difficult,” said Moses Elisaf, the community’s president. “We try to do our best to keep the traditions, but the numbers are very hard.” he said, standing on the peaceful lakefront Mavili Square, where the Nazis loaded the town’s Jews onto trucks to be shipped to Auschwitz.

The Romaniote Jews, neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardic, emerged from the first Jewish communities of Europe. Records indicate the first Jewish presence in Greece dating back to 300 BCE. A ruined second-century BCE synagogue on the Aegean island of Delos is believed to be the oldest discovered in the Diaspora.

These Jews became known as the Romaniotes, speaking their own language, Yevanic a version of Greek infused with Hebrew and written with the Hebrew script. Romaniote synagogues are unique. They have their own religious traditions and prayer book, the Mahzor Romania. Much of the worship is in Yevanic, and the tunes, including for reading the Torah, are influenced by Byzantine music.

“The Romaniote tradition is hugely important. It is a pre-Diasporic tradition based on the Talmud Yerushalmi,” said Zanet Battinou, the director of the Jewish Museum of Greece and herself a Romaniote who grew up in Ioannina.

But it is a community and a tradition that has long been in decline.

Following the expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492, many Sephardic Jews found refuge in the Ottoman Empire that then ruled Greece. Soon, major Sephardic communities sprang up, most notably in Thessaloniki, known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans.

The pre-existing Romaniote communities often were absorbed into the larger, wealthier Sephardic Ladino-speaking ones that eventually became largely synonymous with Greek Jewry.

“People don’t know about the Romaniote ancient Jewish community,” Battinou said. “Thessaloniki was so massive and successful, it overshadowed everything.”

It was only on isolated islands and in the rugged mountains of western Greece that the Romaniotes remained the dominant tradition, and Ioannina was the largest of these communities.

By the start of the 20th century, some 4,000 Romaniote Jews lived in Ioannina. But, amid the turmoill that accompanied the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, many emigrated.

Most went to the United States and Palestine, setting up Romaniote synagogues in New York City and Jerusalem. Later, a third was established in Tel Aviv. At the start of World War II, about 2,000 Jews remained in Ioannina.

On March 25, 1944, the German Nazi occupiers rounded up the Jews of Ioannina. As snow fell, they were put into open trucks and taken to a nearby city. From there, a nine-day rail journey took them to Auschwitz.

The names of Ioannina’s 1,832 Jews who were murdered are carved on marble tablets on the walls of the synagogue. Among the dead were more than 500 children under the age of 13.

Only 112 Ioannina Jews survived the death camps. Another 69 escaped the roundup, hiding with Christian families or fleeing into the mountains, where some fought with the Greek resistance. When they returned to Ioannina, many found their properties looted and homes occupied.

But it was not just the people who were wiped out. Centuries of tradition disappeared, too.

“Oral tradition is very dependent on the third generation”

“Oral tradition is very dependent on the third generation - most of the grandfathers and grandmothers were murdered.” Battinou said. Among the few survivors was her grandmother Zanet, after whom she is named. “The youth who survived only perpetuated what parts they remembered,” she said.

While Ioannina was the largest and the most iconic Romaniote community, several other small communities that identify with the Romaniote tradition continue to exist in places like Chalkida and Volos. But today, most of the remaining Romaniote Jews, like their Sephardic compatriots, live in Athens, Greece’s largest Jewish community. Athens has one Romaniote synagogue, built in 1906, but it is used only on the High Holidays.

Meanwhile, the Romaniote Jews who moved to the United States and Israel have intermingled with the larger Jewish communities.

Several Israeli Romaniotes attended the anniversary commemorations, drawn by family ties.

Yosef Baruch came with his brother and his uncle at the behest of his 90-year-old grandmother who survived the Nazis and moved to Israel after the war. Baruch says he has never prayed at the Romaniote synagogue in Jerusalem.

“It’s a tradition that was destroyed in the Holocaust,” he said.

None of the American Romaniotes attended the memorial ceremony.

In Greece, with the Jewish community so devastated after the war, there was no place for separate communities. Most religious services are now held according to Sephardic rites.

Today, only Cantor Haim Ischakis, who led the memorial prayer service, knows how to chant the Torah in the Romaniote tradition - something he learned from his father, also a cantor, who survived the camps.

“I am the only one left,” Ischakis said. He is teaching his two sons, but if they don’t take up his profession, the only examples left will be recordings on YouTube.

In fact, the Internet is emerging as the most likely tool for preserving Romaniote tradition. And the impetus for this online push has come from an unlikely source.

The Canadian ambassador to Greece, Robert Peck, who was instrumental in helping organize the commemorations, with Canada heading the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, noted the lack of available information about the Jews of Ioannina.

At his behest, the New Media Lab at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University designed a website detailing Ioannina’s Jewish history, and a soon-to-be-launched app will let people explore Jewish sites in the town and listen to survivor testimonies.

“I came to Ioannina and visited the synagogue, and I felt it was very important to carry beyond the borders of Greece what Ioannina represents, the legacy of the Jewish community here,” Peck said.

Still, the Romaniote Jews hope that through their efforts and dedication, something of their legacy, their community, will survive in the real world.

“It is very precious to me, and I try to pass it on to my children and hope they appreciate that from their mothers’ side, they inherit such a unique tradition,” Battinou said. “It is still alive; it is not extinct, yet.”



Rahul Vaishnavi

Gharaunda (Haryana), March 2 (IANS) Vertical farming, drip irrigation, soil solarisation and the like were terms that mystified Deepak Khatker, a 40-year-old farmer, when he first visited the Indo-Israel Centre of Excellence for Vegetables here a couple of years ago. Intrigued, he adopted the Israeli farming skills and, within months, saw production increase a staggering five-fold.

"We have traditionally grown wheat and barley in our fields but the techniques taught at the centre forced me to give vegetables a try," Khatker, a resident of Sheikhpura Khalsa village in Karnal district, about 100 km from the national capital, told IANS.

Of the over seven hectares of land that Khatker owns, around three hectares are currently being used to cultivate vegetables using Israeli know-how.

"I am growing cherry tomatoes, seedless cucumbers, brinjals and coloured capsicums. The production on my land is four to five times when compared with other farmers not using these technologies," he added.

Situated 145 km from Haryana capital Chandigarh, the centre opened in January 2011 and is spread across six hectares. Built for Rs.6 crore (Rs 60 million) by the Indian government, it was set up following the signing of the Agriculture Cooperation Agreement between India and Israel in 2008.

Experts from Israel regularly visit the centre and organize free training sessions for farmers, teaching them "protective agriculture" to increase their crop yields while using fertiliser and water optimally. The experts also visit the farms if needed.

In addition, corporates and professionals are also taught ways to produce quality vegetable seedlings at a nominal fee.

"The idea is to transfer applied research and technologies to the farmers in various states across India. While Israel has already entered into agreement with seven state governments to set up these centres, the most successful model has been Haryana," Israeli Embassy spokesman Ohad Horsandi told IANS.
At present there are 10 such Centres of Excellence with a special focus on mangoes, pomegranates and citrus fruits. By 2015, their number will increase to 28 as they also branch out to flowers, bee keeping and dairying.

According to S.K. Yadav, project manager of the Gharaunda centre, over 60 farmers, not only from Haryana but also from states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even Tamil Nadu, visit the centre daily. Last year, over 16,000 farmers were trained at the centre.

"Diverse technologies are demonstrated to the farmers so that they can choose the technology that suits them best and maximize their yield and profits," Yadav said.

Fifty-year-old Bijender Phor, another farmer from Khatker's village, who has been gradually shifting from growing grains to vegetables agreed, saying the centre is playing an important role in transforming the lives of farmers.

"Methods like vertical farming help save space on the ground by growing the crops vertically while drip irrigation saves almost 90 percent of water. These methods are revolutionary," said Phor.

Though the concept of "protective agriculture" is expensive as it requires greenhouses and poly-houses, government subsidies have ensured that interested farmers take the plunge.

"We get 90 percent subsidy for installing a drip irrigation as well as automatic irrigation system, while for the poly-houses, we get 65 percent rebate from the government," said Phor.

Phor and many others like him are now selling their produce directly to chains like Mother Dairy, courtesy the Centre of Excellence.

"We provide the retail chains with the names of farmers, their contact details and the crop they are growing so that they can contact them directly without leaving any room for intermediaries," said Yadav.

He also highlighted the government's role in improving the quality of seedlings by providing valuable feedback to seed companies.

"We test the samples of seedlings in our poly-house tunnels at the Centre. Once grown, the crop is displayed to the farmers and the feedback, along with steps for improvement, is sent back to the companies," said Yadav.




Hasholom – April 1939 – Extracts
(formerly Senior Jewish Chaplin to HM Forces)

• “The Arab-Jewish conference has broken own.”
• “The Government and Parliament are pre-occupied by
the European trouble which increases in seriousness.
The sudden march of the German army into
Czechoslovakiadestroyed the last hope that the Prime
Minster entertained of faith in the promises of the Nazi

• “The visit of Colonel Beck (the Polish Minister of
Foreign Affairs) has led to the formation of a pact of
defence between England and Poland that may prove
of vital importance in the near future. As a reprisal, Italy
has now invaded Albania, much to the indignation of
the world – except for her partner in crime in Berlin.”
• “In a well-informed article, ‘The Time’s’ last week
depicted the lot of the Jews in Germany, who are
meeting with every obstacle from their persecutors in
their efforts to emigrate.”

reported, as I have previously pointed out, on
political, not thespian matters.

• In the Parliamentary debate on the second reading of
the Aliens Act Amendment and Immigration Bill, there
was much debate on alleged Nazi influences on the
National Party.

• Much correspondence appeared in the Afrikaans press
on the subject of Nazism and the attitude the Afrikaner
should adopt towards it.

• A National Party Member of Parliament asked the
Minister of the Interior whether he would introduce
legislation to abolish slaughtering of animals in the
Jewish method in South Africa. The Minister responded
in the negative.

• The Rev Jansen van Ryssen wrote a letter to “Die
Burger” in connection with the Aliens and Immigration
Bill in which he deprecated all anti-Semitic feeling but
stated that all religious freedom was not “synonymous
with the granting to the Jewish race of absolute equality
with the national element in a country.” He advocated
the regulation of the economic legislation by limiting
the immigration of Jews into the country and the share
of Jews the in commercial life, the medical profession

• Mr and Mrs Jack Fisher, Dr and Mrs P Gitlin and Mrs
and Mrs TheoGreenbergon the birth of sons.
• Master Bernhard Lazarus, Master Maurice Schaffer,
Master Peter Barnett and Master George Perling on
celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs.
• Mr and Mrs J Slodel on the birth of a daughter

Hashalom – April 1964 – extracts
“In the Club Lounge” reported “NOSTALGIC MEMORIES OF
AN OPERA SINGER.” Under the chairmanship of Mr Harold
Freed, Mrs Rose Magid told highlights of her operatic career,
like seeing and hearing Dame Nellie Melba singing Mimi In “La
Boheme” on her (Melba’s) sixtieth birthday and BeniaminoGigli
in “La Traviata”.
A double page advertisement revealed that the South African
Maccabi Sports Festival to be held in Durban from 7th to 10th
May 1964 (Conveners: Zelda Goldberg and Mavis Schaffer)

• Badminton – convener Basil Beck
• Basketball – convener Raymond Falcke
• Bowles – conveners Sam Schur and BernieYudelman
• Cricket – convener Dennis Gamsy - with a Natal XI
captained by D.J McGlew vs a South African Maccabi
XI captained by A.Bacher
• Golf – convener Mike Hellman
• Hockey – convener Barney Silverstone
• Judo – convener Jack Lazarow
• Soccer – conveners Dennis Port and Dennis Gamsy
• Squash – convener Jack Kaplan
• Tennis – convener Arnold Kaplan
Pundit admits that he has no recollection of Judo ever
being a part of a South African Maccabi Festival.


contained the following hypothetical conversation
when a very religious married couple do get
along very well with each other.
SHE: I wish I was a mezuzah – then you would at
least kiss me on leaving and entering the house.
HE: I wish you were a lulav – then I would shake you
for 7 days and put you away for of the remainder of
the year.

Obviously that was a 1964 joke. It would not be
acceptable 50 years later - definitely not PC.



Rabbi Alexander

The Passover Haggada ends with the fun but peculiar song, “Chad Gadya – An Only Kid”.

This colorful song features a kid (a baby goat) purchased by “my father” for the price of two zuz, an ancient coin.

No sooner does he buy the kid, it is eaten by “the cat,” which is in turn bitten by “the dog,” which itself suffers being beaten by “the stick.” The stick doesn’t get off lightly for its beating; it is burnt by “the fire,” which is naturally doused by “the water.”

What happens to the water seems quite natural: it gets lapped up by “the ox,” which leads to the fatal slaughtering of the ox by “the butcher.” The butcher faces none other than the Angel of Death, and in case you thought that this dastardly fellow was invincible, he is ultimately vanquished at the conclusion of the song by the Holy One, Blessed be He.

The symbolic meaning of this sequence of people, animals and objects remained obscure until the Vilna Gaon presented the following interpretation.
Each verse alludes to one person or event in Jewish history:

The kid is the birthright mentioned in Genesis 25. This is the right to take the baton that had been passed from Abraham to Isaac, to continue Abraham’s mission to build a world full of loving kindness and monotheism and devoid of idolatry, child sacrifice and other evils.

My father is Jacob who bought the birthright from his twin brother Esau, who had been born first and thus had the natural right to the birthright.

The two zuzim are the bread and stew Jacob paid Esau for the birthright.
The cat represents the envy of Jacobs’s sons toward their brother Joseph’s, leading them to sell him into slavery in Egypt.

The dog is Egypt, where Joseph landed, and where eventually the entire clan of Jacob and the subsequent Israelite nation lived, were enslaved and were redeemed.

The stick is the famous staff of Moses, used to call forth various plagues and part the waters of the Sea for the Israelites to cross.

The fire represents the thirst for idolatry among Israelites that proved to be a persistent bane for over 800 years, from the year they left Egypt until the destruction of the First Temple in the Fifth Century BCE.

The water represents the Fourth Century BCE sages who eradicated idolatry.
The ox is Rome (Esau’s descendent) who destroyed the 2nd Temple in 70 CE.

The butcher is the “Messiah Son of Joseph” (Mashiach Ben-Yoseph) who will restore full Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
The Angel of Death needs no introduction; in this song he represents the death of Messiah Ben-Yoseph.

The Holy One of course also needs no introduction; here He arrives with Messiah Ben-David.

The repetition in each stanza underscores the ebb and flow of Jewish history – sometimes we’re down, but then we rise up. While most of the song looks backwards, it ends with an optimistic view toward the future, a fitting conclusion to the Seder.

Adapted from the Art of Amazement Haggada: Leader's Edition. This Haggada includes tips and tricks throughout the text, including questions and answers on various details of the Seder.


Esther with Proof of Haman’s guilt

Saragh Parfitt

Our cover for this month is courtesy of Canadian artist, Lilian
Broca. Entitled “Esther with Proof of Haman’s Guilt”,the
Venetian glass mosaic is one of several in a series works
dedicated to Esther. Lilian sees Queen Esther “as a prototype
for the courageous, selfless heroine who wins against all odds.
As a young woman, Esther fulfilled her role as leader at a time of
crisis with intelligence, persistence and dedication.

Today we view her as a role model and as such, she contributes
significantly to the status of women in society.” Lilian feels a
personal connection to Esther because“the secrecy and danger
surrounding Esther at the court, and her isolation in the harem
due to her important secret (her Jewishness), reminded me of
my childhood in Communist Romania in the 1950s. We had that
in common.”

Lilian has also created a series of mosaics dedicated to Judith and
a series dedicated to Lilith.

More images of Lilian’s beautiful works can be seen on her




The editorial discussed what Hitler’s occupation of
Czechoslovakia meant for that country’s 126000 Jews,
but rejoiced in the fact that a Jew, Adolf Davis, had won a
Parliamentary by-election in Pretoria, notwithstanding that his
Nationalist party opponent had made anti-Semitism a major
issue in the election.

Under the headline, “The Passing of a Beloved Mentor”,
Hasholom mourned the passing of Rev. Heyman Rubin, who
had accepted a call by the Durban New Hebrew Congregation
before the Great War, and paid fitting tribute to his service to
the community ever since.

“S.A.STAGE” dealt with the South African political, and not the
artistic, stage. It reported on the formation and development of
“a new, intensely national movement – the Ossewa-Brandwag”.
The English press questioned its objectives, while the Nationalist
press defended the movement and “takes the English press to
task” for raising objections to it.

In her weekly column in “The Transvaaler”, SylviaMoerdyk
wrote: “The number of Jews who have streamed into the
country during the past few years has disturbed the equilibrium
and it is high time that the Afrikaners protect themselves against
the newcomers who keep on coming in.”


• Mr and Mrs P.S. Gitlin on the birth of a son;

• Miss Ray Getz and Mr Cliff Rosenthal on their

• Mr Alec Rubens on his engagement.


• Mannie Braham and Malcolm Freed had returned
from a holiday in Vereeniging

• Mr Reub Abrahams had joined his wife and son in
Cape Town and would spend a short holiday there.
• Mr A Stiller had left for Australia on the “Dominion

• Mrs M Stiller and Jeanette and Ruby had left on a
voyage to Australia. (Pundit asks if they were
not travelling with Alf.)

An article by Joy Edelstein celebrated the opening of Carmel
College and another article by Abba Eban marked the 16th
anniversary of the State of Israel. These were followed by an
interesting interview with the newly elected President of the
Club, Mr Alfred Stiller, which describes his impressive past
contribution to communal affairs.

It appears that the club had a Luncheon Section which convened
a luncheon in honour of the newly elected Chairman of the Club,
Mr Alan Magid, and Hashalom duly reported “The Chairman’s
Pledge”, made at that luncheon.



Stephen Abrahams (Vocals) and Stanley Lipschitz (keyboard), entertained the residents of Jewel House on Wednesday 4 December, with music from the 60’s. This included The Beatles, Cliff Richard, The Monkees, C.C.R., Neil Diamond, Elvis, to name but a few.

It didn’t take long before the residents joined in the singing and dancing, and had a wonderful time.

Stan Lipschotz and Stephen Abrahams performing at Jewel House.
Members of Jewel House who got together to enjoy the music.




As we move into 2014, Pundit has made a startling
discovery. It seems that the Editors and Editorial Boards
of HASHOLOM in 1938/9 and HASHALOM in 1963/4 must
have been more productive than their current successors;
for in earlier times they published their magazines in
both January and February whereas we now miss out
in January. As “Past Tense” must deliver to its readers
excerpts from HASHALOM’s predecessors of 75 and 50
years ago respectively the contents of two issues must be
reduced to a size suitable for one. Pundit has, therefore,
found it necessary to confine the material used in the
main to matters of a “Social and Personal” nature.

HASHOLOM – January 1939

“The Bellboy enjoyed himself hugely at the Annual
General Meeting of the Club last month. For the first time
for many years there was a little excitement and it was
indeed unique to observe two stalwarts like Mr H. Moss-
Morris and Mr.Sol Moshal openly at variance. Sonny Smo
at last carried his motion for the change of Club night to
Tuesday…. And, to cap everything, an Executive motion
changing the Constitution was defeated.

Remember “Tuesday night is Club night” ? For that
matter, remember “Club night?”
IN TOWN AND OUT congratulated

•Dr Barrow Bass on his engagement to Miss Cecile

•Messrs L.S.Ditz & J.Greenberg on their re-election as
chairman and vice-chairman respectively of the Club;

•Mr Arthur Lewin on passing in London the final
examination for the Fellowship of the Worshipful Company
of Spectacle Makers;

•Mr Dave Sklarchik on his recent success in the Burman
Drive Hill Climb;

•Mr J.A. Lewin on winning the previous year’s Durban
Chess Club’s handicap tournament without losing a


Mahatma Gandhi wrote in an article in his journal “Harijan
” describing the persecution of the Jews as the “Godless
fury of dehumanised men and without parallel in history.

If I were a Jew, born and earning a livelihood in Germany,
I would claim Germany as my home even as much as the
tallest German Gentile; I would refuse to be expelled or
to submit to discrimination and would challenge him to
shoot me or cast me into a dungeon”.

With the wisdom of 75 years of hindsight, Pundit is
inclined to believe that Gandhi was most fortunate that
his own “Satyagraha” or passive resistance was directed
at the British Government and not at Hitler and his Nazi

HASHALOM – January 1963

•Mr & Mrs Peter Ditz on the birth of a son;

•Hannah Deift on her forthcoming marriage to Shlomo
Harosh of Kibbutz Gezer, Ayalon;

•Monty and Gerselle Mart on the birth of a son;

•Mr & Mrs Eldred Savell on the birth of a daughter;

•Fred Widrich and Ethne Miller on their recent

•Melvin Geshen on obtaining his;

•Merrick Silberman who qualified as a B.Sc. QS. with

•Mr Viv. Klaff, Bakoach of Habonim, on obtaining his

Full reports were given of

•The communal career of Mr H.L.Magid who had recently
retired from the Board of Past Presidents of the Club;

•A lecture given by Professor Phillip Tobias on the topic
“Man in Israel – Past and Present”;

•A memorial tribute by Dr Israel Goldstein to Dr Abba
Hillel Silver who had been the Guest of Honour at a Donor
Dinner Banquet held at the Club in 1951.

HASHALOM - February 1964

•The Hon. Mr Justice J.J. Friedman on his elevation to the

•Theodore Rubin on obtaining the degree of Bachelor of
Architecture with first class distinctions;

•Mr Philip Frame “a prominent South African industrialist”
(as though any reader of HASHALOM didn’t know who
Mr P Frame was) on having civic honours bestowed on
him by Durban;

Observation by Pundit
November 9th, 1938, bears a name (Kristallnacht) which
has been remembered in infamy through all those decades
since the concerted and deliberate, officially – supported
destructions of Synagogues and the Jewish-owned
businesses and homes and assaults on and deliberate
killing of Jews commenced. The word “Kristallnacht” was
not mentioned in the November 1938 issue of Hashalom.

“Probably too early” thought Pundit. But careful
research in the December 1938 and January & February
1939 issues has revealed that the name does not appear
in any of them either. Nor, surprisingly enough, was it
mentioned in any issue of Hashalom from November 1963
to February 1964 only 25 years after the event. Why, one
wonders, not?



Judge Alan Magid

In April 1987 I was accorded the privilege of a one-on-one conversation with Mr Mandela in Pollsmoor Prison.

My meeting with Mr Mandela took place in order to obtain from him the authentic story of how the African National Congress (ANC) changed its policy of non-violence and took under its wing Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK – Spear of the Nation). I had at the time been appearing with Adv. Pius Langa for ten MK activists who had been convicted of charges under the Sabotage and Terrorism Acts.

They instructed us to call Mr Mandela as a witness as it was felt that his evidence would add considerable force to the plea. The State was, considering the circumstances at the time, reluctant to produce Mr Mandela at the court house in Pietermaritzburg, where the trial was taking place.

After much negotiation it was agreed that I would visit Mr Mandela, obtain the information I required from him, and tell the court in my address in mitigation of sentence what I had been told by Mr Mandel. My statement as to what Mr Mandela had told me would be accepted by the State and the Court as the evidence Mr Mandela would have given had he been he called as a witness.

At the time most white South Africans regarded Mr Mandela as the chief bogeyman and the embodiment of “Swart Gevaar”.

I confess that I was a little surprised when shown into an office, to be greeted by an affable-looking African man whose first words, were to express thanks to the members of the South African Bar, including myself, who were defending MK cadres facing serious criminal charges in the South African courts. This was the acknowledged leader of millions of South Africans thanking mainly white advocates for assisting “his” people when in trouble! I immediately told him that I did not think I was entitled to share that praise, because, the case in which I was then involved was my first such experience.

We discussed in detail why he considered the ANC’s adoption of a policy of supporting MK was defensive not aggressive in nature. Our conversation lasted nearly three hours with, in accordance with the terms of our settlement with State, nobody else present; A prison warder, seated outside the office door, could see what occurred between us through a window set the door.

When we had finished our business I, perhaps a little impertinently, asked him why he had not responded to President P.W. Botha’s offer to set him free if he renounced violence. He, of course was under no obligation to answer my question but he responded that, though he was the leader of the ANC he could not take decisions of that importance without obtaining the “collective” views of the other leaders of the ANC. Soon thereafter I departed While at the airport, awaiting my return flight to Durban, I made notes of what I had discussed with Mr Mandela as a basis for my address in to the court. It was a condition of the permit that I was not to take any notes during our discussion.

When I returned home I was inundated with questions related to my views of Mandela. I should mention that my visit to Mandela appeared to be of interest to both the local and international media - the reason being that Mr Mandela was, at the time, the most famous political prisoner in the world. “Free Mandela” appeals were proliferating around the world.

I told my friends who wanted to know “what Mandela was like” that I found him most easy to talk to but that the most impressive quality I had observed was that he displayed no feelings of bitterness to anyone. Bear in mind, firstly that we had been discussing the South African government’s treatment of Africans and secondly, perhaps more important, he had by then been incarcerated for about 23 years for offences of which, as a lawyer, he must have known he was guilty, but, as a human being, feeling what he had done was in the best interests of all the people of South Africa, how could he not feel a little bitter? But he did not appear so to me.

If I had then known the word, I might have told my friends that I now knew what “Ubuntu” meant; certainly I mentioned that there was an aura of leadership about him. Not to put too fine a point on it, I had simply liked the man I met.

He was released less than three years after I met him, and we now know from his subsequent conduct what a great peacemaker he was. The attendance at his memorial service and funeral demonstrates what an icon he had become.

I believe that Shakespeare can best be used to define Nelson Mandela:

“His life was gentle and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’”
Julius Caesar – Act 5 scene 5

Perhaps at times his life would not be called “gentle”, but that he was a “gentle man” is beyond doubt! What a loss to the country that he elected not to take a second term of office as President.
I shall certainly not look upon his like again.



Rabbi Allen S. Maller

American Jews will celebrate a double holiday this year as they first did 2,177 years ago, in the year 164 BCE.
Thanksgiving Day will coincide with the first full day of Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins at sundown the previous night.  The last time the two holidays converged occurred 125 years ago, in 1888. The next convergence of Thanksgiving and Chanukah will not happen until 2070, when the first night of Chanukah — the holiday begins at sundown — will fall on Thanksgiving Day.
The American holiday of Thanksgiving was originally inspired by the Biblical holiday of Sukkot, a fall harvest pilgrimage festival of thanksgiving.  The pilgrimage festival of Sukkot during Biblical times was one of the two most important holidays in the Jewish year, especially for Jewish farmers. In Jewish sources it is often called “HeChag”—” “The Holiday.”
On Sukkot vast numbers of Jews travelled to Jerusalem to give thanks to God for the crops they had just harvested. Thus, the Temple was usually crowded with grateful worshippers rejoicing on Sukkot as at no other time of the year. And then came the dreadful years of persecution by Antiochus IV, the Syrian Greek king. This was the first known attempt at suppressing a minority religion, but unfortunately not the last.
Other well-known attempts were the three century long Roman persecution of Christianity, and the persecution of Muhammad and his followers by the majority of pagan Arabs in Makka. All three religions emerged from their varying periods of persecution stronger than ever, and this is the ongoing spiritual lesson of the Chanukah lamp that once lit by faithful believers, filled with hope and trust in God; lasts longer than anyone else thinks possible.
The history: In 200 BCE, King Antiochus III of Syria defeated Egypt and made the Land of Israel a part of the Seleucid Empire. King Antiochus III, wanting to conciliate his new Jewish subjects, guaranteed their right to “live according to their ancestral customs” and to continue to practice their religion in the Temple of Jerusalem.  
However in 175 BCE, his son Antiochus IV invaded Judea to put in power a pro-Syrian high Priest. As the first century Jewish historian Josephus relates:
(In 167 BCE Antiochus IV,who named himself ‘Manifest God’): “came upon the Jews with a great army, took their city (Jerusalem) by force, slew a great multitude of those that favoured Egypt, and sent out his soldiers to plunder the Jews without mercy. He also polluted the temple (erecting an idol in it that looked like himself, and thus) put a stop to the daily offerings (to God) for three years and six months.”
He also banned circumcision and ordered pigs to be sacrificed on the altar of the Temple. This provoked a large-scale revolt led by a man called Judah Maccabee and his four brothers. When the Maccabees recaptured Jerusalem and completed the purification of the Holy Temple, they were faced with a problem.
The Greek polytheists who had taken over the Holy Temple for the previous three and a half years, were still in control of the Temple a few months before, in the month of Tishri, Thus, for a fourth year Jews had refused to go on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot.
Sukkot: Now that the Temple was theirs again, their first act was to belatedly celebrate Sukkot, two months later, in the month of Kislev.
Celebrating the Sukkot pilgrimage in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple was so important, that it was “better late than never.”
They marched around the Temple alter seven times, and sang the Hallel Psalms as on any Sukkot, celebrating for eight days, the length of Sukkot. They participated in the Sukkot torchlight processions. The torchlight procession and large golden oil lamps burning in the Temple Courtyard lit up the entire city of Jerusalem. (Mishnah Sukkah 4:9-5:5) The first eight-day celebration of the Maccabees was a belated Sukkot celebration.
Chanukah: The following year, the new Festival of Chanukah, celebrating the purification and rededication (Chanukah) of the Temple, borrowed some of the rituals of Sukkot from that first celebration—the eight days, the recital of Hallel Psalms, the lights brightly glowing (eventually in every Jewish home).
The Second Book of Maccabees, originally written in Greek, was clearly intended for distribution to the Jewish communities living outside the land of Israel, especially in the bustling commercial Mediterranean port city of Alexandria in Egypt.
The purpose of Second Maccabees is clearly stated in the two letters that open the book, urging the Jews of Alexandria to adopt this new festival, which it appears, they were slow to accept.  The author claims that his source for the history of the Maccabean war was a (now lost) larger five-volume history by one Jason of Cyrene.
Chapter 10:1-8 of Second Maccabees describes the purification of the Temple as follows:
Judah the Maccabee and his men, under the Lord’s leadership, recaptured the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. … After purifying the Temple, they made a new altar… a new fire and … offered sacrifices and incense … lit the lamps. … On the anniversary of the very same day on which the Temple had been defiled, the 25th of Kislev, they now purified the Temple.
They celebrated joyfully for eight days, just as on Sukkot, knowing that (a few months before) on Sukkot they had (been unable to celebrate at the Temple) and had spent the festival (hiding) like wild animals in the mountains and caves. That is why they came… and sang hymns of praise (Hallel), to the One Who had given them the victory that had brought about the purification of His Temple.  By a vote of the community they decreed that the whole Jewish nation should celebrate these festival days every year. (Second Maccabees 10:1-8)
Thus Chanukah which started as a delayed Sukkot harvest pilgrimage festival, became an additional holiday on which we can give thanks to God, not just for the fruits of the land, but even more important, for the fruits of attaining freedom to worship according to our own religious principles.
Thus, on this once in a lifetime occasion, when both holidays overlap. we should be twice as grateful as usual, for our good fortune.
The historical part of this essay was mostly prepared by Rabbi Manual Gold. Rabbi Maller’s web site is:

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Turning to poetry, 75 years after Kristallnacht

Janet R. Kirchheimer

Let us remember … that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both. — Christian Wiman
It was evening and it was morning, Nov. 9 and 10, 1938. Those days that became known as Kristallnacht, with its deceptively beautiful and poetic sounding name, “Night of Crystal,” - or, more commonly, “The Night of Broken Glass.”
Kristallnacht was a two-day pogrom unleashed by Nazi party officials and carried out by storm troops and the Hitler Youth. About 100 Jews were killed, almost 270 synagogues destroyed and 7,500 Jewish-owned establishments looted. Tens of thousands of Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. My father was one of them.
After hiding for the night in the family basement in Niederstetten, a small village in southern Germany, my father was ordered to report to the town hall on the morning of Nov. 10, 1938. When he asked what he had done wrong, he was told if he wanted to go home, they would arrest his father instead. The police had a quota of 10 men to arrest. So along with nine others, my father was loaded onto a truck and taken to Dachau. He was 16 years old.
It has been 75 years since that day. My father and I have talked many times about his experiences in Dachau. He told me how he stood in line to be photographed, fingerprinted and have his head shaved, how he stood naked before SS guards who aimed fire hoses at prisoners and then gave them a striped cotton uniform.
“If you were lucky,” he said, “you got a hat.”
My father passed away two years ago. Other survivors of the Shoah are dying every day. How will we remember when the last survivors are gone? And what form will that remembrance take?
As the child of two survivors, I have given much thought to what will happen after the survivors are gone and the next generation assumes responsibility for sharing the Holocaust narrative. There have been many efforts to ensure Holocaust remembrance, including academic study, recorded survivor testimonies, memorial services, museums and Holocaust education.
While all of these are invaluable, the disappearance of firsthand witnesses will require new ways to transmit the moral lessons and wisdom that can be gained through remembering.
“After the death of the last witnesses, the remembrance of the Holocaust must not be entrusted to historians alone,” the novelist Aharon Appelfeld observed. “Now comes the hour of artistic creation.”
In 2007, I published a book of poetry about the Holocaust and my family, “How to Spot One of Us.” Working with director Richard Kroehling, I am now producing “BE•HOLD,” a performance film that explores Holocaust poetry from the rise of Nazism to the present day. Highlighting poems by well-known and lesser-known poets, we are creating a deep well of voices responding to evil and its aftermath.
Poetry, like all great art, provokes us. And poetry about the Holocaust in particular can provoke us not only to remember, but to live more fully and with more meaning. Lawrence Ferlinghetti called poetry “the shortest distance between two humans.”
Though nothing can take the place of the survivors themselves, the poetry left by victims and survivors can shorten the distance between survivors and succeeding generations, helping to ensure that the Shoah is remembered. It can also help us internalize the Shoah and use its moral lessons for our personal lives.
Toward the end of his life, my father was concerned that everyone in our family knew the stories of his family members who were murdered in Auschwitz. I told him I will always remember their stories and pass them down.
There are many ways to remember. I choose to remember through poetry.
(Janet R. Kirchheimer is the author of “How to Spot One of Us” and producer of “BE•HOLD.” She is a teaching fellow at Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.)

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Ambassador Alan Baker (Retired) Letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

This letter should help explain that the settlements are not illegal nor is building in them.  There is so much misinformation in the media that it is not surprising that the public at large is confused.
Dear Secretary Kerry
After listening to you repeatedly over the past weeks that “Israel’s settlements are illegitimate”, I respectively  wish to state, unequivocally, that you are mistaken and ill advised, both in law and in fact.
Pursuant to the “Oslo Accords”, and specifically the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement (1995), the “issue of settlements”  is one of the subjects to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. President Bill Clinton on behalf of the US is signatory as witness to that agreement, together with the leaders of the EU, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.
Your statements serve to not only to prejudge this negotiating issue, but also to undermine the integrity of that agreement, as well as the very negotiations that you so enthusiastically advocate.
Your determination that Israel’s settlements are illegitimate cannot be legally substantiated.
Oft-quoted prohibition on transferring population into occupied territory (Art.49 of the 4th Geneva Convention) was, according to the International Committee Red Cross’s own official commentary of that convention, drafted in 1949 to prevent the forced, mass transfer of populations carried out by the Nazis in the Second World War.  It was never intended to apply to Israel’s settlement activity.  Attempts by the international community to attribute this article to Israel emanate from clear partisan motives, with which you, and the US are now identifying.
The formal applicability of that convention to the disputed territories cannot be claimed since they were not occupied from a prior, legitimate sovereign power.
The territories cannot be defined as “Palestinian territories” or, as you yourself frequently state, as “Palestine”. No such entity exists, and the whole purpose of the permanent status negotiation is to determine, by agreement, the status of the territory, to which Israel has a legitimate claim, backed by international legal and historic rights.  How can you presume to undermine this negotiation?
There is no requirement in any of the signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinians that Israel cease, or freeze settlement activity.  The opposite is in fact the case.  The above-noted 1995 interim agreement enables each party to plan, zone and build the areas under its respective control.
Israel’s settlement policy neither prejudices the outcome of the negotiations nor does it involve displacement of local Palestinian residents from their private property.  Israel is indeed duly committed to negotiate the issue of settlements, and thus there is no room for any predetermination by you intended to prejudge the outcome of that negotiation.
As such you are taking sides, thereby prejudicing your own personal credibility, as well as that of the US.
With a view to restoring your own and the US’s credibility, and to come with clean hands to the negotiation, you are respectfully requested to publicly and formally retract your determination as to the illegitimate nature of Israel’s settlements and to cease your pressure on  Israel.
Alan Baker, attorney, Ambassador (ret’d)
Former legal counsel of Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Former ambassador of Israel to Canada
Director, Institute for Contemporary Affairs, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Director, International action division, The Legal Forum for Israel.
Copy H.E.Daniel Shapiro, US Ambassador to Israel.


First steps taken to identify trove of Holocaust-era art found in Munich

Toby Axelrod

The extraordinary disclosure  that a trove of more than 1,400 vanished artworks were found in a Munich apartment has raised more questions than it has answered.
What were these works, which were produced by masters such as Chagall, Matisse and Picasso? Who are their rightful owners? And where is Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Holocaust-era art dealer in whose apartment they were found?
Responding to growing international pressure, German authorities have begun to offer some preliminary answers. The  state prosecutor in Augsburg has started to put names and images of the works into a database run by Germany's central office for lost cultural property, whose website promptly crashed due to an overload of requests.
Authorities also have confirmed that the collection contains at least 380 works that the Nazis confiscated during a 1937 campaign against so-called “degenerate art.”
Still, much remains unclear about the provenance of the works and how they came to be stored in Gurlitt's apartment.
The case has unfolded like a suspense novel. On Sept. 22, 2010, customs agents searching for tax evaders on a night train from Zurich to Munich caught Gurlitt with 9,000 euros, just under the legal limit. Suspecting him of tax evasion and embezzlement, investigators were intrigued to find no record of Gurlitt ever working, paying taxes or receiving Social Security.
On Feb. 28, 2012, customs investigators carried out a search and seizure order of his apartment. Over three days, they carted off more than 1,400 works of art -- many by artists banned by the Nazis, some of which were unknown to experts. The seizure was kept secret until last week, when it was revealed by the German magazine Focus. Since then, it has been the talk of the nation. “My reaction was ‘wow. Really wow!' " said Hannah Lessing, the secretary general of two Austrian government funds for Nazi victims who has worked to help heirs recover stolen art. “Maybe [now] there will be some people who inherited a whole house from their grandparents … and maybe they will ask themselves ‘where did this art come from?' "
The Munich find is by far the most significant discovery of Holocaust-era artwork, pieces of which occasionally surface over the years in auction houses, vaults and even abandoned cellars. In 2010 in Berlin, workers excavating a subway tunnel unearthed a stash of sculptures by artists disliked by the Nazis.
Meanwhile, European governments have made significant progress in identifying seized Holocaust art. In Austria, nearly 20,000 artworks and cultural items held in state collections have been returned to their original owners since the 1990s. In Holland, the Restitution Commission recommended in favor of the claimants of 430 objects, which fetched more than $10 million when they were sold at auction in 2007. And in France, a government probe of 2,000 paintings resulted in the restitution of six paintings in March to Thomas Selldorff, 84, of Boston.
“More artwork has been coming on the market as people die and their heirs try to sell it off,” said Wesley Fisher, director of research at the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. “But there’s been nothing as spectacular as this.”
Gurlitt's father, Hildebrand, was a German art dealer well known to restitution campaigners. Among other things, he was hired to procure works for the so-called Fuhrer Museum in Linz, Austria, and he was sent to Paris 10 times between 1941 and 1944 to purchase art on its behalf, according to a sworn statement Hildebrand Gurlitt provided to U.S. authorities in June 1945. The elder Gurlitt also was used to scour markets for sellable art that could bring in money to the German treasury. In his statement, Hildebrand Gurlitt said he had heard about art and furnishings confiscated from Jews and held in a Parisian palace, but insisted he had never seen it. Nor, the elder Gurlitt said, had he ever bought anything from someone who did not want to sell.
In 1950, the United States returned “a whole bunch of art” to Hildebrand Gurlitt, according to Willi Korte, a Washington-based researcher for the Holocaust Art Restitution Project who, along with a fellow investigator Marc Masurovsky, dug up an inventory of the elder Gurlitt’s collection compiled by the U.S. military at the National Archives in Washington.
Fisher is combing through the inventory of works taken from the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris between 1940 and 1944. The museum was used as a repository for works looted by the Nazis from French and Belgian Jews. According to The New York Times, at least eight of the paintings that the U.S. military returned to Hildebrand Gurlitt had been stolen and stored there.
Cornelius Gurlitt apparently sold off pieces of his father's collection occasionally and lived off the proceeds. In 2011, he sold a work by Max Beckmann, “The Lion Tamer,” that brought in more than $1 million. At a news conference Nov. 5, prosecutors said they did not know the whereabouts of Gurlitt.
The website Paris Match published a picture of a man it identified as Cornelius Gurlitt and claimed he was still in Munich. His collection is being held at a customs warehouse at an undisclosed location, where it is being cataloged by art historian Meike Hoffmann of Berlin’s Free University.
A task force of six experts will assist in the provenance search, it was announced.. The move comes after pressure from Jewish groups and restitution advocates who were troubled that the Germans had not made the full list public. “The process is “both literally and legally complicated, difficult and time consuming,” the office of the chief public prosecutor in Augsburg said at a news conference.
Jewish groups and restitution advocates had criticized Germany's initial sluggishness in publicizing the contents of the collection. Deidre Berger, the head of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, had called on Germany to move quickly to address the ownership question and welcomed this week's developments.
"Valuable time has been wasted,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder told the magazine Die Welt this week. “Neither the possible claimants nor possible witnesses in the return process are getting any younger.”
Fisher of the Claims Conference said he found the delay outrageous, yet he acknowledged that “legal aspects” of the case make some delay inevitable. “Evidently the Germans are afraid they will get lots of claims, and maybe some of them false,” he said. “But that comes with the territory.”
Anne Webber, director of the London-based Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property, said her office has “been inundated with requests from families all over the world asking if their lost works of art might be in this collection."
At least one family reportedly has submitted a claim already. Marianne Rosenberg, an American attorney and granddaughter of the French dealer Paul Rosenberg, identified a Matisse unveiled at the news conference as belonging to her family.
With the decision to gradually publish the list of works, heirs now have a good chance of starting legal proceedings. Ultimately, courts will have to decide whether works in question were obtained legally, were stolen or were purchased at deflated prices from sellers under duress.
“Those who think we are at the end of this, that we shouldn’t make such a big deal about it,” said Korte, “they don't have any fricking idea what they are talking about."
(JTA's Cnaan Liphshiz contributed to this report.)




75 Years ago - November 1938
“Our Christian religion, based on the Bible, constitutes the most important part of our South African culture.  But so many people seem to forget from where we ourselves got the Bible – it is not of our own creation.
Did we not get it from a small and wandering people suffering and being persecuted?”  Gen.Smuts
“Unhappily, however, anti-Semitism is being wafted across the seas like the seeds of a poisonous plant and is gaining roots in South Africa.  Anti-Semitism is a national danger.  It was used to prepare the soil for dictatorship in other countries”. Mr. J. H. Hofmeyr.
1.The Colonies Issue
As far as Africa is concerned, Hitler has been told in “very plain language” that his presence in Africa is undesirable. In Britain’s present conciliatory mood it is possible that Belgium or Portugal may be  martyred for the peace of Europe, just as Czechoslovakia was.
2.  The Press Lie Refuted
It is encouraging that Mr Kingston Russell, the Editor of “The Forum”  has exploded the theory that the South African Press is “Jew-controlled”.  He points out that apart from the Schlesinger Press (and Mr. Schlesinger is the only Jew on a Board of five members) there is not a single Jewish-owned S.A.Newspaper.  Moreover, there is only one Jewish editor & less than a dozen Jewish journalists on SA daily newspapers.
3. The Jew in Commerce
Professor J.L. Gray, Professor of Economics at Wits University has published a pamphlet in which he established that big business in SA is not in the hands of the Jews and that all the inequalities complained of can be removed by sound legislation.
4.  Dr Malan and the Jewish Population
At a recent Nationalist Party social, Dr D.F. Malan said that with the exception of Poland and Palestine, South Africa had more Jews in proportion to its population than any other country and that the trades and professions were passing more and more into the hands of “other people”.
Italian Anti-Jew Drive in the Near East. A ghetto system is to be introduced for the Jews in Tripoli and no Jews will be permitted to own businesses in the new sections of the cities.
The Fascist Party in Abyssinia has declared the Falashas (Black Jews) are to be treated as the lowest black race in the country. A leading newspaper of Cairo reported that banks, businesses, companies and institutions had dispensed with the services of not only Italian Jews but even of Egyptian Jews.
An Istanbul paper reported that Signor Campaner, the head of the Turkish branch of the Italian Fascist Party had been dismissed from his post for his criticism  of the Italian Government’s anti-Jewish policy.  He had also been dismissed from his position as general manager in Turkey of several Italian shipping companies.
U.S. Italians Condemn Racialism
Luigi Antenini, a prominent Italian Labour leader in America condemned  Italy’s racial policy as “an artificial and detestable importation from Nazi Germany”.
No Jewish Question in Yugoslavia
In a recent speech, the Yugoslav Minister of the Interior said there were only 70 000 Jews in Yugoslavia and that “a Jewish question does not exist in our country”.
Jew Baiting in Alsace
There were reports of several anti-Semitic incidents in Alsace including the fact that posters bearing the words “Jew shop” provided by the Welt-dienst of Erfurt were being affixed to Jewish-owned businesses to provoke a boycott.
U.S. Hostility to Nazis
 Fritz Kuhn, the American Nazi “Fuhrer” (sic) was compelled by a group of U.S. ex-servicemen to flee from a large meeting in Union, New Jersey, amid dries of “Deport him”.
“We Like Jews – But…..”
Colonel Leonas, the Lithuanian Minister of the Interior published a statement declaring that the government was eager to satisfy the cultural and social needs of the Jews as the largest minority in the country.   The Government would not, however, allow Jewish immigrants to enter the country.
Ghettos in Italy
Ghetto classes for Jewish school-children have been opened in Rome, Milan, Trieste, Florence and other cities which contain large Jewish communities.
It was reported that the Italian Union of Public Notaries had begun to expel Jewish  members.
One of the art galleries in Venice has removed a plaque bearing the name of Mr Michael Guggenheim, a benefactor of the gallery in question.  Paintings by Marc Chagall and other Jewish artists were also removed from Venetian art galleries.
Congratulated –
• Dr & Mrs B  Moshal & Mr & Mrs Hector Hart on the birth of
• Miss Rita Leibowitz on her continued success in the Eisteddfod;
• Mr Mickey Rebeck on winning the Natal and South African Tango championship
• Messrs Roy Fenhalls & Sidney Spiro on their successes in the Public Speaking competitions in the Eisteddfod;
• Mr Sidney Fobb on his recent athletic successes (Pundit wonders what they were);
• Mr Stanley Berman on his twenty-first birthday;
• Mr Max Moshal and Miss Zelda Levitas on their recent marriage;
• Mrs S Torf on her recent re-election as chairman of the Women’s Zionist League;
Noted that Miss Valerie Leon was spending a holiday in Johannesburg.

HASHALOM – November 1963

• Rhoena and Erwin Carr and Shirley and Ivan Schneiderman on the birth of their respective sons;
• Dr and Mrs Barney Moshal and Mr and Mrs Jack Rubin on the birth of their respective grandsons;
• Irwin, son of Mr and Mrs Ben Spilka, Jack, son of Dr and Mrs Gerald Goldblatt and Anthony, son of Dr Ada Maister, on celebrating their respective Barmitzvahs;
• Miss Cecile Waller and Mr Jesmond Greenstone on their recent marriage.
This issue published an obituary for the late Bill Stone which it described as “A lament by Hashalom for its most distinguished “Bellboy”.


Weizmann graduate, ex-prof share Nobel Prize for chemistry

Arieh Warshel, a U.S. professor born and educated in Israel, and ex-Weizmann Institute professor Michael Levitt were among the winners of the 2014 Nobel Prize for chemistry.
Warshel, 74, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Southern California, and Levitt, of Stanford University, were named Oct. 9 along with Martin Karplus of the University of Strasbourg in France and Harvard University.
Levitt, a native of Pretoria, South Africa, was a professor at the Weizmann Institute in the 1980s and reportedly took Israeli citizenship. Karplus, a Vienna native, is the son of secular Jewish parents who were well respected in the Austrian capital. In 1938, he fled with his parents from the advance of the Nazis. Francois Englert, a Belgian Jewish professor at Tel Aviv University and a Holocaust survivor, shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Peter Higgs of Britain.  Jewish Americans James Rothman of Yale University and Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley, joined German-born researcher Thomas Suedhof of Stanford University in winning  the Nobel Prize in medicine.

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London's American-style JCC seeking lead role in Anglo Jewry 'renaissance'

Cnaan Liphshiz

At his office in London’s newly opened, $80 million Jewish community center, Raymond Simonson fumbles with a state-of-the-art telephone switchboard. “Sorry, I’m embarrassed, but we’ve only just moved into our offices,” says Simonson, the 40-year-old boss of London’s first American-style JCC, which opened recently. “Now the article will say 'New CEO can’t even answer his own phone.' "
With his credentials, Simonson can afford to be self-deprecating. The former director of the Jewish learning fest Limmud, Simonson steered the organization through the 2008 financial crisis, helping it to emerge as a vibrant global brand with an annual budget of $1.6 million that scholars of British Jewry call the flagship of a communal renaissance.
Now he wants to do something similar with the new community center, a centrally located four-story behemoth called JW3 - a play on the local postcode, NW3 - which was built with a one-time $56 million grant by a single donor, the philanthropist Vivien Duffield.  But with Duffield now stepping back from the organization, Simonson has to build a constituency among Londoners for a kind of Jewish institution with which they are largely unfamiliar.
“This is now for the community to decide if they truly want to keep the gift,” Simonson told JTA.
Duffield, the daughter of the late business magnate Charles Clore, initiated the project after visiting the JCC in Manhattan a decade ago and deciding that London's approximately 200,000 Jews also should have a one-stop shop for all things Jewish. The London center has space for a kindergarten, movie theater, sports facilities, kosher restaurant, library and synagogue.
All that space requires a paying customer base, and for the past two years, JW3’s staff of 45 has been working to build one. A huge banner that says “JW3 The New Postcode for Jewish Life” hangs from the building's facade.
Simonson, a chummy Londoner who takes pride in his ginger facial hair (his Twitter handle is FatSideburns), aims to enroll 60,000 members the first year at a cost of $72 annually. JW3 has limited cash reserves, so if JW3 fails to attract a significant amount of paying members, Simonson says the organization will run out of money in about two years.
“Twenty-five years ago, I would have been very pessimistic, but a corner has been turned,” said Geoffrey Alderman, an expert on British Jewry at the University of Buckingham. “There is no doubt that there is a cultural renaissance within Anglo Jewry at the moment.”
Exhibit A of the Anglo renaissance is Simonson's own Limmud, which started 30 years ago as a professional forum for teachers and now draws thousands of participants to a Jewish learning festival each December.
Beyond that there is London’s Jewish Book Week, which grew from a small get-together into a nine-day festival with appearances by best-selling novelists held at the spacious Royal National Hotel. The U.K. Jewish Film Festival breaks attendance records annually, according to organizers.
And then there is the London Jewish Cultural Centre, a highbrow institution and lecture forum with an annual membership fee of $2,000 - meaning it caters to a more select clientele.
“There is scarcely a single British university that doesn’t offer at least one course related to Jewish studies,” Alderman said. “This is unprecedented.”
But while the proliferation of options suggests that British Jews have an appetite for cultural offerings, it also means JW3 will have some serious competition as it tries to inject itself into an already crammed Jewish calendar.
“We’ll have to wait and see how it goes with JW3, but it’s obvious that it only has a chance to succeed if it appeals to the widest possible audience,” Alderman said.
Simonson says his organization is committed to offering a diverse menu of programming. On Oct. 9, for example, there was a choice of 25 activities ranging from a macaroon baking class to a talk featuring author Thomas Harding and his cousin, BBC News director James Harding, about the capture of Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess.
Kevin Spacey, the Hollywood actor, is scheduled to make an appearance at the center later this year.
“Through JW3, we’re telling people who don’t go to shul or have non-Jewish partners to not disappear from the radar, not to be lost, but to put their toes in the water,” Simonson said. “Come and taste something Jewish that might excite them, that meets the other parts of their identity.”
Simonson acknowledges that kind of openness risks alienating Britain's sizable, and growing, haredi and Modern Orthodox communities. But the participation in the opening of Ephraim Mirvis, the country's new chief rabbi, gives Simonson hope that JW3 can be a place of all sectors of London Jewry.
Mirvis' predecessor, Jonathan Sacks, refrained from attending the interdenominational Limmud conference during his 22 years in office. But Mirvis announced earlier this month that he would be attending Limmud in December. Mirvis’ office declined JTA’s request for an interview, but Simonson believes his attendance at the JW3 opening was something of a trial balloon.  “It shows that the chief rabbi came and the sky did not fall down,” Simonson says.
Mirvis' seal of approval may help JW3 with the Modern Orthodox community, but Simonson still does not expect much traffic from haredim, who constitute British Jewry’s fastest growing contingent, according to a 2012 report.
“We’re open to them," he said, "and I think there are genuinely things in our program that would be attractive. But it would be naive of me to realistically think we’ll have significant numbers of haredi Jews coming here.   "They are by definition set apart from the mainstream, and we’re all about bringing Judaism to the mainstream.”

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Barcelona Soccer Star Lionel Messi Visits Western Wall on 'Peace Tour'

AdPopular Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem and met with Israeli leaders. Messi was in Israel with the Spanish soccer team Football Club Barcelona as part of the team’s “Peace Tour,” which included hosting skills clinics and games with Israeli and Palestinian children in order to promote peace.
The Barcelona team after arrival traveled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leaders and children. The next day, the team donned yarmulkes to visit the Western Wall. While in Jerusalem they posed for a group photo with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. The team also met at the President´s Residence in Jerusalem with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It’s a great honor to host Barcelona in a holy city like Jerusalem, with this visit a dream come true for Israeli and Palestinian children. They have two dreams: To score in Camp Nou (FC Barcelona’s soccer stadium) and peace between the two sides. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and the rest of the players, I hope you teach us the tiki-taka style so that we learn how to score a goal for peace,” Peres said.
Recently Messi sent a message to the Argentinian Maccabia team. “Very good luck to all of the team members participating in the games in Israel,” said Messi in a prerecorded video, aired in a farewell ceremony held in Buenos Aires. Messi also participated in 2011 in a campaign for justice and memory of the victims of the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.

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Israel's population grows slightly to 8.081 million

The population in Israel rose to 8.081 million - 148,000 more than on the eve of Rosh Hashanah a year ago.
According to data released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, the population grew by 1.8 percent, with 75.1 percent of Israel's population, or 6.066 million people, listed as Jewish. Arabs made up 20.7 percent of the population. There were no significant changes in either group.  Those listed as others made up 4.2 percent of the population, including Christians and people without religious affiliations.
Last year, 163,000 babies were born and 40,000 people died.  In addition, there were 16,968 new immigrants to Israel in the Jewish year 5773, as well as more than 6,000 Israelis who returned to the country after living abroad.
The most popular names for boys were Itai, Daniel, Ori, Yosef and Noam; for girls they were Noa, Shira, Tamar, Talia and Yael.

Acknow.  JTA




THEY SPEAK OF JEWRY  “The attack upon the Jew, therefore, cannot be treated as merely an attack upon a given religion or a given race.  It is an attempt to conquer democratic civilisation by dividing its forces.  The Jew, as an identifiable mark, is the first to suffer.  Anti-Semitism has always been the first weapon of tyranny and reaction – the first simply because it is the handiest…  When the Jew is persecuted, there is no longer any safety for freedom, tolerance or intelligence among the members of any race or the adherents of any faith” – President Roosevelt
THE SOUTH AFRICAN STAGE  dealt with recent items of political news of interest to Jews:
• Mr Eric Louw had in the course of a recent anti-Semitic speech in Parliament accused Jews of organising a German Trade boycott.
• The end of the Parliamentary session had been marked by a “burst of activity by the S.A. Fascist organisations particularly on the Rand”
• A Jew, Mr A.H. Youngelson had been elected to the Durban Town Council but Dr.A.Broomberg, another Jewish candidate, had not been successful in the election.
• The Jewish community of Springbokfontein had been excluded from the festivities to meet the Voortrekker wagon on September 30th.  The only English-speaking citizens to whom invitations were those “professing  the Christian faith”.
• The Rumanian Government had recently made promises to minorities as laid down in the Nationalities Statute but the semi-official Government organ “Romania” had now asserted that those promises  applied only to Germans, Hungarians and all other non-Jewish minorities.  The measures taken against Jews will remain in effect.
• Henry Ford’s acceptance of a Nazi  decoration had received considerable censure in the Press and the U.S. Jewish War Veterans (JWV) had declined an offer from Henry Ford’s son to place a fleet of cars at its disposal  for its conference next month because of Henry Ford’s action.   Eddie Cantor at an Hadassah luncheon vigorously assailed Mr. Ford, calling him “a damned fool for accepting a decoration from the world’s biggest gangster.  The German papers reporting it say that all  America is behind Nazism.  I question Ford’s Americanism and his Christianity”
• One of the leading Turkish dailies “Tan” in a recent leading article deplored the spread of anti-Semitism  in Europe and stated: “In Turkey anti-Semitism does not and cannot exist, and we have no sympathy whatever with such a movement”.
The passing  of the late Mr. C.P. Robinson, a former President of the Durban Hebrew Congregation and up to the time of his death, an Honorary Vice-President of the Council of Natal Jewry was memorialised both by The Bellboy  IN THE FOYER and in a separate obituary.  Mr. Robinson had been a member of Parliament for over 30 years and was justly named “the Father of the House of Assembly”.
• Congratulations were extended to Mr. and Mrs. Reub Abrahams, and to Mr. and Mrs Cyril Davidson, on the birth of sons and to Mr. and Mrs Henry Franks on the birth of a daughter who was described as “their first income tax rebate”.
• Congratulations were also extended to Mr. and Mrs. J.Moshal on their recent golden wedding anniversary and to Miss Sybil Jacobson and Mr. Lionel Abrahams who had recently announced their engagement.
The first major report in this month’s issue was of the Mock Wedding produced by Mr Harry Friedland.  It must have been a hoot.
The members of the cast in order of their appearance in the report of the wedding were:
• The four “beautiful Bridesmaids were Martin Sternberg, David Levinson, Roger Fine & Jack Kaplan;
• the Maid of Honour – Allan Zulman;
• the Shammes (wearing gum boots) – Sonny Falcke;
• the Rabbi – Roy Cohen;
• the Cantor – Aubrey Schaffer;
• the Bride – David Schotter;
• the groom – Max Fiddel;
• the Shadchan – Aubrey Josephson, who “was given the honour of reciting the ‘Shivering Bochas’”;
• Speechmakers – Gerald Linder, Esmond Jacobson and Eric Shandel;
• Pageboy – Harry Strous;
• Poleholders – Doryce Isaacs, Goldie Shirken, Jenny Kaplan & Wendy Friedman;
• Mother of the Bride – Muriel Schaffer;
• Parents of the Groom – Les Shirken & Jennifer Levinsohn;
• Best Man – Sidney Schultz.
There were also three “wedding photos”. 
We should inundate the Editor with demands to re-publish the whole story including the photographs.
Bellboy in IN THE FOYER told a slightly off-colour “Yom Kippur Story.”
 A father who feared that his son who was at University in Cape Town might forget Yom Kippur, wired him a few days before as follows:  “REMEMBER YOM KIPPUR  SATURDAY. LOVE, DAD”  The following day he received the following wire “THANKS FOR THE TIP DAD BUT WHICH RACE?’.
• wished Mazeltov to Yvonne and Robbie Lurie, Denyse and Barry Blumenfeld and Wendy and David Friedman on the birth of sons and to Brenda and Alan Magid, Josephine and Chookie Woolfson, Jennifer and Jack Kaplan, Goldie and Les Shirken and Rev. and Mrs Weiss on the birth of daughters;
• congratulated Mr Robert E Levitt on his election as Mayor of Westville;
• congratulated Rene Aires of Springs and Jack Strous and Roslyn Price and Melvin Rael on their engagements;
• congratulated Elys Cohen, daughter of Laura and the late Dave Cohen, on winning the Solo Piano Class at the Natal Eisteddfod for the third successive year.
A moving obituary to the late Sol Harris, who had long served the Durban community as a City Councillor and had suddenly passed away at a relatively youthful age, was illustrated with a very good photograph of him.


Foreign Policy by Whisper and Nudge

Thomas L. Friedman

If you follow the commentary on American foreign policy toward Egypt and the broader Middle East today, several themes stand out: People in the region argue: “Whatever went wrong, the United States is to blame.” Foreign policy experts argue: “Whatever President Obama did, he got it wrong.” And the American public is saying: “We’re totally fed up with that part of the world and can’t wait for the start of the N.F.L. season. How do you like those 49ers?”
There is actually a logic to all three positions.
It starts with the huge difference between cold-war and post-cold-war foreign policy. During the cold war, American foreign policy “was all about how we affect the external behavior of states,” said Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign affairs expert. We were ready to overlook the internal behavior of states, both because we needed them as allies in the cold war and because, with the Russians poised on the other side, any intervention could escalate into a superpower confrontation.
Post-cold-war foreign policy today is largely about “affecting the internal composition and governance of states,” added Mandelbaum, many of which in the Middle East are failing and threaten us more by their collapse into ungoverned regions — not by their strength or ability to project power.
But what we’ve learned in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Syria is that it is very hard to change another country’s internal behavior — especially at a cost and in a time frame that the American public will tolerate — because it requires changing a country’s political culture and getting age-old adversaries to reconcile.
The primary foreign policy tools that served us so well in the cold war, said Mandelbaum, “guns, money, and rhetoric — simply don’t work for these new tasks. It is like trying to open a can with a sponge.”
To help another country change internally requires a mix of refereeing, policing, coaching, incentivizing, arm-twisting and modeling — but even all of that cannot accomplish the task and make a country’s transformation self-sustaining, unless the people themselves want to take charge of the process.
In Iraq, George W. Bush removed Saddam Hussein, who had been governing that country vertically, from the top-down, with an iron fist. Bush tried to create the conditions through which Iraqis could govern themselves horizontally, by having the different communities write their own social contract on how to live together. It worked, albeit imperfectly, as long as U.S. troops were there to referee. But once we left, no coterie of Iraqi leaders emerged to assume ownership of that process in an inclusive manner and thereby make it self-sustaining.
Ditto Libya, where President Obama removed Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s top-down, iron-fisted regime, but he declined to put U.S. troops on the ground to midwife a new social contract. The result: Libya today is no more stable, or self-sustainingly democratic, than Iraq. It just cost us less to fail there. In both cases, we created an opening for change, but the local peoples have not made it sustainable.
Hence the three reactions I cited above. People of the region often blame us, because they either will not or cannot accept their own responsibility for putting things right. Or, if they do, they don’t see a way to forge the necessary societal compromises, because their rival factions take the view either that “I am weak, how can I compromise?” or “I am strong, why should I compromise?”
As for blaming Obama — for leaving Iraq too soon or not going more deeply into Libya or Syria — it grows out of the same problem. Some liberals want to “do something” in places like Libya and Syria; they just don’t want to do what is necessary, which would be a long-term occupation to remake the culture and politics of both places. And conservative hawks who want to intervene just don’t understand how hard it is to remake the culture and politics in such places, where freedom, equality and justice for all are not universal priorities, because some people want to be “free” to be more Islamist or more sectarian.
“With the traditional tools of foreign policy, we can stop some bad things from happening, but we cannot make good things happen,” noted Mandelbaum.
For instance, if it is proved that Syria has used chemical weapons, American officials are rightly considering using cruise missiles to punish Syria. But we have no hope of making Syria united, democratic and inclusive without a much bigger involvement and without the will of a majority of Syrians.
And too often we forget that the people in these countries are not just objects. They are subjects; they have agency. South Africa had a moderate postapartheid experience because of Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk. Japan rebuilt itself as a modern nation in the late 19th century because its leaders recognized their country was lagging behind the West and asked themselves, “What’s wrong with us?” Outsiders can amplify such positive trends, but the local people have to want to own it.
As that reality has sunk in, so has another reality, which the American public intuits: Our rising energy efficiency, renewable energy, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are making us much less dependent on the Middle East for oil and gas. The Middle East has gone from an addiction to a distraction.
Imagine that five years ago someone had said to you: “In 2013, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and Iraq will all be in varying states of political turmoil or outright civil war; what do you think the price of crude will be?” You’d surely have answered, “At least $200 a barrel.”
But it’s half that — for a reason: “We now use 60 percent less energy per unit of G.D.P. than we did in 1973,” explained the energy economist Philip Verleger. “If the trend continues, we will use half the energy per unit of G.D.P. in 2020 that we used in 2012. To make matters better, a large part of the energy used will be renewable. Then there is the increase in oil and gas production.” In 2006, the United States depended on foreign oil for 60 percent of its consumption. Today it’s about 36 percent. True, oil is a global market, so what happens in the Middle East can still impact us and our allies. But the urgency is gone. “The Middle East is China’s problem,” added Verleger.
Obama knows all of this. He just can’t say it. But it does explain why his foreign policy is mostly “nudging” and whispering. It is not very satisfying, not very much fun and won’t make much history, but it’s probably the best we can do or afford right now. And it’s certainly all that most Americans want.



Dr. Mehmet Oz praises ‘coexistence’ at Israeli hospital

Viva Sarah Press

Television sensation Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon joined his friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on a tour of the Holy Land.
America’s favorite physician, Dr. Mehmet Oz, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, recently wrapped up a 10-day tour in Israel that included all the main tourist sites and a stopover at the world’s largest and most advanced “fortified hospital” at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Dr. Oz, the Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon who hosts The Dr. Oz Show, toured the Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital and Rambam’s state-of-the-art shock-trauma ward, prior to hosting a public lecture on health, morality, religion and culture.
Upon entering the underground hospital, Dr. Oz said that it “speaks to how we need a holistic place for healing, which means a hospital’s commitment to giving [patients] peace of mind in all conditions, including wartime.” He added, this facility “also means giving you peace of mind when you go to the hospital in wartime that you are in a healing environment.”
Led by Prof. Karl Skorecki, Rambam’s director of medical and research development, Dr. Oz and Rabbi Boteach toured the 2,000 bed facility.
“I learned about Rambam several years ago and its rich tradition in innovation,” Dr. Oz said. “Rambam is entrenched with a culture of a heterogeneous mix of Arabs and Israelis – a microcosm of what it should be like in the whole world… Rambam is a model of coexistence,” Dr. Oz told hundreds of medical specialists and fans.
During his much-hyped visit to Israel, Dr. Oz — who first came to prominence on The Oprah Show, also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I was encouraged by how passionate the Prime Minister was about Israeli-Turkish relations and how insightful he was about the need for these two countries to become closer allies. He has a true heartfelt affinity and deep respect for Turkey. Working together, Israel and Turkey can help stabilize the Middle East and build bridges towards prosperity,” he said in a statement.
Dr. Oz’s 10-day itinerary also included visits to the Western Wall, Masada, the Dead Sea, the Dome of the Rock, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
“I am delighted to travel to Israel, especially being accompanied by my wife Lisa and my four children and my son-in-law. Being of Turkish and of the Muslim faith, I have always appreciated the deep ties and friendship between the Turkish people and the Israeli people. Being an American I appreciate Israel’s friendship with the American people and my own close friendship with the American Jewish community. I am grateful to my dear friend Rabbi Shmuley for organizing this trip and equally grateful to Miriam and Sheldon Adelson for their unparalleled generosity in helping to facilitate this trip and making it possible,” he said in a statement.

Acknow. ISRAEL21c




The issue consists of 78 pages of foolscap size paper, with liberal illustrations.  Page 2, for example, contains a full-page photograph of five filter-tipped C to C cigarettes (remember them?) bearing one word, in bold capitals, “QUALITY”.  One has to turn to page 78 – the Index to Advertisers – to ascertain that the advertiser is United Tobacco Co. (South) Ltd.
The Editorial, under the heading “THE LESSON OF PERSECUTION” is a learned analysis of the anti-Semitism giving rise to the then current  persecution of the Jews of Austria and Germany by the Nazis.
Messages of Hope were published from both the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, the very Rev. J.H. Hertz, and the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Dr J.L. Landau, as well as a message from Rabbi A.H. Freedman, Rabbi to the Durban United Hebrew Congregation.
Dr Edgar Brookes described the rationale for the existence and the activities of ‘SOCIETIES OF JEWS AND CHRISTIANS – a Commendable Movement”.
E.A Rochlin contributed an enthralling article on “JONAS BERGTHEIL’S Great Contribution to NATAL” which stressed Bergtheil’s disinterested efforts to colonise, at no profit to himself, vast areas of rich arable land which now make up New Germany.
William Greenberg in another of his articles in the series on “Jewish Heroes and Heroines of Modern Times” contributed a biography of  Sir John Monash, the famous Australian engineer, scientist and soldier who was supreme commander of the Australian Army Corps which broke the stubborn German Army defence on the Western Front in July 1918 and led to the final victory in the First Great War.
Felix Gross Ph.D. in an article on “JEWISH PHILOSOPHERS AND JEWISH PHILOSOPHY” contributed pen-pictures of Philo of Alexandria, Maimonides, Spinoza, Moses Mendelsohn and Karl Marx and some of their writings.
The famous historian, Cecil Roth, in an article entitled “THE  HOUSE OF WINDSOR and The JEWS”, described the relationship which every English monarch from George 1 (1714 up to date) had with English Jewry.  It is  interesting to read that Queen Victoria who had a generally good relationship with various prominent English Jews, initially opposed the elevation of Lionel de Rothschild to the peerage because he was  a Jew.  She later withdrew her objections.
In a most interesting article called “The EARTH SPEAKS – the BIBLE in the Light of Archaeology” Rabbi Israel Freedman of  “Leominster, Mass.” pointed to numerous respects in which archaeological research had by then (75 years ago) proved the truth of some disputed stories in the Chumash.
Space does not permit me to describe several other extremely interesting articles dealing, inter alia,  with various aspects of life in Palestine at the time.  About half the issue deals with the annual reports  on Communal and Club affairs on which, too, I am unable to elaborate.

This issue consists of 88 pages of quarto size paper.  Each article bears a photograph of its author.
Pages 2 and 3 of the magazine contain New Year Messages from the President (Mr. M.Woolfson) and the chairman (Mr. Jules Goldberg) of the Club and the Editor (Mrs Sheva Hodes) and Chairman (Mr. Peter Ditz) of Hashalom.
In his New Year Message, Rabbi Dr.A.T.Shrock urged his readers to follow Hillel’s Golden Rule – never to separate themselves from the Community.
Rabbi Dr. M. Miller gave a similar message, stressing the ideal of unity and K’LAL YISRAEL and the necessity to foster those ideals throughout the Jewish Community.
Rev. (as he then was) Abner Weiss based his message on the sounding of the Shofar and stressed the need for peace in the world and particularly in Israel.
Professor A.G. Rookes, D.D. of Natal University contributed an interesting article about the education and evolution of Martin Buber and his spiritual pilgrimage.
Louis Penn, in an  article titled “The Story of Arnold Toynbee” quoted Toynbee’s notorious statement in his 10 volume “Study of History” that Jews were a “fossilised relic of an ancient civilisation” and then proceeded by detailed reference to the writings of Professor H.R. Trevor-Roper totally to undermine its validity.
Jonathan Goldberg described in the magazine  as “ex-Durbanite now living in Israel” wrote an interesting article on Kibbutz Sdot Yam.(The author is now resident in Los Angeles).
Then we come to an analysis of a book titled “The Survivors: a Report on the Jews of Germany Today: by Norbert Muhlen” in a review by Arthur Saul Super.  Fascinating to learn of the kind of Jews who, after surviving the Holocaust, chose to return to Germany.
Rabbi Dr S Rappaport then tells us “Why Jews Have No Missionaries” And why not? A main reason is that, as Rabbi Joshua said: “The righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come”.  Thus, unlike other religions, Jews make no claim to having an exclusive entrée to the World to Come,  which makes it unnecessary to send missions to those who are not Jews.
Then we have three short stories by local writers illustrated with portrait photographs, and the annual reports of Club and Communal activities.
It is noteworthy that 50 years later, of those in the photograph of the 1962/3 Council of the Club (the elders of the community) one (that of Leon Lewis) survives, albeit now resident in Israel, whereas of the “‘young Turks” (the 17 members of the Executive of 1962/63)  only four (Esmond Jacobson – immediate past Chairman- Alan Magid – vice-Chairman- Peter Ditz and Aubrey Josephson) are still alive and living in Durban while Natie & Celia Levy (San Diego) and Reg Berkowitz (Johannesburg) have lost the privilege of living in eThekwini.
If Pundit’s two fans are disappointed at this issue of Past Tense, as constituting a précis of the contents of the two annuals, or a sort of book review, that is just the nature of the beast.  Readers would be well advised to do as Pundit did and borrow the two annuals from the office and read the originals.


‘The new South African Graduate’ – Moshal Scholarship Program calls for corporate partnership

AdAlana Baranov

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. This quote by Nelson Mandela adorns the posters for the Moshal Scholarship Program and sums up the essence of this unique organization. On Friday July 26th 2013 the Moshal Scholarship Program held its first ‘Graduate Launch Breakfast’ at the Radison Blu Hotel in Johannesburg, with well-known guest speaker and Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State Professor Jonathan Jansen.
The Moshal Scholarship Program aims to provide financial provision to talented young people who would otherwise not have access to tertiary education. By giving these students a higher education and breaking the cycle of poverty, the Moshal Scholarship Program is opening the doors to a better life and changing the destiny of future generations. The Program is unique in being large-scale but personally funded and managed. The Moshal Scholarship Program currently supports over 400 students in South Africa and Israel, and is planning a careful expansion to other countries with a view to becoming a global scholarship program. It was founded in 2009 by Martin Moshal and is managed by a small team of committed professionals in the UK, South Africa and Israel.
Kate Kuper, the President of the Moshal Scholarship Program, began the morning by introducing the Program to the corporate attendees and urged them, along with other civil society and business stakeholders, to partner with the Moshal Scholarship Program. “Our intention is for key employers in South Africa to partner with us in ensuring our students also flourish in the world of work”, she said. In this way, Moshal Scholars would have access to much needed career guidance and work experience, allowing them to transform theory into practical skills.
Martin Moshal, one of South Africa’s top entrepreneurs with over 15 years’ experience in the internet industry, has not only supported but personally founded and funded various international charities. He described the Moshal Scholarship Program as, “set up to get a leverage return on investment”. The Scholars will transform not only their own lives but also the lives of their families and surrounding communities. Martin spoke passionately about the role of luck or ‘mazal’ in life, with most people pointing to a stroke of serendipity as being pivotal in their careers and in paving their path to success. Through starting the Moshal Scholarship Program, Martin hoped to “spread the mazal around” and combating what he described as the greatest travesty of justice in the world today, the scourge of wasted potential.
Guest speaker Professor Jansen took the floor and captivated the audience with his insightful, painful and sometimes humourous observations about the state of education in South Africa. Using personal anecdotes, Jansen gave an astute analysis of the myths surrounding this field and the problems facing our recent graduates. In particular, he highlighted our educational system’s failure to teach life skills to young people as well as a host of other competencies; the lack of rhythm in our school system which created a poor foundation for learning; as well as young people today suffering from a lack of confidence in their own abilities. Professor Jansen’s message was for corporates, in partnership with organizations like the Moshal Scholarship Program, to not only give students the chance to be educated in the lecture theatre but also to gain real-world experience in how to create a life they can be proud of. Taking initiative; giving back to others and, as the Moshal Scholarship Program would say ‘paying it forward’, as well as living a life of principle by example was the Professors advice to young graduates today. All these values are instilled in the Moshal Scholars and in this way a new South African graduate is being shaped. As the Program expands, the talent of our South Africans is will continue to be harnessed and go on to truly change the world.
The morning ended with Martin Moshal’s father, John Moshal, giving a word of thanks and encouragement to students not to give up and, to always work hard and to continue to make a difference in their own way. Following this, various representatives of large and small business enquired as to how they could work with the Moshal Scholarship Program to take this collaboration and mentoring project forward.
For more information on how you can assist the Moshal Scholarship Program, please contact Alana Baranov on +27832752184 or email The Moshal Scholarship Program website can be found at; ‘Like’ us on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter @MoshalSP




Extracts from HASHOLOM  - August 1938
The EDITORIAL (“Israel’s reply”) dealt in some detail with the outcome (or lack thereof) of the Evian Conference.  Not having the gift of prophecy, the Editor did not foretell, nor did anyone else, the gruesome outcome – that Hitler, observing that the rest of the civilized world was unable to afford the desperate Jews of Germany and Austria any real assistance to escape, would resolve upon the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem”.
A telling extract from the Editorial (August 1938, remember):
“One may well pause in abject despair before the scene that world Jewry presents and look for an answer to the huge query that disfigures the future of the Jewish people.    The answer has come.
The answer has been given in steady tones by those who are a part of Palestine today.  It is a simple answer.  Unremitting effort in the continued building of the Jewish National Home.  Work that knows no politics, that knows no purpose beyond a real desire to create.  Persistent application in the face of all obstacles, to the great purpose of building a national structure based on principles of justice.
It is an effective answer”.
Drawing inspiration from the fact that Herzl and Bialik died respectively on 20 and 21 Tammuz (though 30 years apart) “JUDAECUS” paid tribute to “THE IMMORTALITY OF HERZL AND BIALIK”.  The article deserves to be published in  full but space will not permit it.  Perhaps when Pundit publishes his masterpiece - “The best of Hasholom/Hashalom”.
A further article for that omnibus book will be a very funny short article entitled  “Where Begging is an Art”  by Yehuda Zvi.
Another in the series on “Jewish Heroes and  Heroines of Modern Times” was a short but  moving biography of Joseph Trumpeldor which began with the circumstances of his tragic and heroic death
NEWS OF THE WORLD -  “Jewish notes from here, there and everywhere” contained details of:
•    An appeal to two million members of the Presbyterian church of the U.S.A. to support victims of persecution throughout the world;
•    A report that the Turkish Under-Secretary of Health was to visit Vienna to engage a number of Jewish professors and scientists as University lecturers;
•    A speech by the newly-elected President of Uruguay in which he stated that Uruguay needed immigrants who were involved in agriculture and mentioned that he himself opposed racial hatred and discrimination;
•    A monument being erected in memory of 6 500 French Jews and 2000 foreign (British and American) Jews who had “died for France” in the World War.
•    Congratulated Master Michael Levy and Master Leonard Sebba on their barmitzvahs.
•    Congratulated Mr & Mrs Harold Freed on the birth of a daughter and Rabbi & Mrs A H Freedman on the birth of a son.
•    Congratulated Mr Jack Droyman on winning the Club’s Tennis Singles Championships and Mr Julius Gurwitz on being the runner-up.
•    Bade farewell to Mrs M Stiller, Jeannette and Ruby on their departure on holiday to the Seychelles.

Extracts from  HASHALOM – August 1963.
The issue contained a Guest Editorial on the doings of the S.A. Institute of Race Relations and a detailed article entitled “The 60th Anniversary of the Board” by Mr Gus Saron, the Secretary-General of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.
Much of the issue was taken up with reports on the Club’s first Fair, including a transcript of the address given at the Fair by Mr Sol Moshal, Honorary President of the Club.
The issue contained a full report of the launch of the 1963 United Communal Fund (U.C.F.) campaign including the inspiring address given by Dr E Silberchlag on opening it.  The report was accompanied by the curriculum vitae of the chairman of the U.C.F. Campaign, Mr Morris Schaffer, and a very attractive photograph of him.
• congratulated Peter, son of Dr & Mrs S Sacks, Brian son of Mr & Mrs J Farber, Mark, son of Mrs Evelyn Bradshaw, and Neil, son of Dr & Mrs M Berkowitz, on their respective Barmitzvahs;
• congratulated Andrea Stange and Brian Bernstein on their marriage;
• congratulated Mr & Mrs J Gurwitz and Mr & Mrs Eric Levine on the birth of their respective daughters;
• wished mazaltov to Mr F Metzger on the birth of his fourth grandchild;
• welcomed home (it does not say from where) Mr & Mrs Reggie Berkowitz;
• commiserated with the families of Mr Herbert Kahn and Mrs G Fish who had recently passed away.
“There comes a time in the life of every Natal man when he has his first suit made by Lerwil Pope and Co”.
WOOLFSONS advertised “the perfected Terylene/Wool suiting….imported British ‘Garnelene’ hand-tailored by CONNOISSEUR in top-fashion checks” for R45.25.
BARNES SHOE SALON/STUTTAFORDS advertised a high-fashion 1963 winter shoe range “priced from R7.95”.
It could seriously be stated in an advert “Meet me at the O.K. for everything”


Mandela and the Jews

AdDavid Saks

Recently South Africa’s chief rabbi, Dr. Warren Goldstein, spoke to Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, daughter of former president Nelson Mandela, to convey to the family the Jewish community’s prayers and support.

In thanking Rabbi Goldstein, Dr. Mandela asked him specifically to convey to the Jewish community that her father cherished “the special and warm relationship” he had had with South African Jews” and that he deeply appreciated how throughout his life he had enjoyed the warmth, kindness and support of the Jewish community.
With the life of this extraordinary man now inexorably drawing to a close, South Africans of all races and creeds are preparing with heavy hearts to bid a final farewell to their country’s greatest son. It is not a time for recriminations and finger-pointing, nor is it a time for any individual or group to presume to share in the light of his legacy.
South African Jews, notwithstanding Mandela’s generous acknowledgment of the support he received from members of their community, are well aware that in these sad times, it is to Mandela alone that all tributes belong.
Nor should it be forgotten that while many Jewish individuals did indeed play a valuable part in his life and career, the majority of Jews chose not to confront the apartheid system in any meaningful way.
In 2011, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) partnered with the Umoja Foundation in bringing out Jewish Memories of Mandela, a history telling the Mandela story from the perspective of the various Jewish individuals who were a part of it. For me, as the author of this book, it was an inspiring project, one that brought to light as never before the extent to which Jews were involved in the cause of black liberation while providing many fresh, and often deeply moving insights into the kind of man and leader that Mandela became.
Jews have been a part of Mandela’s life from his arrival in Johannesburg in the early 1940s to the present.
The law rather than politics was what he initially chose to go into, and it was Lazer Sidelsky that gave him his start as an articled clerk in his law firm at a time when it was unheard of for young blacks to be taken on in such a capacity. His fellow clerk, Nat Bregman, became his first white friend in Johannesburg and, as a member of the Communist Party at the time, also played a part in his early political education.
Mandela went on to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he established enduring friendships with fellow students Jules Browde and Harry Schwarz, both of whom were prominently involved in liberal politics thereafter.
As he moved increasingly into political activism, Mandela came more and more to be associated with members of the Jewish community who were likewise confronting the apartheid system. Thirteen of his fellow defendants in the 1956-1961 Treason Trial, for example, were Jews, among them such Struggle stalwarts as Lionel Bernstein, Joe Slovo and Ruth First. Among the founders of the underground military wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto we Sizwe, were Dennis Goldberg, Harold Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich (a volunteer in the War of Independence who later settled in Israel).
Jewish lawyers were prominently involved in defending Mandela in the various political trials in which he was involved, among them Isie Maisels (later a member of the governing body of the Jewish Agency), Arthur Chaskalson, Joel Joffe and Sidney Kentridge. He also worked closely with the journalist Benjamin Pogrund, who later made aliya and in addition to promoting Israeli- Palestinian dialogue has been a staunch defender of Israel in the propaganda war against it.
After Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, he and the mainstream Jewish leadership forged a cordial relationship and many leading Jewish businessmen were brought on board to assist in addressing the legacy of poverty and inequality left by the apartheid system.
He became especially close to Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris, a charismatic leader who whole-heartedly embraced the new democratic dispensation and encouraged the greater Jewish community to do likewise.
The SAJBD met with Mandela regularly, and its leadership, along with Rabbi Harris, accompanied him on a visit to Israel shortly after he had stepped down as president in 1999.
On the Israel-Palestine question, Mandela was deeply committed to the attainment of Palestinian statehood, but at the same time recognized that this had to be pursued through a process of peaceful negotiations and never deviated from his belief in Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.
Following his meeting with Mandela in 1996 the Dalai Lama, the revered world symbol of the Tibetan independence struggle, commented that when he met with prominent personalities from around the world, for the most part, they did not live up to their reputations. Nelson Mandela’s reputation was the largest in the world, he said, and only in Mandela’s case did he find the person larger than the reputation.
Nelson Mandela has been a true colossus on the stage of history.
World Jewry can take pride in how many of its members ultimately contributed to what he was able to achieve, for his own people and for humanity at large.
The writer is the associate director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and author of the 2011 book Jewish Memories of Mandela.

Acknow. Jerusalem Post


Overcoming barriers and building friendship across the Muslim-Jewish divide

AdAlana Baranov

The ancient, stirring words of kaddish drift slowly across the stark cemetery, as a group of 100 young Jews and Muslims from 39 countries taking part in the Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC) pray and weep together for all those lost in the genocide in Srebrenica. This scene echoes that of a previous MJC visit to Babi Yar in 2011, where Muslim prayers were recited in memories of the massacred Jews. Embodying the phrase, ‘your pain is our pain’, the prayers for the genocides which have scarred two separate communities connect them in profound ways, one of the main goals of the MJC which I was privileged to attend last week for the World Jewish Congress.
The MJC was first established in 2009 by determined young visionary Ilja Sichrovsky and is a registered non-profit and grassroots organizations based in Vienna, Austria. Its first conference took place in 2010 with a mere handful of volunteers hoping “to provide the next generation with a learning experience for life and a positive outlook for establishing intercultural relations and sustaining Muslim-Jewish partnerships”. By creating a ‘safe space’ for the exchange of personal experiences and breaking down stereotypes, the MJC unites participants from across racial, religious and gender divides to unite against Islamophobia and antisemitism. Subsequent conferences have attracted more than three hundred young leaders from fifty countries and were held in varied locales including Kiev, Ukraine and Bratislava, Slovakia.
With each passing year the MJC has developed in size, scope and savvy. Amongst the hundreds of applications to the conference this year were chosen not only those with an important perspective to share but also individuals who are willing to listen to the opinion of others. A careful balance of both Jews and Muslims, as well as a healthy mixture of religious and secular, is carefully maintained.
This year’s MJC was convened in the powerfully symbolic ‘Jerusalem of Europe’ – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. A city which was an example of multiculturalism and religious tolerance for centuries has been deeply scarred by some of the worst war crimes and acts of violence in modern times. The struggles of Sarajevo to overcome this fractured and hateful past are a reflected in the recent genocide, war and ethnic tensions – the perfect t place for lessons of the past to be put into practice in interfaith relations.   Over five days of sustained dialogue, the participants and future opinion-maker sought to make the impossible possible by defy the accepted notions of their elders on the futility of interfaith discussions. These courageous young people, many of whom faced opposition from family and friends back home for their involvement with the ‘other side’, are determined to forge a future of greater peace and understanding.
With a programme that included visits to the Ashkenazi Synagogue and various mosques across Sarajevo, to a day spent in Srebrenica for interfaith prayers for genocide victims, the MJC 2013 was intense and productive. The illustrious list of guest speakers included respected Rabbis and Imams as well as the President of Bosnia. Participants took full advantage of the opportunity to engage with other young people in an open and honest dialogue with the ‘other side’ which is usually much more difficult in their home nations. Participants were organized into various committees, examining topics from ‘Gender and Religion’; ‘Education and Historical Narratives; ‘Hate Speech’ to ‘Conflict Transformation’. The proposed projects which emerge from these committees set the agenda for the coming year and keep participants in touch and engaging with each other after the event.
One of the surprising outcomes of the conference was the plethora of intrafaith conversations which took place alongside the interfaith debates – both of which will have an impact on participants and the communities that they return home to.  Although the success of the MJC can be hard to quantify, the very fact that young Muslims and Jews from across the globe take the time and expense to journey to Sarajevo to overcome the barriers between their respective communities and build ties of friendship speaks volumes about their belief in this initiative. I personally appreciated the opportunity to sit and talk constructively with young Muslims from various academic and professional backgrounds, from as far afield as Pakistan and Uzbekistan, about some of the most contentious issues keeping the Muslim and Jewish worlds at odds. The attendance of a few South Africans, both Jewish and Muslim, also gave the MJC a unique insight into the state of Muslim-Jewish relations in our country and allowed us to forge a plan for the future.
The attendees of the MJC are not simply the leaders of tomorrow but are the change-makers of their communities and countries today.  Who else but they will be able to turn the sword of distrust, misconception and prejudice against each other and stand together as brothers and sisters, celebrating and understanding our differences whilst using our similarities to build an unshakable foundation for a better future.
A version of this article recently appeared in the SA Jewish Report




HASHOLOM July 1938

“Among the Jews I have found more genuine loyalty, more understanding, more compassion and more generosity, than my Jew-hating friends would ever believe could exist ….  The Jew must often be twice as good as the Gentile to get half as good an opportunity.   Realising that, he slaves, works, aspires, succeeds – and gets hated…..” Faith G Winthrop in “The Readers Digest”.
At the recent Keren Hayesod banquet held in Johannesburg Mr Hofmeyr, speaking of the relations of the "Afrikander" (sic) stock from which he himself has sprung, to the Zionist cause, said  “But we of the older stock in South Africa have also a special reason for sympathy with, and interest, in the Zionist cause.  To us, hardly less than for you, the Hebrew Prophets have had a message and a meaning in many of our memories.   The memories of our childhood are set in the hills and valleys of Judea. And so it would be strange indeed if we did not realise the significance of the return of the people of the Book to the land of the Book…..”  
“Jewish Heroes and Heroines of Modern Times” introduced  a biography of Walter Rathenau, the Jewish Foreign Minister of Germany under the Weimar Republic, who concluded the Rapallo Treaty with Russia in April 1922.  His fame and success led to his assassination in June 1922 at the hands of Nazi Party thugs.
IN  THE FOYER  The Bellboy reported –
• the visit of Lady Duncan, wife of the Governor General to a Union of Jewish Women function at the Club;
• the visit of a distinguished delegation from Keren Hayesod for a three-day conference in Durban;
• the achievement of the local branch of the S.A.Jewish Orphanage in raising “the magnificent sum of nearly £250 at a function held at the Club last month”;
• that Rose Alper (Mrs H.L. Magid) had  returned from a “successful tour in England with the Carl Rosa Royal Opera Company”.
• the Turkish Government was prepared to admit 200 Jewish doctors from Austria.  To this end the Turkish Government was in negotiation with the German Government to permit the emigration of the doctors;
• the Chinese Ambassador to Great Britain referred, at a meeting of the Friendly Discussion for Jews and Christians in London, to the friendly relations that had always existed between Jews and Chinese;
• Nazi Germany had declared that “non-Aryan” visitors could enter the German Consulate General  building in Museum Square, Amsterdam, only through a special back door while the front door was reserved for “Aryans”.
• an intensive anti-Jewish boycott which was being conducted by Sudeten Germans in Bohemia was being organised by Nazi agents sent from Germany.
• bade farewell to Mr Abe Goldberg M.P. and Mrs Goldberg on their departure for the first sitting of the new Parliament;
• welcomed back Mr & Mrs A Beare on their return from a visit to Europe and Mrs B Lurie and Mr & Mrs J Coll on their return from a trip overseas;
• congratulated
Miss Julia Levison and Mr Benny Geshen on their engagement;
Mr & Mrs Mervyn Gild on the birth of a bonny daughter;
Mr Leslie Rubin on his election as Prime Minister of Durban Parliament;
Miss Rita Leibowitz on winning the Natal championship for professional operatic dancing and Miss Pearl Leibowitz for being runner-up in the Natal championship for amateur operatic dancing;
Mr & Mr Harry Kukle on the birth of a son;
Master Cecil Norton who celebrated his barmitzvah this month.
PROFILE described Mark Bernstein’s participation in the design development of the huge Orange River Project.
• congratulated
Mr & Mrs Aaron Cohen on the birth of their first great grandchild;
Rosalind and Meyer Meyerowitz on the birth of their daughter;
Carol Tannenbaum and Philip Sherwin on their engagement;
Rita Rosenberg and Philip Baynash on their engagement
• commiserated with the family of the late Barney Levy who had recently passed away;
• wished Bon Voyage to Mr & Mrs Jules Goldberg who were about to have a trip overseas;
• welcomed home a long list of members who had recently returned from abroad.
CIRCLE COUNTRY CLUB reported that at its recent AGM Dennis Solomon who had served  Circle for 13 consecutive years had retired as its Chairman.
The TENNIS SECTION reported that “A highly successful Junior Club Day was held at the end of June in which 70 juniors participated and thanks to Louis & Judy Druck for making it such a successful day”. (And in 2013 we don’t have any tennis courts, let alone junior players).
In the July 1963 issue of HASHALOM, THE Durban Board of Shechita and Kashrut advertised:
“The following are the only establishments supervised by this Board” –
THE CRYSTAL CORNER                            KOSHER COUNTER
GREENACRES                                             KOSHER COUNTER
PAYNE BROS. LTD                                      KOSHER COUNTER
P.BASS                                                          MEAT AND POULTRY”
Makes you think, doesn’t it?


Maccabi Games 5773 / 2013

Grant Maserow

The 19th Maccabiah Games will be held in Israel from 18 – 30 July. Durban is very proud to see seven participants in SA Maccabi’s teams, take part in the games this year:

Rugby (Open)
Kym Hirshovitz
Kym started playing rugby at the age of nine. From grade 10 he played for Clifton’s 1st team until he matriculated.  After school Kym played for Rovers, Durban’s A side (lock).  He currently plays for SAUJS, Jhb and will be playing in the position of lock at this year’s Maccabiah.
Jason Hirshovitz
Since the age of 6, Jason has been playing Rugby.  He attended Kearsney from grade 8 where he played throughout his high school career in  all but one year (grade 11), finishing up playing lock for their 1st team, in matric.  For this Maccabi Games Jason is playing in the positions of flank and 8th man.

Futsal Soccer (Open)
Darren Smith
Darren attended Carmel College and Crawford-Carmel and was Captain of their 1st side.  He has also represented South Africa in their u19 soccer team (1998) and went on to play semi-professional soccer, signing a contract with Amazulu (Captain of the reserve team 2000-2002). Darren represented KZN in their u23 side (2000 – 2002).
Eugene Lazarus
Attended Crawford College, Glenmore where he was a member of their 1st team soccer and also represented Crawford, KZN 1st team.  He represented SA Maccabi in the Pan American Maccabi Games, Brazil (Dec 2011) in futsal soccer.

Golf (Open)
David Shevil
David has been playing golf since 8 years of age. He represented the KZN Junior Team (1990, 1991, 1992), the KZN Men’s Team (1993) and has participated in previous Maccabi Games for SA (1993 and 2009). From 1999 -2004 he played professional golf. He has won over 35 amateur events in SA and has competed in the Israel Open on two occasions, as well as having played on the local Sunshine Tour and the US Mini Tours. He also competed in the last 4 Maccabi Nationals and achieved excellent results.
Gary Bernstein
Gary attended Carmel College and Crawford-Carmel and captained the Crawford-Carmel Golf team. He also represented KZN u18 in the inter-provincial tournament, which they won in 2003. Gary represented KZN in the u23 age category (2004).  In March this year Gary finished 3rd in the Maccabi Nationals, held in Mt Edgecombe, Durban.  He is the current champion at Houghton Golf Club, winning the Club Championship in April.

Swimming (Masters)
David Letschert
David predominantly played waterpolo growing up.  He captained the Natal u20 waterpolo side and represented SA at the 1993 Maccabi Games, in waterpolo. He currently holds the KZN Masters record for 50m butterfly and has also held the record for KZN Masters 50mm freestyle.  He also held the SA record for 50m freestyle in the 35 – 39 age category.

At this upcoming Maccabiah David will be participating in the following events: Breast Stroke (50m), Butterfly (50m) and Freestyle (50m, 100m and 200m).

We wish all the participants much luck and hatzlachah in their events and enjoy the games.


JWRP: Connecting Souls and Sisters

AdTerri Pillemer

The morning I left for Israel, a mom dropping her kids off at the school bus asked me “are you going to come back covering your collar-bones?”. I laughed, covering up the fact that I had no idea what I’d come back with. Despite the detailed itinerary emailed by organizers weeks before, I knew very little about the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP).   
JWRP was formed in 2008 when Lori Palatnik and seven other women, calling themselves the Utah 8, came together with a common mission: to create a movement that would bring values back to the world.
Now, in its fifth year, JWRP attracts more than one thousand Jewish women a year from all over the world to Israel on the site-seeing trip with a difference.
One of our community alumni met Lori when she spoke in Durban in 2012. Seeing the value in her mission, he presented ten lucky moms from the new Umhlanga Jewish Day School with the opportunity to be a part of it.
For the dads, this was an opportunity to be entirely responsible for the children and the home for two weeks (a challenge at which they excelled). For the moms, what started out as a free trip to Israel, turned out to be a life-changing experience connecting us to our souls, our sisters and a social movement aiming to strengthen the fabric of the Jewish people.  
So, what did we come back with aside from over-weight luggage and hundreds of photos from the Kotel, the camels, the Dead Sea, Masada, Tiberius, Tsvat, the challah we baked, the people we met and the amazing meals we ate?
Certainly we have a deeper appreciation for Israel, our homeland.
Moreover, we gained insights into the wisdoms of the Torah and return inspired to bring G-dlinesss into our homes and, with Hashem’s guidance, into the world.
We also have places to stay if we ever visit Canada, the US or just about any Spanish-speaking country.
Feeling renewed after experiencing the brilliantly organized tour along with 200 Jewish women from different walks of life, it appears the dreams of the Utah 8 are not so far-fetched.
To anyone wondering if they should go, if they can step away from their families and lives for almost two weeks, I whole-heartedly recommend it- for you and for them. It’s so worthwhile in fact; I know a group of Durban women who’ll be first to reserve spaces for their husbands on the JWRP men’s trip that is soon to be launched!




Extracts from HASHOLOM – June 1938

“Incitement to Jew-baiting is being used as a cloak to conceal all manner of objections which have little or no reference to the Jew such as ... Anti-Semitism has always been a convenient weapon when ruling powers wish to direct movements of popular discontent”.  “Vigilance” in The Forum.
“For time out of memory there has been no Jewish question in Great Britain” -  Sir Samuel Hoare.
“Anyone who tries to be a Christian cannot have any truck with such a movement as anti-Semitism.  It is inconceivable that anyone who prides himself on being a Christian can be an ant-Semite” – The Right Rev. G.H. Clayton, Bishop of Johannesburg.

“Miss Christina Foyle of Foyles, the well-known London bookseller, revealed at a meeting in Birmingham…..that when Hitler announced that all books in Germany which had been written by  Jews must be destroyed, she wrote asking if her firm might purchase all of them because she thought that most of the best German books were written by  Jews.  Hitler replied personally and said he could not consent because he did not wish to have the morals of the English people corrupted”.

The activities of anti-Semites in Antwerp are reported to be assuming serious proportions.  Anti-Jewish agitators distribute anti-Jewish boycott literature appealing to all non-Jews not to trade with Jews.  Degrelle, the leader of the Rexist party, delivered a violent tirade at an enormous party conference against “international Jewry”, who, he said “wanted to let loose a world conflict”.

It is reported that owing to a dearth of doctors in Iraq, the Iraqi government has instructed its Ambassador in Vienna to facilitate the immigration of Austrian Jewish doctors. (How times have changed).

Hashalom contained an obituary of the late Mr Leo Lipinski (a pillar of the Durban Jewish community including especially the Chevra Kadisha) and  a memorial in memory of Nahum Solokow.

Bellboy paid tribute to Mr Abe Goldberg on his recent election as MP for the Umlazi constituency.

• Congratulated Miss Sybil Jacobson and Miss Dellie Miller on being winner and runner-up respectively in the women’s Tenth Year Tennis Tournament and Mr Jack Droyman and Mr Len Saul on respectively achieving the same honours in the men’s Tournament
• Congratulated Dr & Mrs I Goldberg on the birth of a son.

Extracts from  HASHALOM – JUNE 1963

• Frankie Querido and Maurice Solomon, Wendy Friede and Jackie Schaffer, Andrea Stange and Brian Bernstein on their respective engagements
Wished mazaltov to
• Marcia and Harry Strous on the birth of their twin daughters
• Janine (daughter of Mr & Mrs Arnold Miller) and Clive Miller on the birth of their daughter
• Mr & Mrs Sam Ernst on the birth of their second grandson
• Mr & Mrs Mannie Woolfson on their Ruby Wedding Anniversary
• Mr Abe Dubin and Dr Vera Factor on their recent marriage
• Rhoda, daughter of Mr & Mrs M Zulman, on receiving the great honour of being asked to join the company of famous Spanish dancer, Luisillo
Recorded happiness that Mr Jackie Strous had recovered from his recent illness.

The issue contained a tribute to Mr Arnold Miller who had recently been  elected as the President of the Council of Natal Jewry.

Rabbi Isaac Goss, director of the S A Jewish Board of Education, had given a brilliant lecture on the life and works of Chief Rabbi J. L. Landau and this issue of Hashalom contains a full report of that lecture.(Having read the report, Pundit wishes he could have attended the lecture).

HASHALOM paid tribute to the late Professor Leon Roth, former head of the Department of Philosophy at the Hebrew University and former rector of the University from 1940-43, who had recently died on a visit to New Zealand.

Cleanse, massage of face, neck, back, shoulders, steam or spray mask, make-up    R3.00
Cleanse, massage of face, steam or spray, mask, make-up R2.50
Massage of back, neck and shoulders    R1.00
Depilatory for lip    50c
Depilatory for lip and chin    75c
Special treatment for bust    R1.50
Brides-to-be, make-up for wedding     R1.00
Those were the days!!    


Oil-rich Qatar pushing to make its name as a Mideast peace broker

Ron Kampeas

When it comes to the latest Arab peace initiative, two questions are circulating in Washington: Why Qatar? And why now?
The three answers: Because Qatar is rich; it is scared; and why not?
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister and foreign minister, in recent weeks has driven the revivification of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, moderating it slightly to hew closer to the outlines touted by the Obama administration since 2011. The updated version, outlined by Hamad in remarks to reporters following his meeting April 29 with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, pulls back from the 2002 demand that Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders in exchange for comprehensive peace.  Instead, Hamid proposed “comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps of the land” - a formulation that opens the door to Israel's retention of several major settlement blocs. Hamad also did not mention the Palestinian “right of return” and the division of Jerusalem, elements of the original Arab initiative that had led to its rejection by the Israeli government.
Qatar, the fabulously wealthy Persian Gulf state that is host to the forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, hasn't been known until recently for grabbing onto thorny diplomatic challenges. So what does Hamad hope to gain?
The Qatari Embassy did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but experts and officials say that Qatar is wealthy enough to do what it likes and, as an autocracy concerned for its survival in a region roiling with revolution, is driven to make friends and demonstrate its usefulness. “For a small country, they’re throwing money around, organizing diplomatic events, trying to shape a range of issues, much of it related to the Middle East uprising,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a think tank considered close to the Obama administration. “It's rich, it's small, it lacks the inner turmoil of other countries. It’s one of the [Middle Eastern] countries ... that are more internally stable and have more resources.”
Just prior to unveiling the revised peace plan, Hamad, a distant cousin of the Qatari emir, was honored by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, an organization that received $2.5 million to $5 million from the government of Qatar in 2012, according to Politico.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, the Saban Center’s director, said Qatar for years had accrued influence through such uses of “soft power” - the generous dispensation of money and assistance - coupled with its ownership of Al Jazeera, the region’s most influential news outlet. When uprisings swept the Middle East at the beginning of 2011, Qatar was able to step into a vacuum left by the toppled dictators, she said.  “It vaulted Qatar into a much more prominent role in regional politics because of the loss of [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak,” Wittes told JTA. “Its regional assistance and Al Jazeera have allowed it to play a larger role in how the awakening is viewed.”
Backing winners, whether the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the forces that helped topple Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, also lends credibility - and insurance - to a regime that is itself autocratic, Katulis said.   “If they win as many as friends as possible, get in early on the ground floor, they'll be all the more influential,” he said.
A State Department official played down Qatar's role in reviving the Arab peace bid, noting that the new plan formally emerged from the Arab League. And yet he emphasized that the Obama administration is focused mainly on returning the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table and hopes the peace initiative can help them get there.  “It's a sign that the Arab League is a constructive member in the process,” the official said. “The regional partners have a role, but our major focus is getting the Palestinians and Israelis back to the table for direct talks.”
So far, that doesn't seem to be happening. Israel is less than thrilled about the new initiative. An Israeli official confirmed that Netanyahu remains as unenthusiastic about the 1967 lines as a basis for negotiations as he was in 2011, when President Obama’s proposal based on those lines precipitated a small crisis in U.S.-Israel relations.
Israelis are also skeptical of Qatar because of its support for Hamas, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip. The country’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, became the first foreign leader to visit the strip last October.
“On the diplomatic front, Qatar publicly claims to support Israeli-Palestinian peace while making certain to undermine it in every possible way,” Seth Mandel wrote last week in Commentary, the neoconservative journal.
But Wittes said Qatar’s relationship with Hamas could be seen as a benefit. Hamas is a mainstay of Palestinian politics, and Qatar could help influence the group to moderate.  “If obstruction of peace was Hamas’s role as spoiler,” she said, “you have to look at the potential for Qatar as a positive influence.” 

 Acknow. JTA


What Boston hospitals learned from Israel

Ben Sales

Minutes after a terrorist attack killed three at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, doctors and nurses at the city’s hospitals faced a harrowing scene - severed limbs, burned bodies, shrapnel buried in skin.
For Boston doctors, the challenge presented by last week's bombing was unprecedented  but they were prepared.
Many of the city's hospitals have doctors with actual battlefield experience. Others have trauma experience from deployments on humanitarian missions, like the one that followed the Haitian earthquake, and have learned from presentations by veterans of other terror attacks like the one at a movie theater in Colorado.  But they have benefited as well from the expertise developed by Israeli physicians over decades of treating victims of terrorist attacks - expertise that Israel has shared with scores of doctors and hospitals around the world. Eight years ago, four Israeli doctors and a staff of nurses spent two days at Massachusetts General Hospital teaching hospital staff the methods pioneered in Israel.
According to the New Yorker magazine, every Boston patient who reached the hospital alive has survived.  “We had periods where every week we had an attack,” said Dror Soffer, director of the trauma division at the Tel Aviv Medical Center, who participated in the delegation. “It becomes your routine.”  Techniques that were “routine” in Israel by 2005, and helped save lives in Boston last week, began evolving in the 1990s, when Israel experienced a spate of bus bombings. Israeli doctors “rewrote the bible of blast trauma,” said Avi Rivkind, the director of surgery at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, where 60 percent of Israeli victims have been treated.
Much of what Israel has learned about treating attack victims was done on the fly. In 1996, a 19-year-old soldier arrived at the Hadassah hospital following a bus bombing with severe injuries to her chest and esophagus. Doctors put chest drains on her lungs and performed endoscopies twice a day to stop the bleeding. Both techniques are now regular practices. “We were sure she was going to die, and she survived,” Rivkind said.
A riskier move came five years later when Adi Huja arrived at Hadassah with massive blood loss following an attack in downtown Jerusalem. Rivkind realized his team wasn't controlling the bleeding, so he directed staff to administer a shot of NovoSeven - a staggeringly expensive coagulant typically used for hemophiliacs that was not approved for a trauma situation. But it worked and Huja survived.
Rivkind is an internationally recognized expert in terror medicine and widely considered one of the great brains behind Israeli innovations that have been adopted around the world.   Trained at Hebrew University, the Hadassah Medical Center and the Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems in Baltimore, he has contributed to several volumes on trauma surgery and post-attack care, and authored a number of seminal medical studies. Rivkind was the personal physician for the late Israeli President Ezer Weizman, helped care for Ariel Sharon when the prime minister fell into a coma following a stroke, and has performed near-miraculous feats, once reviving a soldier shot in the heart who had been pronounced dead in the field.
But not everything Rivkind has learned about treating attack victims comes from a story with a happy ending. In 2002, Shiri Nagari was rushed to Hadassah after a bus bombing. She appeared to have escaped largely unharmed, but 45 minutes later she was dead. It was, Rivkind later wrote, the first time he ever cried after losing a patient.  “She seemed fine and talked with us,” he told JTA. “You can be very injured inside, and outside you look completely pristine.”
Organizing the emergency room, Rivkind said, is as important as treating patients correctly. During the second intifada, Hadassah developed what he called the “accordion method,” a method of moving patients through various stages of assessment with maximal efficiency. The process has become standard in hospitals across Israel and around the world.
Some of what distinguishes Israeli trauma doctors are qualities that are hard to teach. Rivkind has said he keeps two beepers and a cell phone on him at all times, even in bed. Even when calls come in the middle of the night, a small army of medical professionals can usually be relied on to arrive at their posts within minutes, sometimes even ahead of the ambulances carrying the wounded. “Whenever there was an alarm, we jumped, ran and called our homes, and then got ready to absorb patients,” said Liora Utitz, the mass-casualty coordinator at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. “I felt very safe. The volunteerism of everyone gave me strength.”
Israel continues to export its trauma expertise. Rivkind has taught medicine in Melbourne, Australia, and Southern California. Delegations of doctors from New York and Los Angeles have visited him in Jerusalem.
“We have tens of years of cumulative trauma experience,” he said. “We’ve learned not to give up.”

Acknow. JTA




HASHOLOM – May 1938
An Editorial on "THE GENERAL ELECTION" which disclosed that, in accordance with the Electoral Act, it was “written by Mr N.E. Abrahams, 48 Guildford Road Durban” contained the following passage:
“We have little doubt that South Africa with its fine traditions of tolerance and human understanding, will give the lie direct to the traducers of the Jewish people”.
“Thank God that the Jews are always on the side of peace.  I thank God for the tenacity and obstinacy of the Jews for they are today witness to the bankruptcy of any policy of persecution.  Persecution is the device of bankrupt politicians and is cowardice” – Father C.H.S. Runge. C.R.
“Hitlerism is fundamentally anti-Christian and an enemy of civilisation. Nordic superiority is a myth and everybody knows that the German Jew has been deeply devoted to Germany and has been a devoted and useful citizen to Germany.  To deny this means either ignorance or lying” – Dr Ernest Meyer, formerly Secretary of the German Embassy at Washington.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN STAGE dealt, not with the state of Theatre in the country, but, like the editorial, with electoral matters (like the editorial and for the same reason, it identified the author – Lionel Feitelberg of 412 Manning Rd Durban)
“Anti-Jewish Propaganda” included:
• Mr Eric Louw’s statement that “about 10 000 Jews have entered the country in the last few years
• Mr P J Hugo stressed that not only had these Jews come in, but stated that they are now dominating the country
IN THE FOYER – “Bellboy” reported that only about 200 books were being issued by the Club every month.  According  to “Bellboy” this meant that only about 50 to 70 members out of a total of 600 were “availing themselves of this amenity – “a poor percentage” said Bellboy. “A remarkable percentage” says Pundit.
NEWS OF THE WORLD – Jewish Notes from Here, There and Everywhere.
• The Jews of Czechoslovakia had found the repercussions of the Nazi occupation of Austria alarming but had been calmed by a speech by the Prime Minister in which he has said “The Government will in no circumstances and in no shape permit oppression, whether of an economic, moral, or political kind”.
• The German annexation of Austria had caused intensification in the anti-Semitic  campaign conducted by German Nazis in Luxembourg.  Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister had obtained a pledge from Belgium to defend Luxembourg in case of an invasion.
• The Estonian President assured a Jewish delegation that there was no Jewish problem in the country and that so long as he was the head of State there could be no talk of anti-Semitism  in Government quarters.
• In Belgium the Fascist Rex Party and the National Flemish movements had recently intensified their anti-Semitic propaganda.
IN TOWN AND OUT Congratulations to:
• Mr Nathan Abrahams on attaining his majority
• Mr & Mrs Clem Fridjohn on the birth of  a daughter
• Ramon Leon on the celebration of his barmitzvah
• Miss Z Levitas and Mr Max Moshal on their engagement
Avril Kentridge who had made her debut in Durban had recently obtained Honours in her Intermediate Ballet Examination at the Royal Academy and had subsequently “achieved the phenomenal success of taking first place in the All England Talent competition, being awarded a cup as the most talented child in England in her particular sphere of activity”.
HASHALOM – May 1963
THIS FOUL THING – Anti-Semitism
Under this heading the Editorial reported that there had recently been a rash of Swastika daubings and anti-Semitic slogans, following a series of similar incidents in Johannesburg.  Hashalom quoted editorial comment on the subject from the April issue of “Jewish Affairs”.
An impressive photograph of Yitzchak Ben Zvi, the second President of Israel, was super-imposed on an eloquent obituary, paying tribute to his great achievements in many fields.
An interesting short story by Ephraim Kishon (published with acknowledgement to The Jerusalem Post) entitled “Never Under-estimate the Security Council” brought a few smiles to Pundit’s rather faded visage.
Under the heading “16th term Peoples College – Great Jewish Personalities of the Twentieth Century”  Hashalom published pocket but fairly detailed biographies of Rabbi Solomon Schechter, Chief Rabbi J H Hertz, Nahum Solokow and Martin Buber. (What a Peoples College course that must have been!)
• Welcomed travellers Mr & Mrs Louis Ditz, Mr & Mrs A Beare, Mr & Mrs Rudi Landecker and their daughter Joan on their return from overseas trips
• Congratulated Mr Raoul Goldman on his election as President of the Durban Chamber of Commerce
• Congratulated Vryheid students who gained degrees at Wit and N.U.C:
Louis Simon  (N.U.C.) B.A; Lionel Ziman (Wits) Dentistry; Mervyn Mittel (Wits) B.Comm; Sam Sussman (Wits) Diploma Law
• Bellboy conferred B.B.B’s (Bellboy’s Brass Buttons) on Louis and Judy Druck “the wonderful couple who devote every single Sunday afternoon to this “(the Junior Tennis)” section and who have been entirely responsible for the recent  upsurge of enthusiasm among our young tennis players.
POSTEA.  In 2013 Pundit says “And now we don’t even have any tennis courts”.


Former British PM Margaret Thatcher, 'staunch friend of Israel,' dies

AdRon Kampeas

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was considered a good friend of Israel despite a rocky relationship with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, has died.
Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87. Thatcher suffered from dementia at the end of her life, which was dramatized in the 2011 movie "The Iron Lady."
The only female to serve as prime minister of Britain, she also was the longest continuously serving prime minister in the 20th century,  leading the country and her Conservative Party from 1979 to 1990.
Thatcher was supportive of Israel but had a troubled relationship with Begin, who served two terms in the 1980s. She called Begin the "most difficult" man she had to deal with, according to the Chronicle. She also strongly opposed Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.
She believed that the Arab-Israel conflict was at the center of the Western world's difficulties in the Middle East, pressing Israeli leaders to make peace with the Palestinians in order to cool regional tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mourned her passing in a statement.
"She was truly a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength; a woman of greatness," Netanyahu said. "She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders. I send my most sincere condolences to her family and to the government and people of Great Britain."
Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told JTA that Thatcher "was always extremely supportive and admiring of the ethos of the British Jewish community. This close relationship began when her family took in a young Austrian Jewish refugee from Nazism in the late 1930s."
The girl stayed with Thatcher's family for two years before rejoining her family in South America.
Wineman said that when Thatcher entered the Parliament representing Finchley in north London, "a very Jewish constituency," her relationship with local Jewish institutions blossomed and continued throughout her career as prime minister. During her campaign, she fought against a golf course in the district that banned having Jews as members.
Thatcher was a founding member of the Anglo-Israel Friendship League of Finchley and a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, according to Tablet.
Wineman said Thatcher counted a number of Jews among her closest advisers and confidants, and at one point nearly a quarter of her Cabinet  was of Jewish origins. They included Nigel Lawson, Malcolm Rifkind, Keith Joseph and Leon Brittan, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
"She also greatly admired the late Chief Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Jakobovits, whom she elevated to the House of Lords," Wineman said. "She was unquestionably a great statesman of the later 20th century, and one who was a friend to the Jewish people and Israel.”
Thatcher reportedly had no patience for anti-Semitism nor those who espoused it. She was a strong supporter of Soviet Jewry.
She had a strong relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and together they fought communism, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Acknow.  JTA


Ellison is world's richest Jew, new Forbes billionaire list shows

Oracle's Larry Ellison is the world's richest Jew, according to Forbes magazine's annual world billionaires list for 2013.
Ellison was among five Jews in the top 25 on the list released Monday. Seventeen Israelis were among the record 1,426 billionaires - 200 more than in 2012.

Ellison was No. 5 overall with a net worth of $43 billion. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was No. 13 with $27 billion, followed among the Jews by casino magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson at No. 15 with $26.5 billion, and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at 20 and 21, with $23 billion and $22.8 billion.

Four of the Israelis are new to the list: tech investor Shaul Shani, with a net worth of $3 billion; diamond baron Dan Gertler, $2.2 billion; and oil prospector Tzadik Bino and pharmaceuticals investor Mori Arkin, both with $1.05 billion. Businessman Idan Ofer ranked highest of the Israelis, placing at No. 182 with $6.2 billion. Ofer's brother Eyal was four spots lower with $6 billion.

Mexico's Carlos Slim topped the list as the world’s richest person for the fourth year in a row, followed by Microsoft's Bill Gates, Spanish clothing retailer Amancio Ortega and investor Warren Buffett.






EDITORIAL  - April 1938
As was natural, a long editorial dealt with the political and international consequences of the recent Nazi German occupation of Austria.

“The inculcation of pseudo-scientific notions of racial purity is one of the worst features of Nazism, and it is bound to stoke up unreasoning hatred and create a spirit of self-righteousness which may lead to war” – “The Scotsman”

“The Jews in our country enjoy the same rights as any other section of the population….A large section of the Jews in Czechoslovakia regard themselves as a national minority…….another..… a religious community.   Under the laws of our democratic State, everyone is free to regard himself as either”  - President E. Beneš.

“I can assure our Jewish citizens that their rights will be fully respected.  The Jews can put their trust in the traditional feelings of tolerance of the Lithuanian people who will never injure any of the national minorities in this country” – President Smetona.

(Pundit’s note – The events of a  few years later gave the lie to President Smetona’s words).

A message from Professor Chaim Weizmann was appended to a full report on the affairs and history of the University.

SOME ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS (still tongue in cheek)
“Hard-up”  (City) – Take it easy.  Don’t  worry about your debts – your creditors will do that for you.

“Proud father” (Stamford Hill) - If your son is a chip off the old block, don’t worry!  He may grow out of it.

“Lovelorn” (Berea) – Many a man who swears he would go through hell for a girl, marries her and does.

IN THE FOYER  by Bellboy featured comments on the invasion of Austria, the heat of the Club in summer and the desire for a new-fangled thing called “air-conditioning” and the importance of Pesach.

• King Zog of Albania over-ruled a decision by the Governor of Valonia prohibiting Jews from closing their businesses on Shabbat.  He did so because , so it was reported in the press, the future Queen of Albania was related by marriage to an orthodox Jewish family in Yugoslavia.

• The “Evening Standard” reported that the Japanese Government had launched Japan’s first anti-Semitic campaign by announcing the discovery of a “world-wide Jewish plot”.

Some extracts from IN TOWN AND OUT
• Congratulations to Mr Max Freedman on attaining his majority
• Congratulations to Master Stanley Hackner on his barmitzvah
• Congratulations to Mr S Moshal on being elected President of the Council of Natal Jewry.
• We welcome back Mr & Mrs A.J. Cohen from Johannesburg.

HASHALOM – April 1963
One of the earliest items is a full-page invitation to the community to attend the 15th anniversary of the State of Israel to be held at the Club on Sunday 28th April 1963 at 7.30p.m.

Pundit infers that Bellboy, who was responsible  for the IN THE FOYER column was a golfer, for he devoted a major portion of his column to the achievements of two members of Circle Country Club (Henry Mymin & Lionel Phillips) who had recently scored holes-in-one.  Henry’s was apparently his fifth.

Hashalom paid tribute in an obituary to the late Mr Justice S.M. Kuper, who had recently  been assassinated at his home in Johannesburg.  At the time of his death Judge Kuper was Honorary President of the South African Zionist Federation.

Pundit had forgotten that the Club had a Photographic section at the time.  The 3rd Annual Photo Competition was held in March 1963 and the prize winners were:
Club’s Floating Trophy for the best print:  W. Wellisch
Club’s Floating Trophy  for the best slide: R.E. Wellisch
Amongst the Highly commended were:
   E. Puterman – print – Woman’s Portrait
   J. Strous – slide – “The Golden Book”

• The Club, the CNJ and Zionist Council bade farewell to Mr. Solomon (“Grandpa”) Goldberg on his departure for Israel  at a finger luncheon at which he was presented with a Golden Book Certificate.

• Congratulations to the members who had been “capped” at the recent University of Natal Graduation Ceremony:  Bella Schmahmann (B.A.Hons.), Hilary Sugarman (BA), Avril Horwitz (B.A.), Alan Sandler (B.A.) Dennis Gamsy (B.Com) Colin Silver (B.Com), Naomi Hertz (B.Soc.Sc.) Janice Sacks (B.Soc.Sc.) and Andrea Stange (B.Soc.Sc.).

• Gregory Bass, son of Dr & Mrs B Bass recently celebrated his barmitzvah. Congratulations to the barmitzvah boy and his parents”.

To conclude this issue of PAST TENSE, your scribe can do no better that repeat a quotation from Gideon Hausner’s opening speech at the Eichman Trial which was featured in the April 1963 issue of Hashalom:
“Murder has been with the human race since the days when Cain killed Abel; it is no novel phenomenon.  But we have had to wait till the twentieth century to witness with our own eyes a new kind of monster:  not the result of the momentary surge of passion or mental blackout, but of a calculated decision and painstaking planning;  not through the evil design of an individual, but through a mighty criminal conspiracy  involving thousands;  not against one victim whom an assassin may have decided to destroy, but against an entire people”.


Judaism As Free-for-All Should Be What We Want

Leonard Fein

Back when he was Israel's Minister of Justice, the irrepressible and ever-creative Yossi Beilin put forward a proposal for secular conversion to Judaism. As he explained, “It is simply unimaginable that in the 21st century, a time in which most of world Jewry is not religious, we should continue to grant certain religious establishments the right to define 'who is a Jew.'”

Beilin's argument was straightforward: “Why is someone like me allowed to be an agnostic Jew while a convert to Judaism is not? Why must a non-Jewish atheist or agnostic go to a rabbi in order to become a Jewish atheist or agnostic?”

Or, more elaborately, “We must… give people… who wish to be identified as Jews the right to join the Jewish people on the basis of their own self-definition. I envision a situation where a non-Jew - who does not claim membership in another religion - turns to the local Jewish community and asks to be registered as a community member. The community would ask for references from two Jewish community members, as is customary upon joining certain movements or clubs.

Once the community is convinced that the reasons for joining are pure and that the motivation is straightforward, it would register this new Jew within its ranks without providing her or him with a religious ceremony. If the new member later chooses to marry within a Reform context, the Reform movement would require a Reform conversion; similarly the Conservative and Orthodox movements. The new Jew would then decide whether to undergo that procedure. From the standpoint of the Jewish community, however, the individual would be considered a Jew based on self-definition.”

The Beilin proposal went nowhere and was soon enough forgotten. But why the reluctance to endorse the kind of inclusiveness the Beilin proposal intended? Why did so few people consider what its rejection implied?

In the end, there can be only one reason, and the reason is blood. For to reject the idea of a Jewish people whose members have defined themselves as Jews is to define Judaism as chiefly a biological category, leavened somewhat by conversion.

Ponder the implications of that: If being Jewish is about having Jewish blood, then Judaism is a race. Do we believe that?
More generally, do we believe that blood lines should determine anything at all?

That is not a rhetorical question. Quite obviously, there are many Jews who think exactly that - and not only in the Orthodox community. That blood lines matter is a widespread and mostly unexamined belief. But upon examination, it crumbles.

Think of it this way: Broadly, societies can award status based either on ascription or on achievement. Ascription - as, for example, ascribing to the children of college alumni a preferred status. An ascribed status is a given, independent of a person's merit, without reference to the person's abilities. Achievement - a status earned by effort, informed by choice. Now: Do we prefer a Judaism that is ascribed or a Judaism that is achieved? Do we prefer a Judaism that is assigned or one that is freely chosen?

It has become routine to claim that these days, all Jews, at least in America, are Jews by choice. And if we are all Jews by choice, it follows that our relationship to being Jewish - the importance we attribute to being Jewish and our relevant beliefs regarding the implications of being Jewish - is also inherently a matter of choice. We see this all around us. Atheism, agnosticism, fervent denominationalism (as also passive denominationalism), friendship and residential preferences, charitable behavior - these all vary greatly.

If I am permitted to define Judaism for myself, short of accepting some other religion, then I can come to Judaism with all manner of beliefs, values, even customs. And others can, just as freely, choose to take our dreams as their own. Is it a bad thing that so many have taken our Exodus story and woven it into their own narratives?

Judaism as a free-for-all? But isn't that exactly what we want? And for those of us who reject that unbridled freedom - well, they are free to pick the cloister that best suits them. That is what being a Jew by choice means.

Jewish Daily Forward


A divided Belgium nears a belated consensus on Holocaust-era complicity

Cnaan Lipschitz

As the sister of Belgium’s most powerful Nazi, Madeleine Cornet knew better than to inquire about the ethnicity of the three women she hired as housemaids in October 1942. Cornet did not want to further implicate herself by hearing what she already knew: Her new hires were Jews who managed to escape the deportations that her brother, the Belgian politician and Nazi collaborator Leon Degrelle, was busy organizing.

The unlikely story of Cornet and her husband, Henry, was unearthed only a few months ago among a wave of articles in the Belgian media last year dealing with the country’s role in the Holocaust. The sudden focus on Belgium's Holocaust history reflects the country's belated reckoning with its complicity in the deaths of 28,902 Belgian Jews during World War II.

In the last year, Begium opened its first Holocaust museum and, for the first time, acknowledged its role in the persecution of its Jewish citizens. It began in August, when the mayor of Antwerp admitted the country’s Holocaust-era guilt, initiating a string of mea culpas by his Brussels counterpart and the leaders of several other municipalities and culminating with a statement from the prime minister himself.

“We must have the courage to look at the truth: There was steady participation by the Belgian state authorities in the persecution of Jews,” Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said at a memorial ceremony in Mechelen, the point from which more than one-third of Belgium’s Jewish population of approximately 66,000 was sent to Auschwitz, according to Yad Vashem, Israel's national Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.
This month, a committee of the Belgian Senate endorsed a watered-down version of his words, noting only that “some Belgian authorities” helped deport the Jews. The formal admissions of guilt have come late by Western European standards. Austria acknowledged its culpability in 1993; France and the Netherlands followed suit two years later. “I think the delay owed in part to tensions between Belgium’s two parts, the Flemish-speaking Flanders region and the French-speaking Wallonian region,” said Guido Joris, an editor of Joods Actueel, the Antwerp-based weekly that published the Cornets’ story for the first time. “These differences meant it took a long time to arrive at a consensus.” Indeed, even mundane decisions such as building a new university or hospital often lead to recriminations between the distrustful representatives of the country’s two ethnic groups, the Flemish and the Walloons, who occupy three autonomous regions that make up a brittle federal entity the size of Maryland.

Historian Jan Maes discovered the Cornets' story, tracking down one of the housemaids, Hannah Nadel, who now lives in Israel. Nadel recalled that visitors associated with the Nazi movement would routinely dine at the house, while the three Jewish women hid in the basement. Nadel’s mother sometimes would cook gefilte fish, which Cornet presented to her guests as “oriental fish.”

The bravery of couples like the Cornets was not as uncommon in Belgium as in other European countries. According to Yad Vashem, Belgium has 1,612 Righteous among the Nations. The figure is the third highest in Western Europe, behind France (3,513) and Holland (5,204) and well ahead of Germany and Italy, with 500-some rescuers apiece. The Cornets are not on the list, as Nadel, 86, has never submitted their names. “We thought about it for a long time but we never did as we feared, at the time, it might get them into trouble with their heavily Nazi family,” she told JTA.

Like Degrelle, hundreds of Belgians - many of them police officers - were involved directly in hunting down Jews. Not a single Belgian municipality refused the Nazi occupiers’ orders to register the Jews in their jurisdictions. Only one, in the Brussels region, refused to hand out yellow stars.

These facts were documented in an 1,100-page report, “Obedient Belgium,” that was released in 2007 by the Center for Historical Research and Documentation on War and Contemporary Society five years after the federal body started its work at  the Belgian Senate’s request. The report found that the Belgian state collaborated systematically with the Nazi occupation in hunting down its Jews and Roma, or gypsies. On Jan. 9, a decade after the center launched its probe, the Senate adopted some of its findings.

“Part of the delay owed to how on the French-speaking side, relevant documents had not beet properly kept, whereas Flemish authorities archived them meticulously,” Maes said. “There were concerns this disparity in documentation could create a lopsided report." In addition, no politician was eager to add Holocaust complicity to the list of tensions that already burden the relationship between Walloons and Flemish, Maes said.

There was another inconvenient truth as well. According to Dr. Eric Picard, founder of the Brussels-based Association for the Memory of the Shoah, about 25 percent of the Jewish population in French-speaking Belgium was murdered, compared to 75 percent of Flanders’ similarly sized Jewish community. Historians attribute the disparity to a number of factors: the availability of escape routes to French speakers; the close-knit nature of Antwerp’s more religious community; and the Aryan affinity that some Flemish non-Jews felt toward Germany.
Picard, a fiery 54-year-old psychiatrist from Brussels, says that while he’s appreciative of the “enormous, albeit belated momentum” with which Belgian officials have addressed their country’s darkest hours, he fears some backslide is occurring, noting the difference between Di Rupo’s sweeping acknowledgement of official complicity with the Senate’s more conditional language.

This, Picard says, is “Holocaust revisionism.” He is disappointed as well by the Senate’s failure to enact a special status for Holocaust survivors, as the 2007 study recommends, or to offer restitution. Eli Ringer, the honorary president of Flemish Jewry’s Forum of Jewish Organizations, nonetheless calls the recent admissions of guilt “important milestones” and the opening in December of Belgium’s Holocaust museum in Mechelen (or Malines, in French) a “significant step.” Named the Dossin Barracks Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre for the Holocaust and Human Rights, the imposing building was inaugurated by King Albert II and is made of 25,852 bricks - representing the 25,257 Jews and 595 Roma known to have been sent to their deaths from the nearby barracks.


Jewish World

Past Tense




Men should be careful lest they cause women to weep, for G-d counts their tears.


“There is no Jewish question in Turkey. Such a question will never exist in Turkey….Turkey will never allow the creation of a Jewish question or any minority question within her borders.” - Mr Djelul Bayar, President of the Turkish Republic.

“You cannot reconcile the very slightest grain of the anti-Semite’s outlook with the fundamental principles of the Christian Faith.” - Rev. N.E. Egerton Swann London.

“In Great Britain we abhor racist repressions, and we will not subscribe to doctrines alleging the inferiority of any particular religious or racial section of our community.” – Sir Kingsley Wood.

“The Moslem peoples are by no means hostile to the Jews. Islam has indeed a record of toleration of the Jews more creditable than that of Christendom…..Publicists in the Islamic world have repeatedly expressed sympathy with the fate of the oppressed Jews in Europe.” – Kenneth Williams in “United Empire”.

In a column headed “ROSE ALPER IN LONDON” the author devoted some space to the operatic success of the Durban resident to whom he referred, with apparent parochial pride, as “our Rose”.

A report of a visit to Durban of Mr Eliezer Kaplan, the Treasurer of the Jewish Agency, told of a well-attended mass meeting held at the Club and an enthusiastic Oneg Shabbat which was attended by “a large gathering of Zionist Youth & Habonim”. 

In a demonstration that it was not purely parochial, the magazine contained a full-page report of a banquet held in Cape Town the previous month under the auspices of the Cape Committee of the South African Board of Jewish Education at which the guest of honour, the Hon. J.H. Hofmeyr, in his speech described Anti-Semitism as “vile & loathsome”.


• A plea for large-scale Jewish immigration into Australia’s 
unsettled territories was made in a leading article in the weekly “British Australian& New Zealander” issued by Australia House in London.

• The New York Times had reported that the Mexican government was contemplating the expulsion of many Jews from Mexico.

• The Brazilian authorities had recently “at the last moment” suspended deportation orders that would have sent back to Europe 1000 Jewish immigrants alleged to have resided in the country illegally. The New York Times reported from Rio de Janeiro that the move was “dictated by human considerations and the desire to strip the Brazilian Government of every possible appearance of Nazism or Fascism”.

• At a conference of the Jewish communities of Manchukuo, North China and Japan, the official Japanese spokesman, General Iguchi, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese and Manchukuo forces said” we have no feelings of racial hatred. We are friends of the Jewish people and are anxious to co-operate closely with the Jews in business & social matters”.


• A.B. Toll Gate) – Your short story is excellent. Unfortunately P.G. Wodehouse wrote it first.

• “Sportsman(Glenwood) - We don’t know which came first, Rosh Hashonah or Yom Kippur. We have referred your enquiry to our Racing Editor

• “Flapper” (Beach) - Stockings were invented in the twelfth century, but were not seen until the twentieth.

• “Smartie” (Durban) - Although you say that your stock-intrade is brains you do carry it in a funny-looking sample case.

• “Wedding Guest” (Durban) – There is this about champagne; it makes you see double but it makes you feel single.

• “Bridge Friend” (Marine Parade) – It was wrong to call your partner a “perfect idiot”. No one is perfect.

• “Bitten” (Maritzburg) – when you come to think of it there is not much difference between mirage and marriage.

Jewish World

Faith and Protection - The UNHCR dialogue on protection challenges


Alana Baranov

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him … you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.” (Leviticus: 19). Few tenets are repeated as often in Jewish law, and indeed protecting the vulnerable and solidarity with the foreigner is a core value of all the major religious traditions. Sadly, as seen in the unfolding crisis in Syria (where an estimated 600 000 people have fled their homes since the outbreak of the civil war), few principles are as overlooked by humanity.

Local religious communities are on the front lines of humanitarian crises. As we learnt first-hand in South Africa during the xenophobic attacks of 2008, they often act as ‘first providers’ of life-saving assistance. Uniquely positioned to advocate for human dignity, and drawing on principles held close to the hearts of the faithful, these groups can empower the defenceless.

Recently, I was privileged to be one of the few South Africans to attend the fifth UNHCR Dialogue on Protection Challenges, as a representative of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The theme of the Dialogue for 2012 was ‘Faith and Protection’. The SAJBD was present at the Dialogue as part of a broader Jewish delegation, which was led by Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), and included other religious and NGO leaders from Israel and the United States.

The Dialogue had three major objectives: to explore how the right to seek asylum and the protection of stateless persons are reflected in religious traditions; identify practical ways for the UNHCR to better engage with religious leaders and communities to help assist refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons and to improve protection space; and finally, to consider developing principles of partnership for cooperation between stakeholders.

The issue of xenophobia was raised across the Dialogue’s roundtables, and South Africa was cited as both an example of how protection can fail, but also how faith-based organizations and religious leaders can bravely make a difference in terrible times. Initiatives such as the Hate Crimes Working Group, a coalition of civil society role-players advocating for hate crimes awareness and legislation, in whose establishment I was involved on behalf of the SAJBD, were raised as examples of best practice.

These issues are particularly pertinent for South Africa. Our country is the recipient of the highest annual number of asylum applications worldwide, with 106,904 applications in 2011 according to the UNHCR. Other challenges we face include an asylum system that is overwhelmed by the sheer number of such applications and recurring xenophobic attacks which impede integration into local communities.

I am hopeful that the outcomes of the Dialogue will contribute to creating sustainable solutions for these types of protection challenges. With a plan to maintain a network of communication between organizations involved globally in this sector, to share resources and ideas (such as the proposal from the Jewish delegation for ‘cities of refuge’) and encouraging religious leaders to sign up to a ‘code of conduct’ on how to preach about refugees, there is much to work on.

Ultimately, all religious communities and organizations must stand up and take the lead in initiating and supporting efforts of conflict resolution and peace-building, from the local to the national level. As the South African Jewish community, with our own history of fleeing oppression and facing prejudice as the outsider, as well as the principle of tikkunolam in our religious tradition, it is imperative that we each do what we can to make a difference.

A version of this article previously appeared in the SA Jewish Report.

Jewish World

Past Tense


Extracts from HASHOLOM January 1938


“The Jews have shown that, given the opportunity, they can restore their never- forgotten Homeland to fruitfulness and create gardens out of its waste places” – David Lloyd George. “With certain parties the main theme is ‘down with the Jew’ – a pernicious cry, one so disgraceful and so un-Christian that it astounds one as coming from a party to which many political persons belong.” Major G.B.van Zyl M.P. (later first South African-born Governor-General of S.A.)

A photograph of Mr Phillip Wartski, a Life Trustee of the Durban United Hebrew Congregation and an Honorary Life member of the Club, accompanied a full report of the 85th birthday of this “doyen” of the Durban Jewish community. Those of us who can remember when Tuesday night was “Club Night” would be interested to read “Bellboy’s “comments on an appeal to change “Club Night” from what was then Monday to “some more suitable evening”.

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” – which reported “JEWISH NOTES FROM HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE” contained the following headlines:

· “BERLIN-ROME NEWS AXIS”- The Italian Ministry for Press and Propaganda prohibited Jewish newspapers from reporting any Jewish news from Germany other than that emanating from official Nazi sources. The Italian press itself extensively used German press sources in compiling Jewish news, not only from Germany, but also from other countries.

· “SPORT IN POLAND” contained a report of a soccer match in which a Jewish team beat a Polish team 3-0. Immediately afterwards a mob of Poles attacked the members of the Jewish team, many of whom suffered serious injuries.

· “ZIONISM IS DISLOYAL, SAYS ITALY” – “A new outburst of anti-Semitism, conveniently cloaked as anti-Zionism is being indulged in by the Italian press” Things don’t seem to change, do they? Only the venues.

Extracts from HASHOLOM February 1938

Apart from its injustice to the Jew, the growth of anti-Semitism in South Africa would be a grave social and political disaster….. anti-Semitism is, in fact, a foul abomination and the sooner the present mischievous agitation is abandoned the better for South Africa as a whole” “Industrial and Commercial South Africa and Storekeeper’s Review”.

“Philosophies dominant in totalitarian states must not be allowed to disrupt the cordial relationships which now exist among Protestants, Catholics and Jews in America” – President Roosevelt.

In “IN THE FOYER” Bellboy was particularly critical of Jewish parents who did not support Jewish and Hebrew education for their children.

“NEWS OF THE WORLD “ – JEWISH NOTES FROM HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE” recorded: · Dutch protests against German firms’ dismissal of (presumably Jewish) employees in Holland whose employment was contrary to Nazi economic policies.

· The growth of anti-Semitism in Yugoslavia.
· Nazi organisations were increasingly unpopular in the United States.
· Uruguay was relatively free of anti-Jewish incidents. Extracts from HASHALOM – January 1963 “MEMBERS IN THE NEWS” recorded congratulations to Annette and Harold Levenstein, Sandra and Martin Sternberg, Sandra and Gordon Seef and Daphne and Charles Silverstone on the births of children; to Jesmond Greenstone and Cecile Waller on their engagement and to Hilary Goldberg and Lawrence Sugarman on their marriage.

Condolences were extended to the families of the late Philip Chananie and Bennie Hyams who had recently passed away. Bon Voyage was wished to Mr & Mrs Max Wolpert, Margaret Haberman and Mr & Mrs Rudi Landecker who had left on overseas trips.

Congratulations were extended to Shirley Abrahams on obtaining her B.Sc. Physiotherapy degree; to Brian Abrahams on obtaining his B.Comm. with distinction; to John Nussbaum on his B.Sc. and to Diane Behrmann on her B.A. (Logaoedics). 

Extracts from HASHALOM of February 1963 Immediately after the editorial there is a description of what took place at the Club’s opening function when the Club “was filled to capacity….with hundreds of members and their guests”. The list of distinguished guests reads like a “Who’s Who” of 1963 Durban society.

Under the heading “AT LAST” Bellboy wrote in his column ‘IN THE FOYER”:

“Two very close friends, Pauline Sagorin and June Davidson, have just been singularly successful with their latest productions. Pauline produced a first daughter and June a first son”. NOTE (for those who don’t understand Bellboy’s comment) June and Pauline were famous for their productions of “Candlelight Theatre” in Durban.

“MEMBERS IN THE NEWS” greeted 12 new members, including Pam Levy, Pat Abrahams, Roy Shotland and Leon Ellman; Nicholas Meyerowitz and his parents Boris and Pam were congratulated on his barmitzvah; Merrick Silberman and Ida Feigenbaum, Berry Miller and Eleanor Heilbron were congratulated on their respective recent marriages; Mr & Mrs Sol Moshal were congratulated on their recent Ruby Wedding Anniversary.

Lest you think that HASHOLOM/HASHALOM was/were a little parochial in its/their outlook, it is important to mention that there were always literary (sometimes learned but always readable) outside contributions. For example, HASHALOM of February 1963 contained amongst other things a poem (“You”) by W.H. Auden as well as a longish short story (“The Good Things of Life”) by Theodore Herzl.

Reading the old issues of our Club magazine repays the effort.

Jewish World

Nu What's New

Mrs Spodik

Mr Spodik is a great fan of whodunnit novels. He commented to me last night, over the top of his latest, that just like the characters in his book there seems to be a case of broken telephones plaguing the shtel of late.

Naturally being a great user of the telephone myself, I asked him nu, what is he going on about? Mr Spodik replied that while he was out, minding his own business and enjoying a slice of delicious cheese cake at a local coffee shop; he happened to overhear the table next door’s discussion about the proposed selling of the Silverton Shul, and it seemed to him that they should call Telkom in immediately to sort out their crossed lines.

Apparently, Mrs Carrot-cake was declaring that the Shul was to close soon and that they would all be forced to attend Shul at Beth Shalom in the future; she felt it was a ploy by her children to persuade her to give up her car and move in permanently.

Mrs Cheese Blintzes scoffed at her information and declared that what had really happened was that someone had put in “an offer too good to refuse” and the Shul would be moving to “Jerusalem is a city sacred to many religions whose name means peace.” Zuma said that he appreciated the interfaith prayer meeting, given the challenges that South Africa faces. “Our view is that if religious communities and everybody worked together at one point to fight for the liberation and together defeated Apartheid, that this time around if we all stand together again, [politicians, religious leaders and communities], then we can this time around also work together to create and build a better nation,” he said.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a former prime minister of Zululand and a major opposition figure, spoke about prayer being the most fundamental vehicle to achieve peace.

“It’s a matter that in good faith we [the Inkatha Freedom Party and African National Congress] must attend [to], but it remains outside the present initiative of our king and this is a challenge that keeps facing us,” Buthelezi said. After finishing a prayer for peace and reconciliation, Finkelstein addressed the challenges facing South Africa as it moves forward. “In all the Jewish synagogues a special prayer during the Shabbat services is prayed for the success of South Africa and the success of the South African government,” he said.

“It was also mentioned that every Jewish prayer ends up with the word ‘shalom’ which means peace and harmony”; this is what we wish for the future of South African and its people, the deputy ambassador said.
Acknow. Gill Lavie, Jerusalem Post Masada or Jewel House until a new building was available. At this point in the conversation, Mrs Carrot-cake and Mrs Cheese Blintzes were joined by Mrs Just Coffee Thanks; and she rang into the conversation with certainty and conviction that the Shul was simply going to sub-divide the site and retain the hall and minor Shul and lease out the rest to offices and the like.

Mr Spodik apparently nearly snorted his coffee at this point and quickly paid his bill and left; so if there were further additions and suggestions to the broken telephone saga unfortunately he wasn’t privy to them.

I was thinking of the broken telephone issue the next morning over tea; and came to the conclusion that while we may have some issues with dropped calls and the like; overwhelmingly the Shtel communication systems seem to work with great efficiency; for instance just last week I was told that someone I knew was expecting; and lo and behold by the next Shabbos the number of expectant mums had grown to eight in total; as everyone shared news before heading home to Shabbos tables. So nu, sometimes the communal telephone works well too!

Jewish World

Israeli attendance at Interfaith Summit

AdDeputy Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Yaakov Finkelstein spoke at a interfaith summit dedicated to peace and reconciliation at King Goodwill Zwelithini's Nkoyeni Palace in Nongoma, 300 km north of Durban, in the presence of South African President Jacob Zuma Zwelithini, 64, is the king of South Africa’s Zulus.

The Ambassador was invited to speak by Zwelithini and Dr. Zweli Mkhize, premier of the South African province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Zwelithini initiated the interfaith prayer session to form part of the annual Zulu First Fruit Festival and Ceremonial Cleansing Ceremony. This year’s ceremony was unique as it involved an interfaith element.

“This prayer event is one of the most important events in the history of our nation as it unites people of different backgrounds. The history of the Amazulu will never be complete without the history of the British, French, Indians, Afrikaners and others,” Zwelithini said. South Africa has had an increasingly strained relationship with Israel over the past decade. The summit was called after years of conflict between South African political parties and was an attempt to bridge the gap and heal past wounds.

Finkelstein, addressing the summit, delivered a message of peace from Jerusalem to the South African government and people. He recited Psalm 121, about God’s help for the country and its population. Relating to Israel and its experience, Finkelstein said, “Jerusalem is a city sacred to many religions whose name means peace.” Zuma said that he appreciated the interfaith prayer meeting, given the challenges that South Africa faces. “Our view is that if religious communities and everybody worked together at one point to fight for the liberation and together defeated Apartheid, that this time around if we all stand together again, [politicians, religious leaders and communities], then we can this time around also work together to create and build a better nation,” he said.

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a former prime minister of Zululand and a major opposition figure, spoke about prayer being the most fundamental vehicle to achieve peace.

“It’s a matter that in good faith we [the Inkatha Freedom Party and African National Congress] must attend [to], but it remains outside the present initiative of our king and this is a challenge that keeps facing us,” Buthelezi said. After finishing a prayer for peace and reconciliation, Finkelstein addressed the challenges facing South Africa as it moves forward. “In all the Jewish synagogues a special prayer during the Shabbat services is prayed for the success of South Africa and the success of the South African government,” he said.

“It was also mentioned that every Jewish prayer ends up with the word ‘shalom’ which means peace and harmony”; this is what we wish for the future of South African and its people, the deputy ambassador said.

Acknow. Gill Lavie, Jerusalem Post

Jewish World

How Algeria lost its Jews


Lyn Julius

Aforest of velvet bags hangs from the ceiling as you enter the special exhibition on the Jews of Algeria currently at the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme in Paris. The bags are shaped like New York Police Department badges, each richly embroidered or embossed with a boy’s name in gold or silver thread. It was customary for the boy’s family to present him with a bag when he reached bar mitzvah age: it contained a talith (prayer shawl) or tefillin (phylacteries).

These bags are almost the only vestiges remaining of Jewish life in Algeria. The synagogues have mostly been turned into mosques – like the Great Synagogues of Algiers or Oran. The main synagogue of Constantine has been reduced to a parking lot. Algeria has hardly any Jews left, and no communal life to speak of. In July 2011, when its last client Esther Azoulay died, the Joint, the US-based agency which helps Jews in distress, would up its operations in the country.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the exodus of the Jews of Algeria. The exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Paris has been attracting wide interest into this neglected aspect of French, Jewish and Algerian history.
The issue has been neglected by France because the 130,000 Jews were subsumed into the great mass of pieds noirs – the 800, 000 French settlers who fled Algeria. It’s been neglected because the loss of Algeria, the jewel in the crown of France’s colonial empire, was a humiliation which French society was glad not to be reminded of. It’s been neglected by the Jews because they too saw themselves as Frenchmen. It’s been neglected by Israel because, unusual among the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, 90 percent of Algerian Jews went to France and not Israel. It’s been neglected by independent Algeria because it has chosen to erase all traces of Jewish presence, culture or history.

Meanwhile dubious parallels are drawn in academia and the media between France’s colonial war in Algeria, and Israel’s war with the Arabs. Propagandists claim that Algeria’s Jews cast their lot with France in a supposed betrayal of Algeria’s Arabs. The ‘colonised’ Arabs of Palestine will triumph just as surely as they did in Algeria, they confidently predict.
But far from being colonial, Jewish roots go back 2,700 years when Jewish traders arrived in North Africa with the Phoenicians, 1,000 years before Islam; and the first Jewish slaves and expellees from Judea settled among the Berbers soon after the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Some Berber tribes were said to have converted to Judaism. The most famous Jewish Berber of all, the warrior Queen Kahina, fought the Arab Muslim invaders in the 7th century – in vain.

The toshavim, the settled indigenous Jews who managed to survive islamisation, were joined in the 15th century by the megorashim, Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition. Under Ottoman rule, most Jews lived in abject misery as dhimmis – inferior subjects under Islam. One 19th century traveller, Signor Pananti, wrote: “there is no species of outrage or vexation to which they are not exposed…the indolent Moor, with a pipe in his mouth and his legs crossed, calls any Jew who is passing, and makes him perform the offices of a servant…. Even fountains were happier, at least they were allowed to murmur.”

No wonder then, when Algeria became part of metropolitan France in 1830, the oppressed Jews greeted the French as saviors and liberators. Forty years later the Decret Cremieux, named after a famous Jewish politician and philanthropist, imposed French nationality on the entire Jewish community.
The myth has since developed that only the Jews were offered French nationality. The Muslims were offered it too, but overwhelmingly rejected it, as it would mean compromising their personal status, which was governed by Muslim law.

In Muslim eyes, the fact that the dhimmi Jews could have greater rights than they did caused great resentment. But the Jews were also resented by the pieds noirs. How dare these natives be given the privilege of French nationality and suppose themselves equal to true Frenchmen?
The Jews found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Muslim antisemitism reached its peak with the eruption of the Constantine pogrom of 1934, in which 25 Jews were killed. French antisemitism reached its zenith with the WW2 abrogation of the Decret Cremieux. Under Vichy rule, Jews not only were stripped of their French nationality, but were sacked from public service jobs and subject to quotas and restrictions.

The Decret Cremieux was reinstated in 1943. In some Jews, the trauma of having their French citizens’ rights taken away created an absolute dread of being identified with Arabs: they were Frenchmen of the Jewish faith – francais israelites.

But as the Arabs embarked on an ever more brutal campaign of decolonisation in the 1950s, while the pieds noirs engaged in equally brutal counter-terror, the Jewish community was careful to maintain an official position of neutrality – although in retrospect, the killing of rabbis and bombings of synagogues looked deliberate enough. Some Jews supported the FLN independence fighters. A minority of anti-French Jewish communists earned the title ‘pieds rouges‘.

The Jews could sit on the fence no longer when two events forced them decisively into the French camp: the first was the burning of the Great synagogue in Algiers in December 1960. Arabs went on the rampage ripping memorial plaques from the walls, and torching books and Torah scrolls. The second was the murder in June 1961, while he was out shopping in the market, of the famous Jewish musician, Sheikh Raymond Leyris, a symbol of a shared Arab-Jewish culture and father-in-law of the singer Enrico Macias.

Acknow. The Times of Israel

Jewish World

Book Review


My Right Hand's Cunning - A Jerusalem Story

by Michael Belling
Published by Tange, Johannesburg 2012

My Right Hand’s Cunning – A Jerusalem Story by South African journalist and author, Michael Belling is a novel set in the nascent modern state of Israel, those turbulent years, the early 1950’s when nothing was certain not even the survival of the new country. The book traces the personal relationships between refugees with memories of unspeakable suffering, Sabras with their brash no nonsense approach to life and new immigrants brimming with a principled conviction that a return to the Land is their blessing. The book traces the story of Meir Rosen, the main voice of the novel, a survivor from the Holocaust. Meir’s journey through the book is one from insular sorrow to a reconnection with the world and a real understanding of what it means to be a survivor. He is often at odds with his Sabra born relations. In the opening lines of the book he says; “Damn you all, you’re so very much in the present.” His life becomes focussed on the future after he meets the South African born widow of a war hero, Rachel Levy. Through Rachel, Meir learns to once again smile an “unshadowed smile”. My Right Hand’s Cunning is at once a personal love story and a love story of a land and its people.

In some ways My Right Hand’s Cunning is a book that is not sure what it wants to be. Its all too frequent lengthy delving into straight historical critique detracts from its character as a novel and makes it read like an abridged history of the modern State of Israel. The conversations between characters often have an unnatural feel as it is doubtful that people would have held discussions that read more like a fact file than dialogue.

Having said that however, the book is a worthwhile read, especially for those readers who may want to know more about daily life in the early years of Modern Israel. My Right Hand’s Cunning plainly shows that Michael Belling has insider knowledge of Israel, and his love and passionate loyalty to Israel is evident in his portrayal of the land and its people.

Jewish World

Nu What's New?

Mrs Spodik

As we get a foothold into the Jewish year, the secular one comes to a sudden shuddery end. This means that the plans for machaneh, year-end shut-downs and summer silly season all coincide with additional forced family fun over Chanukah and for many Durban Shtetl dwellers’ decisions over new schooling and housing in the new year.

Many rumours around the coffee klatches’ – have people sold are they indeed moving north or is it possible that the great development a white elephant is lurking in the corner of the room? As a crony of Mr S commented wistfully, it would be nice, but reality is a different matter.

Important to many in the community, and a revolving topic to date: how have little darlings and teachers been received at various educational facilities and where will your little darling be placed in the new school year. There seems to be a greater sense of certainty for the new school of the north, but concerns continue to flutter for “left behinds” at older establishments. Will your progeny have a well-rounded selection of activities to choose from where they are or where they may be placed? As one coffee-klatcher, gripping her cuppa in an impressively well bejewelled vice commented: “Glad my off-spring are out of the system and I no longer have to shlep the little so and so’s anymore”.

There was a general nodding of heads and quiet murmurs of assent. But for those who have small people, shlep they must, and while the bussing option – for those of you old enough to recall the Durban-North Carmel bus route; was in place for the primary school upwards – it is a different matter entrusting your smallish cargo across town on a daily basis, no matter how mod-con the shuttle may be.

Attempting to leave aside housing and schooling – the most engaging discussion around the shtetl Shabbos tables is usually tangentially related, as discovered a few weeks back at a certain young couple’s home. A friendly group of like-minded yids were invited round for Shabbos dinner, opening salvos were fired: what do you do, where did you meet, where do you live and then, upon discovery that a couple round the table were sans-child, the look of horror and dismay crossed one of the guest’s face. A further five minutes of additional probing of the couple in question’s views on parenthood ensued – I have it on good authority the response to which was simply put: do I ask you about your personal life? Perhaps you would like to tell me how much you earn annually or what colour your underwear is? Fortunately the initial prober was possibly too sweet (dense) to realise that her questioning was unwelcomed and the evening’s hostess called all to Kiddush.

So there's certainly never a dull moment in the Shtetl!

Jewish World

Past Tense


HASHOLOM’S December 1937 issue continued the “THEY SPEAK OF JEWRY” column.

Some extracts:

“If the Jews had not come to South Africa, South Africa today would be immeasurably poorer. And if the Jews, by the waving of a magic wand, were to be removed from South Africa, the shock to the culture and prosperity of our country would be irreparable”. J.H. HOFMEYR.

“It is a gross misuse of the word “Christian” to use it in the sense of anti-Semitic or anti-anybody….” THE RIGHT REV. G CLAYTON, Bishop of Johannesburg.

“Much of our heritage today is of Jewish origin, and in science, art, philosophy and statesmanship, the names of Jews figure prominently…”REV. F.G. CLARKE, Pietersburg.

The “IN TOWN AND OUT” contained some social news:

“Mrs Sandler and Beattie have returned from Johannesburg where they have spent their holidays”.

“Miss Sarah Goldberg and Miss Gertie Wesseik are leaving shortly to spend their vacation in Cape Town”.

“Sonny Basckin & Willie Berman have left on a motoring trip to the Cape via Johannesburg”.

“Mr Dave Cohen is leaving on a short trip to England”.

“A large number of Jewish ex-Servicemen took part in the Armistice Parade on the night of November 11”.

“Mr. N.E. Abrahams & Mr. Leslie Rubin have returned from a fortnight’s motoring trip through the Free State”.

“We congratulate Mr and Mrs. T. Ronshein on the birth of twin boys. We understand that the last arrival of male twins in this community took place fifteen years ago”

“The members of Habonim are holding their first Natal Annual Camp at Inyoni Rocks”.

“Mr. Lionel Alleson is leaving for Kenya to represent South Africa at hockey”.

Come to think of it, motoring holidays in South Africa in 1937 must have been unusual and adventurous to justify two entries in IN TOWN AND OUT.


extremely disturbing reports:

  • “Rumanian priests support Jew-baiting”

  • “Hitler has, appropriately, conferred on the (Rumanian) Patriarch, the Order of the German Red Cross”.

  • “Mr Emil Mouracade, an Arab who is registered as a student atBucharest University, addressing a gathering of Greek Orthodox priests, said that ‘the Jews who disseminateHebrew treason all over the world must have the same fate as Judas’”.

  • “The wearing of anti-Semitic badges in Austria has been legalised by the Director of Security”.

  • “After the lapse of many weeks, anti-Jewish articles have again appeared in the Italian Press”.
ON THE OTHER HAND – Expressions of warm friendship between the Jewish and Lithuanian peoples were voiced recently by the members of the Government & leaders of the Government party in addresses to the conference of Jewish War Veterans held at Juburg. General Caplikas, the Minister of the Interior and Mr Jancivicius, leader of the Government Party, stressed the friendship uniting the two peoples, and praised the co-operation existing between them”.

HASHALOM December 1962 contained:-

  • A very favourable critique of David Barnett’s production on the Club stage of “Guys and Dolls” featuring Dawn Page as “Adelaide”, Sonny Tomson as “Sky Masterson” David Barnett himself as “Nathan Detroit” and Mervyn Hanau and Max Fiddel as “Nicely Nicely Johnson” and “Benny Southstreet” respectively. Special credit was given to Coral Vincent and David Moodie who “leading a sparkling dancing chorus, were outstanding”.

  • Bellboy’s column “IN THE FOYER” which gave credit to Louis Penn and Alick Foreman for acting as “unsnoozers” because, by raising controversial topics under the heading “General” at Annual General Meeting of the Club, managed to rouse those members who had dozed off during the reading of the reports and the “bringing of greetings” by representatives of communal organisations.

  • A report by Bellboy on a hotly contested Klaberjas challenge match between Martin Sternberg and Alby Abrahams (won by the latter) which had engendered such a feeling that a return match had been arranged, organised, according to Bellboy, jointly by the Yiddish Culture Section and the Jewish Educational

  • “MEMBERS IN THE NEWS” which included the following matters:
    Morris Orden was congratulated on a number of achievements, including obtaining his L.T.C.L. Diploma (Speech and Drama), The recent marriage of Sam Abrahams and Patricia Cohen, “Bon Voyage” wishes to Ruby and Sonny Smo, David and Arlene Beare, Jonathan Beare, and Mr. & Mrs. Alec Bransky who were leaving for overseas. “Welcome Home” greetings to Mr. & Mrs. Phillip Frame, Mrs. Eileen Goldberg & Mr. Faivel Rogoff on their respective return from overseas.

  • A brief report from the Council of Natal Jewry which congratulated the Jewish Educational Council on the establishment of a Hebrew 1 course at the University of Natal.

  • A report of the Annual General Meeting of the United Hebrew Schools which revealed that “a beautiful site, more than 7 acres in extent, had been acquired; that the deposit had been paid to the Durban Corporation; that plans for the School had been drawn; that tenders had been called for; and that the School would be ready for occupation before the end of the 1963 school year.

If it were not that the writer fears the change of nom de plume from Pundit to Pedant it would be a great temptation to repeat (in the original French) the quotation which, translated into English, means “The more things change, the more they remain the same”.

Jewish World

Moshal Scholarship Programme

Alana Baranov

First 'Moshal Scholars' Luncheon Held in Capetown

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela.These wise words from a South African icon are the inspiration behind the extraordinary Moshal Scholarship Program. Founded in 2009 by Durban-born internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist Martin Moshal, the program aims to provide financial support to promising young students who would otherwise not have access to tertiary education. Believing that higher education builds bridges from impoverishment to economic freedom, the Moshal Scholarship Program provides students with access to university and thereby endeavours to break the cycle of poverty. By opening the doors to a better life the lives of the students, their families and communities are also uplifted. The Moshal Scholarship Program already supports over 250 students with full scholarships at top universities across South Africa and Israel, with the first cohort of students graduating at the end of this year.

The first South African ‘Moshal Scholars’ event took place recently on Sunday the 23rd of September at Smuts Hall at the University of Cape Town, Moshal’s alma mater. The luncheon brought together some of the best scholars from the country’s most prestigious institutions, including the University of Cape Town; Stellenbosch University; University of KwaZulu-Natal; University of Pretoria; and the University of the Witwatersrand. This was the first of many planned opportunities for students to engage and interact with one another and forms part of the Moshal Scholarship Program’s commitment to build networks for multi-faceted and long term support to its students.

The unique gathering was addressed by guest speaker Dr Max Price, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, who stressed that access to higher education is the single most important intervention in moving people into a middle class environment. Dr Price praised the efforts of the Moshal Scholarship program, highlighting that it not only provides many young people with the prospect of further study but also allows universities to raise the quality of the education they provide to that of ‘world class’ by funding the fees.

Program Founder Martin Moshal then spoke to the enthralled audience, telling the story of his rise to success from his days at the local Jewish school in Durban to his university years and business accomplishments. Moshal stressed that education cannot be taken away from a person and urged his scholars to use this time in their lives to, “soak up knowledge like a sponge”. Although success is generally measured in financial terms, Moshal felt that, “all we can ever own are the good deeds we have done … success should be measured by what you do in the world”. Moshal also spoke on the impact of the program on his own life, how the students had inspired him to do more and assisted him achieve his own version of success by allowing Moshal to make a difference in people’s lives.

Moshal Scholars then had the opportunity to address their peers and the invited guests, with many wishing to personally express their thanks to Moshal and tell the audience what the scholarship meant to them. “The Moshal Program said to me, ‘If you believe in yourself, then I will believe in you’, said one young student studying for a Bachelor of Commerce degree with hopes of becoming a Chartered Accountant. Another student quoted that ‘gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind’, to describe his appreciation to the Moshal Scholarship Program. “Young people today are criticized for taking things for granted … but this gift will keep on giving – for me, my own children and my patients”, said the young man who is currently studying to be a paramedic.

The ethos of the Moshal Scholarship Program is to make a difference to as many lives as possible. "There are no strings attached to the Scholarships. Pay it forward," Moshal told the crowd, “wherever and whenever you have the opportunity to help others. It doesn't have to be in money. It can be in time, advice or effort”. Moshal also used the occasion to pay tribute to the efforts of the Moshal Scholarship Program staff, namely President Kate Kuper and South African Program Director Jodi Bailey, for making the program one of the leading foundations of its kind.


Jewish World

Great-Grandson of Shoah victim re-united with Sefar belonging to Great-Grandfather

David Arkin

This is a story that spans over 130 years, starting in Vilna, Lithuania in 1877 with the printing of a Sefar Shemot (Exodus), and ending for now in the summer of 2012 in Mevaseret Zion, a small town outside Jerusalem. The sefar belonged to Hermann Beitowitz, my maternal greatgrandfather. His family lived in Berlin before WW2. He was in the textile business, and I have a picture of his clothing shop with his name on a large sign above the entrance and mannequins in the windows. His wife, Martha, and three of their six children, perished during the Holocaust: Selmar, a wood merchant, Lilly, a secretary, and Dorothea, the youngest, known as Popchen. He was survived by three children: Sella, Benno and Manfred. Sella was hidden in Berlin during the war, and afterwards traveled to the USA. There she married late in life to a fellow-survivor, Bruno, and settled in Chicago. They never had children. Benno managed to escape to Shanghai during the war, and afterwards he too traveled to the USA. He married Minnie, also a survivor. They too never had children. The second-youngest, Manfred, entered Cape Town, South Africa 27 October 1936, on the Stuttgart, the last ship from Germany, and only four days before the borders were closed to refugees from 1 November 1936. In Durban, Manfred shortened his surname to Beit and married Denise Ucko (who had arrived a year earlier). An only-daughter, Marion, was born to them in 1947. Marion married Antony Arkin, and they had two children, David and Talia.

Fast-forward to Berlin, May 2012. There is a medical conference taking place, and amongst the attendees are Arie and Yael Melamed, from Mevaseret Zion, Israel. Yael is the doctor, and is the daughter of survivors, who fled from Germany and ended up in Israel. Her father fought with various local Resistances along the way and after the war refused to have anything to do with his country of birth: not to speak the language, not to visit it, nor to buy its exports. Yael has never visited Germany before now. Arie, too, is a child of survivors. His father, in fact, survived the Soviet Gulags too, before coming to Israel after Stalin's death in 1955. A marketing executive, he had been to Germany on business trips before, but now he was coming more as a support to Yael, on an emotional visit to the country of her parents' birth. They see the sites, visit museums and galleries, and near the end of the conference,  find themselves in a flea market near the Grosser Stern. Arie sees a book stall. He's no bibliophile, but finds himself browsing, and to his surprise finds a selection of books printed in Hebrew. One catches his eye: an old Sefar Shemot printed in Vilnius. He decides the sefar doesn't belong in a flea market, pays 20 Euros and the book returns with him to the hotel. Only there, does he discover that there is a name on a label stuck on the inside cover: Hermann Beitowitz. Back in Israel, Arie and Yael give a special project to their children: find out what happened to the owner of the sefar. Michael, 13, the bachor, finds out quickly that there are five testimonies in Yad Vashem on the name Beitowitz in the Central Database of Shoah Victim's Names: Hermann, his wife, Martha, and three of their children, Selmar, Lilly and Dorothea. They were all submitted by Denise Beit in March 1997. On the testimony, Denise is related to Hermann and Martha as a daughter-in-law and to their children as sister-in-law. Hermann and Martha ended up in the "Paradise Ghetto" of Theresienstadt in the former Czechoslovakia in September 1942. From there they were shipped off to their deaths in Auschwitz in May 1944. On each testimony, Denise clearly wrote the address of her apartment she shared with Manfred in South Ridge Road, Durban.Another day passed, and the Melamed children managed to dig up the following link:

Here on the bottom of page 2 of the SA Jewish Report, dated 20 April 2007, is a photograph of Denise lighting a candle at the Yom Hashoa memorial ceremony in Durban's Redhill cemetery. The family got in touch with the local Jewish community, and emailed the Durban Holocaust Centre asking for contact details of Denise or any of her relatives. When my mother, Marion Arkin (nee Beit), got the call from the Holocaust Centre she could hardly believe it.

She immediately emailed back Arie, describing the family background, and giving him my details. Not a week has passed since Arie and Yael returned from Berlin. For my mother it was if long-lost family had been miraculously bought back to life. To think she was born only three years after her grandparents and aunts and uncle lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis.

It takes the two of us a bit of time to meet: between starting new work, business travel overseas, and a month of milu'im, and then the start of the summer school holidays and vacation, we finally managed to meet on one summer evening in mid-August, Bein-Hazmanim, a few days before Rosh Chodesh Elul. Arie insisted that I bring the whole family to meet his family. And so we make the 30 min drive from Modi'in to Mevaseret Zion, to their abode, in one of the original leafy suburbs overlooking Jerusalem. They make us feel right at home in their lounge. We are joined by Hanan, a neighbour and old family-friend who wants to hear the story. We exchange family histories and play Jewish-Geography. Arie and Yael and the children recount the tale how they found the book and traced Hermann Beitowitz's name through Yad Vashem to Durban. Michael, 13, Naomi, 12, Abigail, 10 and Ruth, 7, deserve all the credit for making the effort and finding the deceased's living relatives. It's an emotional evening for everyone. Apart from a doily from Arie's grandmother, neither he nor Yael have any personal belongings from their families. I had prepared for the evening as best as possible, speaking to my mother and collecting old photographs of the family. I showed the family photographs I had, putting faces to names and recollecting memories about my late-grandparents, Manfred and Denise. However, nothing really prepares one for receiving a family heirloom that no-one knew existed, that had been lost for over 70 years during the Shoah.

The evening turns late: Na'ama, our four year-old is busy playing dress-up and dolls with the Melamed girls, Matan, at fifteen months, is busy climbing everywhere, eating Bamba and other snacks, and reveling in the fact that he is awake after 10 p.m. Og the dog (a huge Great Dane named after the legendary giant King of Bashan defeated in battle by Moshe and the Israelites) is sleeping peacefully on the floor. Hanan photographs the two families together with the sefar, and it is time to leave. I'm left with two central thoughts: on a personal level, how Tali and I can raise our young children and ensure we have a caring family like the Melameds. Linked to that, what is my responsibility as a parent to teach my children about family relatives murdered in the Holocaust, for one day in twenty years time, one of them may be on a tiyul in Europe and come across a book or Sifrei Kodesh with a name written or printed on the inside-cover. What will they do?

My sister Talia and I are the only descendent great-grandchildren of Hermann and Martha Beitowitz. Only Manfred married and had a child to secure the continuance of the family. This makes the work of Yad Vashem and Jewish parents today all the more important, to preserve the memories of those that perished.

The sefar itself is in good condition for 135 years. It was printed in the famous Printing House of the Widower and Brothers Ram (דפוס האלמנה והאחים ראם ). This was the same Press that mass-circulated the Babylonian Talmud and Vilna Shas in the nineteenth century. Maybe the sefar was a bar mitzvah present to Hermann? It has the Rashi, Onkelos and Yiddush translation still all printed quite clearly. The opening pasuk of Shemot reads:

וְאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַבָּאִים מִצְרָיְמָה אֵת יַעֲקֹב אִישׁ וּבֵיתוֹ בָּאוּ And these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt; with Jacob, each man and his household came This re-enforces the message that the name of each victim of the Shoah be recovered and their stories told for future generations.


Jewish World

Nu What's New?

Mrs Spodik

The fashion, the schmooze, the food, ah, the High Holidays – a time for reflection and renewal and some self-regeneration; if the style mavens of Durban’s shtetl are anything to go by. We prayed, we ate, we prayed, we didn’t eat and then we prayed some more and then ate. Explaining the nuances of the chagim to the uninitiated is a complicated task; and let’s be honest, even the initiated have some questions. But, fortunately for us local shtetl dwellers, we do have access to opportunities to engage with these questions first hand - through the various talks, shmoozes and shiurim that occur at the shuls/social clubs/schools etc in and around Durban. 

Sure, some of these engagements may result in additional questions and head scratching – especially if the pontification rambles on somewhat or new ideas present themselves to old heads. But nu, this is the internet age, information is at our finger tips, in our new modern shtetl we can do more than placidly sit back to have it explained, and re-examined and then detailed again some more; possibly using a different analogy vaguely related or more typically not, to the first two or three… vey!, where is my train of thought? Oh yes, here it is, we can engage actively in multiple media platforms, reaching beyond our shtetl to access internationally held communal wisdom and have our confusion banished at the mere click of a mouse. But that is not the tradition of the shtetl I hear you cry, ok, so maybe learning in groups is more traditional and sharing of knowledge at an inter-personal level is shtetl institution, nu fair enough.

But feeling the need to be institutionalized after such a session is not really my cuppa tea either. You sit, you schmooze you listen, you question and then you sit some more, you listen some more, you get fidgety and then someone asks yet another detailed question on a point that you were sure twenty minutes of discussion had exhausted, and that derails your chance to leave at the pre-appointed time.

So you settle back in for the long haul, open your mind (and occasionally your eyes) again and do your best impression of a sea anemone. Interestingly, all this access to communal learning clearly doesn’t translate necessarily to a communal shared understanding, which is good, it allows for the interesting times to continue in our little shtetl...

Jewish World

Past Tense


Extracts from HASHOLOM – November 1937

THEY SPEAK OF JEWRY “ There is no doubt that the Jewish race has its own contribution to make to the well-being of South Africa – The Right Rev.W.Parker (Bishop of Pretoria)”

“South Africa will not have any ghettos, and if I understand the sense of fairness and of freedom in this country…..the people of South Africa would never contemplate a solution of that kind with regard to the Jews or any other section of the people – General Smuts”

“Since the earliest days of the American colonies down through the years, we have a record of patriotic participation by Jewish citizens in the establishment and maintenance of the United States both in peace and war – President Roosevelt”.

“In Austria there should be no racial movement of any kind, because Jews of Austria are subjected to no discrimination. – Chancellor Schuschnigg”.

“A spirit of national annoyance is threatening this country and unproved accusations against the Jews are disturbing the possible co-operation of the various races – Church Weekly”.

Quote from “In Town and Out”

“We wish to remind members that the Annual General Meeting of the Club takes place on December 13. We understand that extra chairs are to be hired to accommodate the anticipated gathering. Constructive criticism will be welcomed, but speeches should be limited to 4¼ hours”.

Extracts from HASHALOM – November 1962

Bellboy reported in “IN THE FOYER”.


Bellboy wrote that a lady had said the function was “fa-a-abulous”. He said he was in total “agree- a-ment” and paid tribute to Louis Ditz and Mal Rom for their efforts to create such a successful and popular evening.

Bellboy said that “the highlight of the evening was the unexpected downfall of a certain teetotaller whose name is withheld because publication might offend the chairman of Hashalom”.

Pundit does not know who the teetotaller was but the chairman of Hashalom at the time was Mr P Ditz.

Bellboy preceded Pundit by some 50 years in publishing news from the previous twenty to thirty years. These are some of his findings from what he called ”Ye Olden Days”.

• In February 1935 Mannie Jacobson was congratulated on passing his final CA exam; and in the next issue he was congratulated on winning 4 competitions in one week at the Isipingo Golf Club

• In April 1936 it was reported that Miss Bessie Sandler was heard “on the air in an interesting talk on beauty culture”. Bessie’s brother Maurice was reported as having sustained certain injuries on the rugby field.

• “In 1941 Julius Greenberg was reported as having his first try-out on the bowling greens. That’s only half the joke. The experts said he was a natural”

Bellboy must have had a special licence to be as rude as he liked about prominent members of the Club’s Governing Bodies. Talk about freedom of the Press!

Jewish World


Philip Greenberg

“The prayer of Kol Nidrei will be held on September 25 at 6.30pm.Shacharit of Yom Kippur at 9.00 am. Hope to see you.” This, then was the invitation to join Israeli-born Dr Dov Holzer and his handful of fellow Jews in a heart-warming day of prayer and communal outreach in what is thought to be the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe.

Built in 1243 in the southern Italian coastal town of Trani, the Scolanova shul has thus far only been able to serve the spiritual needs of the Jewish community for just 150 years of its nearly 800-year-long history. For in 1380, it was converted into a church in a wave of anti-Semitism that swept the region and forced its congregation to choose between conversion to Catholicism or exile. Most chose exile fleeing to modern day Greece’s Thessalonika and Corfu. Of the 310 Jews remaining in Trani and who were forced to convert to Christianity, one descendant was destined to rediscover his roots many generations later.

The amazing story of resurrection and return begins with Professor Francesco Lotoro, an internationally-renowned pianist and conductor who had been researching the music of concentration camps for over 15 years. His work sparked “an indescribable feeling deep within” prompting him and his wife, Grazia to research their family trees, re-discover their heritage and officially convert to Judaism through the Rome rabbinical court in 2004. A year later, the Lotoros approached the Trani municipality to request the return of the Scolanova synagogue which was no longer being used as a church and had been standing empty for the past 50 years. Their request was granted in November 2005. As the Lotoros, together with a handful of survivors of southern Italy’s once thriving Jewish community, climbed the stone steps to the ancient building, they were shocked to find that a medieval oil painting of the Virgin Mary had been hung in the niche that once held the Ark. The Catholic church refused to remove it notwithstanding that the painting would then be preserved and better displayed in a museum. Moreover, as a protected historical site, it was forbidden for the nascent Jewish community to touch the painting.

And so, it is not without a degree of trepidation and for various reasons that my wife, Sue and I decide to take up Dov Holzer’s invitation to join him, the Lotoros and who knows who at Scolanova shul for Yom Kippur.

As I pause at the doorway at the top of the external stone staircase, I notice that the space for the mezuzah still remains in the ancient doorframe. Later, I am told that the remnants of a mikveh can be found in the basement now being used as a garage. Entering the 14m x 7m limestone room with its 10m high barrel vaulted stone ceiling, I notice that the indentation in the wall for a single Torah scroll is still there as is the niche above now framing a more recent rendition of the Ten Commandments. My eyes approvingly settle on a large image of a menorah which has been hung to conceal the painting of the madonna.

There are about 40 of us comfortably filling this small space. The service being conducted at breakneck speed but without a page missed from the beginning to the end by the Maskil Marco Dell’Ariccia sent down from Rome, is neither Sephardic nor Ashkenazi. Dov Holzer tells me it is uniquely, Italian.

Thankfully, an Aliyah knows no such geographic or demographic bounds. And so, when I am honored in this way, I confidently rise to the occasion. I look across at Sue sitting together with the other women, behind the latticed screen. For once, she seems completely relaxed in this forced separation.
Like me, she has been completely overwhelmed by the warm and easy welcome that has transcended the language barrier of two English-speaking middle-aged South Africans finding themselves in the midst of a traditional Italian-speaking community. We both heartily contribute to the full-throated voices that resonate off the ancient stone walls marveling that such voluminous melodies can be forthcoming from so few mouths.

All too soon but with the sun long having dipped below the horizon, the final service of Havdalah is over. Amidst much hugging and kissing, we all walk through the medieval Jewish quarter to break our fast – Italian style. Ordinarily, the main meal of the day here begins with antipasta, works its way through primi and secondi dishes and, if you can manage, concludes with dolce and a much-needed digestivo. Come Yom Kippur at Scolanova in Trani, that’s just for starters!

Sue and I found our spiritual home here in Italy on Yom Kippur. That it is but one and a half hours drive from where we live, is nothing compared to emergency physician, Roque Pugliese who together with his wife, Deborah drove 6 hours to help make up the minyan. Or for Argentinian-born Emanuele De Gennaro who came from Catania in Sicily to be there.

Sadly, we are so few in number and so widely scattered here across the boot of southern Italy and the island of Sicily that we cannot collectively celebrate most of our festivals – let alone Shabbat. However, there is talk of our next getting together for Tu BiSh'vat not at the Scolanova shul where there simply is no space to plant a tree but at a congregant’s home in the Gargano Peninsula. That’s a further 100kms away for the likes of Roque, Emanuele, Davide, Sue and yours truly. Will we be there? You bet we will!


Jewish World

New book portends crisis, possible revolt in Saudi Arabia

Bruce Riedel

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an antique, the last absolute monarchy in the world, perhaps the last in human history. The Hapsburgs, Romanovs and Pahlavis are gone but the House of Saud survives. But for how long? Perhaps the greatest international challenge the next US president could face is a revolution in Saudi Arabia if the royal family’s time runs out.

A timely new book, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future by Karen Elliot House, presents an ominous picture of a country seething with internal tensions and anger. Sixty percent of Saudis are 20 or younger, most of whom have no hope of a job. Seventy percent of Saudis can not afford to own a home. Forty percent live below the poverty line. The royals, 25,000 princes and princesses, own most of the valuable land and benefit from a system that gives each a stipend and some a fortune. Foreign workers make the Kingdom work; the 19 million Saudi citizens share the Kingdom with 8.5 million guest workers.

Other fault lines are getting deeper and more explosive. According to House, regional differences and even “regional racism” between parts of the country are “a daily fact of Saudi life.” Hejazis in the West and Shiites in the East resent the strict Wahhabi lifestyle imposed by the Quran belt in the Nejd central desert. Gender discrimination, essential to the Wahhabi world view, is a growing problem as more and more women become well educated with no prospect of a job. Sixty percent of Saudi college graduates are women but they are only twelve percent of the work force. You can hear some of their angry voices in this book.

Since the start of the revolutions in the Arab world in early 2011 the most important question has been will they spread to the Kingdom? The stakes are huge, since one in four barrels of oil sold in the world are Saudi produced. The American alliance with Saudi Arabia is the oldest alliance Washington has with any country in the Middle East dating to 1945 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with the founder of the modern Saudi state, Abdul Aziz bin al Saud, and fashioned an oil-for-security bargain.Today the United States needs Saudi Arabia more than ever. Our oil imports are up from the kingdom. The alliance with Egypt is in doubt. Iraq is tilting toward Iran. The Saudis are our critical partner in the war against al Qaeda in Yemen and elsewhere. Saudi intelligence has thwarted at least two al-Qaeda attacks on the American homeland since 2010. Saudi support is important to containing Iran.

Yet the kingdom is also a source of anxiety. European intelligence sources say the kingdom’s rich are still the No. 1 source of finances for extremist Islamic groups including the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan’s Lashkar-e Tayyiba. And the kingdom has all but annexed its small neighbor Bahrain to squash a democratic revolution on the island that hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The current Saudi Kingdom is the third state created by the House of Saud. Two earlier kingdoms — the first created in 1745 — collapsed because of outside pressure and internal divisions created by succession quarrels. All three have been based on a unique partnership between the Saudi royal family and a conservative clerical establishment begun by Muhhamad ibn Abd al Wahhab, one of the most important Islamic figures since the earliest days of the faith. The Saud-Wahhab alliance remains crucial to the Kingdom’s stability today. Since the Kingdom is also home to Islam’s two holiest cities, that partnership has global implications. House’s new book is a well-researched and argued assessment of the current state of the kingdom.

A veteran journalist who has been visiting and reporting on the Kingdom for 30 years, House has interviewed Saudis from richest royals to the destitute poor. For decades the kingdom has been blessed with good leadership and King Abdullah is a progressive by Saudi standards. But the third Saudi state will soon face an unprecedented succession challenge. Since the death of ibn Saud in 1953, succession has moved only among his sons. Now they are all old, ill and few in number. Sooner rather than later the kingdom will have to pick a grandson of ibn Saud and there is no agreed formula for how to do so other than that the last of the current line will choose from his own sons. The House of Saud will enter a new world then, without the legitimacy its leaders have enjoyed for a century. History is not encouraging; the second Saudi state fell apart over succession problems in the late 19th century.

Revolution in Saudi Arabia is no longer unthinkable. Ironically, the more successfully the revolutions in other Arab states develop, the more likely Saudis will also want a government that is modern, accountable and chosen by the people. But revolution in the Kingdom may come from angry extremists outraged by the Kingdom’s alliance with America. Ms. House usefully reminds us that al-Qaeda remains a strong force under the surface despite a vigorous and so far successful counter terrorist effort by the Saudis (with American help). On Saudi Arabia concludes with some useful scenarios for what may be coming in the kingdom. There are several possible directions for the future. Absolute monarchies are not usually capable of reform. Like the Soviet Union, once change starts in a deeply ideological authoritarian state it is hard to control. The downfall of the shah 35 years ago proved to be the defining crisis of the Carter administration. Will the next president face a similar crisis across the Persian Gulf? We have a good guide in On Saudi Arabia.

Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center and a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. A specialist on the Middle East, he served in the CIA for 30 years.

Ack: Daily Alert

Jewish World

Archbishop Tutu: Please apologize to the Jews

Walter Russell Mead

The website of the Free Gaza Movement, a sponsor of the Gaza Flotilla, lists some impressive celebrity endorsements. One of the most impressive names on the list is that of Desmond Tutu, revered throughout the world for his courageous stand against South Africa’s apartheid government and for his leadership of initiatives like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which did so much to heal the wounds apartheid left behind.

But there was something the Free Gaza Movement didn’t tell the archbishop: its co-founder and board chair is a Jew-hater named Greta Berlin who uses the organization as a platform form which to spread the ugliest anti-Semitic legends and, literally, Nazi propaganda and lies.

The Free Gaza Movement wants you to think that it is a group of humanitarians stirred to action by Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. But Berlin is something much nastier: a conscious propagandist of anti-Semitic hate — the kind of person with whom no Christian clergyman can associate himself in a common cause without causing grave scandal and harm.

On Sunday, the Free Gaza Movement posted this on its Twitter Feed: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews” with a link to this awful video.

This is not anti-Zionism. It is not criticism of Israel or defense of Palestinian rights. It is not in the gray zone: it is ugly filth of the lowest kind, gutter anti-Semitism mixed with genocidal rage. The very word “Nazi,” tweeted the movement, is a combination of NAtionalist and ZIonist. Simple, really, once you see through the Jewish lies to understand the Jewish-Hitler alliance for what it really was.

As Avi Mayer tracked the story, it became clear that this was no low level employee or hot headed volunteer playing games with the Free Gaza Twitter feed. The film endorsed and linked in the tweet got another link — on the Facebook page Greta Berlin. She was so in love with this nastiness that she wanted to share it with her friends.

But this doesn’t exhaust the pro-Nazi activities of this “humanitarian” movement. The Free Gaza Movement is also touting an anti-Semitic film actually produced under the Propaganda Ministry of Joseph Goebbels during the Third Reich itself: a Nazi propaganda film on the Katyn massacre that tried to whip up hatred against Communists and Jews. And here, too, Greta Berlin, that exquisite connoisseur of cinema and tender-hearted lover of mankind, was so thrilled with this Goebbels’ hard-hitting investigative journalism and fearless proclamation of the truth that she posted a link to a download on her Facebook account.

As this information came out, the “Free Gaza Movement” frantically tried to bury the evidence, taking down the tweets, blocking access to Facebook posts, but it was too late. Screenshots, retweets and Google caches left its pale underbelly exposed.

Obviously Archbishop Tutu had no idea he was getting in bed with Nazi-class Jew haters and aspiring genocidaires when he

allowed the Free Gaza Movement the use of his name. Greta Berlin presumably doesn’t wear her Nazi-loving heart on her sleeve when mingling with the Great and the Good and trying to pass herself off as a respectable humanitarian. But because of his enormous global stature and the contentious nature of this particular issue, the archbishop had a duty to himself, to the world and to the Anglican Communion to vet the organization before offering his support.

Now that the truth is known, the Archbishop must move quickly to avoid causing grave harm to Christian-Jewish relations and the cause of justice around the world. He must express his regret to those Christians and Jews who have been hurt and confused by his inadvertent dalliance with hate. The longer he waits, the greater the scandal. He has every right to criticize Israeli policies in Gaza and to do what he can to promote what he believes to be a just outcome in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But Archbishop Tutu’s entire public career has been built on the repudiation of hate. He cannot, at this stage in his life, allow his name — or that of his Church — to be slimed in this way.

Via Meadia hopes that we will soon hear from South Africa that Archbishop Tutu has scraped this particular piece of dirt from the soles of his shoes. In the meantime we hope that other Anglican and Christian leaders around the world will move quickly to reassure Jews that Christians everywhere want nothing to do with this poor woman’s horrid agenda and her nasty hate campaign.

If the Archbishop — or any Via Meadia readers — want more details about this sordid story, they should go to Avi Mayer’s Storify account and read the whole thing.

In general, well intentioned outsiders need to understand that while there are many Palestinian and pro-Palestinian organizations who criticize Israel and work to better the lives of Palestinians in a very honest and admirable way, there are also some unscrupulous hate groups out there. These groups pursue violent, hate-filled agendas while superficially claiming to speak for human rights and justice. Some of the worst groups work the hardest to maintain a respectable facade. After a century of communal conflict, there is a dense infrastructure of groups like this; as Archbishop Tutu should have known, one must take care not to be duped.

Ack: Via Media / Daily Alert

Jewish World

Couple who hid Jewish baby honored by Yad Vashem in New Zealand

SYDNEY (JTA) – A Dutch couple who hid a Jewish baby during the Holocaust posthumously received Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations honor in New Zealand.

At an emotional ceremony Wednesday at Parliament House in Wellington, the children of Johanna and Godefridus (Frits) Hakkens accepted the official certificate and the medal from Israel’s ambassador, Shemi Tzur.

The Hakkens -- the first Kiwi citizens to receive the honor -- hid 2-year-old Elli Mantegari (nee Szanowski) in their Amsterdam house in 1942 for two years after her father was killed in Mathausen and her mother fled to Switzerland.

Tzur told the more than dignitaries, lawmakers, ambassadors and Jewish leaders that the Hakkens were worthy of recognition. “They will be part of us and their memory will last forever in our capital city Jerusalem,” he said.

Elli Mantegari, who could not make the trip from Brazil, wrote a speech honoring their “bravery, altruism and kindness.”

“Fritz and Jo saved my life,” she wrote. Of their descendants, she wrote, “We are not linked through blood, but we are linked by the love and memory of this brave couple.”

After years of fruitless searching for Elli, a great-grandchild of the Hakkens saw a movie in New Zealand in 2010 about the Kindertransport and urged his grandmother Gloria -- the daughter-in-law of Johanna and Frits -- to try one last time.

Through Yad Vashem, the Internet and Skype she finally tracked down Elli in Sao Paulo and, months later in an emotional reunion, they wept at the gravesite of Jo and Frits near Wellington. Gloria Hakkens said in her speech, “It may seem the end of a long journey, but for my children and grandchildren I see it as a new beginning as they take hold of the legacy, the challenge that their grandparents and

great-grandparents have given them.”

Four others have received the award in New Zealand, though the Hakkens are the first citizens of New Zealand to be so honored.


Jewish World

Fifty Years Ago

Congratulations were extended to Circle Country Club on winning the Natal Golf League A Division.

The MEMBERS IN THE NEWS column recorded:

  • The birth of a son to Reggie & Denise Berkowitz and a daughter to Bernhard & Pearl Lazarus;
  • Mazaltov to Samuel, son of Mr & Mrs L Brewer, and Stephen, son of Mr & Mrs I Cohen, on celebrating their barmitzvahs;
  • A hearty Mazaltov to batmitzvah girls and their families: Megan Miller, Esther Newmark, Nadine Oshry, Karene Gevisser, Glynis Shachat & Sheryl Silberg;
  • The engagement of Laurie Sugarman & Hilary Goldberg,
    David Gevisser & Hedda Cohen and Berry Miller and Eleanor Heilbron;
  • The recent marriages of Jeffrey Chanoch & Shirley Hyman, Hilda Goodman & Arnold Kaplan and Kim Davis to Kim Nowak.

Bon Voyage wishes were extended to Leslie Strous, Bernie & Zena Gevisser, Rose Magid, Faivel Rogoff and Edwin Kukle & and a welcome back to Hymie Zulman; Congratulations to Sol Moshal on having been awarded Civic Honours by the City of Durban and to Stanley Bloch and Sol Harris on their election to the Westville Town Council & the Durban City Council respectively. Mazaltov was wished to Mrs R. Ditz who had recently celebrated her 80th birthday. “Bellboy” wrote an entertaining column dealing in the main with Club activities.

Under the heading “A VERY GENTLE REMINDER” he wrote in rhyme but very poor metre an appeal for funds, as always

much-needed by the Club. He also reported under “NEWS ITEMS” that a bar steward at the Club recently had displayed his sound knowledge of the Laws of Kashrut when he refused to serve a member with a Bristol Milk because she was about to sit down to a ‘meat’ lunch!

Under the title “TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO” Bellboy reported items that had appeared in the October 1937 issue of HASHOLOM:

  • Harry Moss-Morris was elected President of the Council of Natal Jewry.
  • A unique double engagement was announced. Ruby Gevisser to Cecil Giftor and Jocelyn Gevisser to Dr A Porter
  • Mannie Braham beat Sonny Rubin in the finals of the Circle Squash Championship. The score 6-9. 8-10,9-1,9-5, 9-7.
  • Desmond Driman nearly brought the house down as “The Fairy when she’s Forty” in “Back to Vaudeville”
  • Mrs H.L. Magid left to join the Carl Rosa Operatic Company in London
  • Mr Lionel Alleson left for Kenya to represent South Africa at hockey
  • Mr S Ernst was the Editor of “Hashalom”, Mr Leslie Rubin was Chairman
  • Mr Harry Friedland was Chairman of the Entertainment Section. His secretary was Miss Beattie Sandler who later became his boss!

Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Here you have news from 50 and 75 years ago.


Jewish World

The Jewish Gauchos of Argentina

What are gauchos? The epic poem "Martin Fierro", by the Argentinean poet José Hernandez paints a mythical figure, larger than life. His gaucho was comparable to the John Wayne cowboy - tanned by the elements, at home in the prairie, knowing his way across the dessert, and able to have an almost symbiotic relationship with his horse. Socially he wasn't so great... The gaucho of legend had the social graces of a ruffian, and human life was never dearer to him than his perceived honor. I say "perceived", because an insult didn't necessarily have to be real to trigger his quick temper and bring out his "puñal", a long blade knife, worn on his belt.

Reality was quite different. In a strict sense, a gaucho was a man who hired out to do farm or cattle work. Anyone who lived in a rural area and didn't own his land was, in fact, a gaucho.

In 1853, after a bloody civil war that devastated the young Argentinean society, a Constitution was finally drafted and approved. The country was ready and eager to receive immigrants, and there were plenty of those waiting in Europe. Not only Jews came to Argentina, there were Welsh and Irish, some Spanish, and Germans, all coming in "waves". The bulk of the immigration, though, came around the turn of the century. Italians escaping hunger and poverty, and Jews trying to leave behind the hardships of Eastern Europe. They all had something in common: they were ready to work very hard and make a good future.

At this point in time (around 1890), a Jewish businessman, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, was looking for a way to help his fellow Jews in need. His only son died, and he wanted to do something worth of his memory. The Argentinean government had recently opened the gates of their country to immigration, and was desperately in need of funds. Hirsch purchased some of the most fertile land in the world, (along with some that wasn't...and that's what my grandparents got...) and started his huge undertaking to bring European Jews to settle the Argentinean wilderness.

According to the stories that I heard time and again, when the first contingents of colonists arrived, they were greeted by a representative of the Baron who gave each family a small plot of land, a shovel and a bag of seeds. Looking around them, they could see ant hills the size of small houses, some trees, and grass the height of a big man. They were humble artisans in their native Rumania, Russia, or Poland. They had no knowledge of agriculture, they were not familiar with the seasons or the language in this, their new and strange land. But they knew that they would be free of persecution, their children would not be drafted at a young age to serve in the Czar's army, and they could practice their Judaism without fear. So, they were ready to work hard and long, to learn how to wrestle fruits from this alien land, and to earn their newfound freedom. The land was incredibly fertile, but it required more knowledge and experience than the newcomers could muster in order to open itself to them and give forth its fruits. I only had a chance to know my maternal grandmother, and she died when I was two years old. What I am talking about I learned mostly sitting on my father's knees, on hot summer nights in Rosario, Argentina. We had a large tiled roof, and at night, that was the only place to be: cool, with a soft breeze, and full of stars. He would tell me of how his parents and Mother's parents sat huddled together on the pier, waiting to board the boat that would bring them to "Amerique". They hadn't known each other before, but their friendship would last several lifetimes.

Once they arrived to their destination, near Moises Ville, in the province of Santa Fe, they procured a building for the school. It was a one room school, where all the grades, first through fourth studied together. They had two teachers: one for Spanish and Arithmetic in the mornings and one for Hebrew and Hummash in the afternoon. They walked approximately 6-7 miles each way, keeping their shoes in their satchels, so the yuta and canvas they were made of wouldn't come apart. They remembered fondly the childish pranks they played on the Hebrew teacher, and how hard they worked in school. Those teachers must have done something right, though, because both my parents, and everyone else that I remember from their circle, were avid readers, and many went on to high school in the city, some even becoming doctors and lawyers. I don't know much about what happened after most of the Jewish colonists left in the 1920's and 30's. Moises Ville is still a small town, with its rich Jewish life, and a great Jewish School. Most of the Jewish population of Argentina nowadays is concentrated in the big cities, and the Jewish Gauchos are today little more than a memory of a world that is no more.


Clara Lazimy

Jewish World

Nu, What's New?

Unlike the traditional shtetl of central and Eastern Europe, Durban is not a small city with a large Jewish population. Just the opposite, it is a fair sized city (3.57m people and growing) with a smallish Jewish community. This major difference aside, I still maintain that we live in a shtetl – as evident at the typical Shabbos eve table, once Kiddush has been made and the soup ladled out to family and guests. Everyone in the Jewish community knows just about everyone else, or at least has an opinion about them or their business, or their offspring or their general place in society. In short, we live in a shtetl, but there is something oddly comforting knowing people, you tend to be less surprised, which in a rapidly changing environment is a pleasant constant.

So nu, what’s news in the shtetl you ask? Good question, if everyone acts in the prescribed manner, how can there ever be anything new? Well it just so happens that the locals are able to surprise even the most hardened of observers, for life doesn’t stand still, not even in the shtetl.

The recent Shabbos table discussions included commentary on the rapid movement northward of the community – young and not so young alike appear to be making a move towards Umhlanga. While for some, the attraction of a low-key Shul is a drawcard, the benefits of not fighting the Ridge’s traffic to get your little darling to school or the benefit of easy parking at the resident shopping mall may be the drawcard. There is a decided migration. I have it on good authority that for those long standing residents of the north, the constant “daaaaaaaaaaaarling, whatever are you doing here??” grows a bit tiresome, considering the “here” in question has been ones local stomping ground for the past few decades.

Jews have always been a wandering people, and this saunter across the river will no doubt eventually manifest in a range of useful outputs, not least of which may at some point be a bagel and lox bar at Gateway? In the interim, do stop expounding on in public places just how lovely it is to see Mrs and Mr Ivan Rabinovich or Mrs Sadie Goldblatt at the top of your voice, we know… if fact we knew before they knew that they would be moving across the river… we had already discussed ad nauseum around the Shabbos table in the shtetl.

Mrs Spodik

Jewish World

ABC's of Rosh Hashanah

Pre-Rosh Hashanah

A key component of Rosh Hashanah preparation is to ask for forgiveness from anyone one may have wronged during the previous year. To whatever extent possible, we want to begin the year with a clean slate – and without anyone harboring a grudge against us. One should also be quick to forgive those who have wronged him.

Many people have the custom to go to the mikveh before Rosh Hashanah after midday. A mikveh, which has the power to purify from certain types of spiritual impurities, can be an important part of the teshuva process.

Some have the custom of visiting a cemetery on the morning of Rosh Hashanah and praying at the graves of the righteous. Of course, we do not pray "to" the righteous, but only to God who hears our prayers in the merit of the righteous.

The morning before Rosh Hashanah, we perform "Hatarat Nedarim" – annulling all vows. In Torah terms, saying something as simple as "I refuse to eat any more candy" can be considered a legal vow. Therefore, before Rosh Hashanah, we annul any vows, whether they were made intentionally or not. This is done by standing in front of three adult males (or 10 if available), and asking to be released from the vows that were made. The full text can be found in a Siddur or Rosh Hashanah Machzor.

The Festive Meal

During the High Holidays, a round challah is used – symbolizing fullness and completion. After making the "Hamotzi" blessing, it is customary to dip the bread into honey – symbolizing our prayer for a sweet new year.

Then, after most of your slice of bread has been eaten, take an apple and dip it in honey. Make a blessing on the apple (since "Hamotzi" did not cover the apple) and eat a little bit of the apple. Then say, "May it be Your will, God, to renew us for a good and sweet new year." (OC 583)

Why do we ask for both a "good" AND "sweet" year? Doesn't the word "good" automatically include "sweet?"

Judaism teaches that everything happens for the good. It is all part of the divine will. Even things that may look "bad" in our eyes, are actually "good." So when we ask God that the year should be "sweet" (in addition to good), it is because we know that everything will be for the good. But we also ask that it be a "revealed" good – i.e. one that tastes "sweet" to us.


Jewish World

In Poland and Slovakia, Restoring Awareness of a Forgotten Jewish Past

Thanks to a new iTunes app, new tourist routes and a towering replica of a destroyed synagogue, two “lost” Jewish cities in Europe are back on the map.
One is the historic Jewish quarter of Bratislava, the Slovak capital, which survived World War II only to be demolished by communist authorities in the late 1960s. The other is Oshpitzin - the pre-war Yiddish name for Oswiecim, the once mainly Jewish town in southern Poland where the Auschwitz death camp was built. The two projects differ in scope and structure, but their goals are the same: to restore awareness of the forgotten Jewish past in an effort to foster a better understanding of the present - for tourists and the locals.

Oshpitzin uses a new iPad/iPhone application to augment a website, map and book, while the Lost City project in Bratislava focuses on a tourist itinerary and the temporary reconstruction of an ornate, Moorish-style synagogue in the city's picturesque Old Town. The Oshpitzin app "pioneers the use of the most advanced technology for the commemoration of a destroyed Jewish community in east-central Europe,” said Tomasz Kuncewicz, the director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center, a prayer and study center founded in Oswiecim in 2000 that produced the Oshpitzin project.

The app, launched this month, is free from iTunes and soon will be available for Android. It is the latest part of a three-pronged Oshpitzin project that already includes a website and book published last year. Cantered on an interactive map that can guide visitors through the anonymous spaces of today’s city, the app includes videos, testimonies of survivors, audio-description and 3-D models of the destroyed Great Synagogue.

The aim is to hammer home the fact that while Auschwitz, built on Oswiecim’s outskirts, was a mass death factory for more than a million individuals, the Shoah also annihilated a deeply rooted Jewish lifestyle and culture in Europe that was exemplified by Oswiecim itself.

Before the Holocaust, Oswiecim - Oshpitzin - was a bustling, majority Jewish town with synagogues, study houses, clubs, schools, shops and other businesses. Jews had lived there for centuries and were active in all spheres of life; in the 1930s there was even a Jewish deputy mayor. Only a few physical traces remain, including the Jewish cemetery and one small synagogue, now part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center complex. “The Oshpitzin project puts everything on the Oswiecim map,” Kuncewicz told JTA. “And the app opens a totally new way of educating about Jewish history and the destruction caused by the Holocaust. It’s a way that today is the most appealing to the new generations.”

In Bratislava, the Lost City project uses somewhat different methods to tell a similar story. “We want to bring back historical memory,” said Slovak Jewish businessman Milos Ziak, who spearheaded the project. Sponsored by the Slovak-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the Lost City project entails a tourist route, complete with guidebook, to Bratislava’s crowded Jewish quarter, which stood for centuries beneath the city's hilltop castle until communist authorities razed it in 1968-69 to build a highway and bridge across the Danube. It’s an itinerary through a nonexistent city,” Ziak told JTA. “And people sometimes forget it was the communists who tore down the Jewish quarter.”

For the launch in late June, Ziak led a group of Slovak officials, diplomats, businesspeople and Jewish representatives on a walking tour of the places where Jewish sites had once stood - synagogues, schools, a prominent yeshiva, houses. The tour followed Ziak’s guidebook, called “Demolished Jewish Bratislava,” which includes pictures of both the vanished sites and the demolition. (Footage of the Jewish quarter before and during its destruction can be seen on YouTube.) The tour wound up at the plaza where a grand, twin-towered synagogue once stood next to the city’s cathedral and at the very edge of the new highway.

Here a ceremony inaugurated the centerpiece of the Lost City project - a towering, two-thirds scale replica of the ornate, Moorish-style synagogue. Constructed of scaffolding and canvas, the orange-striped mock-up will stand on the spot for three months. Built in 1894, the synagogue, which served the Neologue, or moderate, Reform congregation was a proud symbol of the Bratislava Jewish community. Its destruction little more than two decades after most of Bratislava’s 15,000 Jews were murdered in the Shoah symbolized communist-era suppression of Jewish life. Indeed, right after the fall of communism in 1989, activists painted a big picture of it on the pavement where it had stood, with an angry scrawl alongside: “Here there was once a synagogue!”

About 600 Jews live in Bratislava today, and a few days before the Lost City launch, the city’s Jewish community unveiled an important project of its own -- a Jewish community museum in the women’s gallery of the Heydukova Street Synagogue, the only synagogue in the city to have survived the Holocaust and communism. It is a striking, cubist-style building from the 1920s that is still used by the congregation. “The museum tells a story, our story, that dates back centuries,” Maros Borsky, the Jewish community vice president who conceived and curated the museum, told JTA. The new museum’s displays of Judaica, documents, photographs and other artifacts illustrate Jewish life before, during and after the Shoah. They include a portrait of the Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer), an influential 19th-century rabbi whose tomb in Bratislava remains a site of pilgrimage.

In another effort to restore historic memory, the Chatam Sofer, who died in 1839, has been embraced recently by the city as one of its key historic personalities. In June, just ahead of the museum opening and Lost City launch, the Slovak mint issued a special commemorative coin to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. It bears a portrait of the rabbi with a menorah and Torah scroll on one side, and a panorama of Bratislava’s now-lost Jewish quarter on the other.

Acknow. JTA

Jewish World

5772 Year in Review: Jews Grapple with Growing

The Jewish year 5772 marked a period of growing uncertainty for the Jewish people.

From the threat of a nuclear Iran to Egypt’s newly cold stance toward Israel to the increasing chaos across the border in Syria, Israel found its longtime status quo imperiled on multiple fronts. On top of that, a marked increase in attempts on Jewish targets overseas, from Israeli tourists in Bulgaria to Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, France, helped stoke Jewish insecurities. That sense was fueled by calls in a growing number of European countries to ban ritual circumcision and shechitah, Jewish ritual slaughter.

As might be natural for those faced with great uncertainties, the Jewish state seemed to retreat to conservative positions.

Negotiations with the Palestinians stayed at a standstill, with seemingly little motivation by Israel, the Palestinian Authority or the United States to get things going again. Israel’s left wing remained unable to muster a significant political opposition movement or a viable alternative to Israel’s conservative prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the United States, Republican campaign strategists sought to take advantage of the anxious mood by raising questions about what a second-term Obama administration might mean for Israel. Their biggest help in that regard was casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish philanthropist who vowed to spend up to $100 million to defeat President Obama. If there were a Jewish man of the year, Adelson - the money man reviled by some and beloved by others for bankrolling Israel’s right-wing tabloid Israel Hayom, Jewish programming like Birthright Israel and Republican presidential candidates - unquestionably would get the title.It’s still not clear how successful the Republican effort will be: Polls show Jewish support for Obama is down, but still higher than among Americans generally and higher than it was at this point in the campaign four years ago.

The Jewish year started out with a measure of relief for many in the pro-Israel community as the unilateral Palestinian bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations ended in more of a flop than a showdown. After rebukes at the U.N. General Assembly from Netanyahu and Obama a week before Rosh Hashanah, the Palestinian effort died in the U.N. Security Council, where a clear majority supporting statehood failed to emerge, obviating the need for a U.S. veto.

The only U.N. body in which the Palestinians made significant progress was at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which voted in late October to accept the Palestinians as a member. That resulted in an automatic cutoff of U.S. funding, costing UNESCO some 22 percent of its annual budget.

For much of the year, however, the Palestinians were hardly Israel’s biggest concern. Intense will-they-or-won’t-they-attack speculation dominated the conversation about Iran, while U.S. and Israeli officials held a series of top-level meetings on how to deal with the Islamic Republic’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

The outcome was more sabre rattling, tightening of U.S. and EU sanctions focused mostly on banking and oil, and a campaign of clandestine cyber warfare against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The efforts may have slowed Iran’s program, but they did not derail it. Iran continues to enrich uranium even as sanctions have handicapped the country’s economy.

On the strategic level, Israeli and U.S. officials did not resolve their differences on their respective Iran red lines. Israel held firm to the notion that Iran could not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons capability, while the Obama administration said it would not allow Iran actually to weaponize. But the two allies seemed to reach an understanding whereby Israel would hold off on attacking Iran - possibly through the fall election - in exchange for a pledge to send more sophisticated U.S. weaponry to Jerusalem and more explicit rhetoric from Washington about the military option on Iran.
Iran was hardly the Israeli defense establishment’s only source of anxiety.

The newly bellicose tone from post-Mubarak Egypt was met with increasing concern north of the border. The year started with Israelis still shaken by the Egyptian mob attack and ransacking of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo last September, and by a deadly terrorist attack in Eilat the previous month that had originated in Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

In 5772, the Sinai continued to be a source of problems, including as a staging ground for attacks against Israel. The Egypt-Israel natural gas pipeline, a crucial source of energy for Israel that flows through the Sinai, repeatedly was sabotaged. Then, in April, the government in Cairo announced that it was halting all gas delivery to the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas, triumphed in Egyptian parliamentary elections, and in June the country elected a new president from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi.

While the 30-year-old peace between Israel and Egypt largely held - thanks in part to the Egyptian army’s forceful and undemocratic dominance of Egyptian politics - Israel began to adjust to a new reality in which the quiet along the Egypt-Israel border no longer could be taken for granted. Likewise, Syria's devolution into civil war raised Israeli fears that the quiet along Israel's border with Syria might end, too.

The biggest problem facing Israel along its southern border this year was not the intermittent shooting attacks from the Egyptian side but the continued flow into Israel of Africans - most of them economic migrants but some of them refugees - from countries including Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan.

In late spring, riots broke out in Tel Aviv targeting the African migrants and calling for their immediate deportation; in some instances, crowds were egged on by Israeli politicians. The government worked on erecting a barrier along unfenced portions of its border with Egypt, started building a long-term detention facility for the migrants, and enacted new laws to detain and deport them.

But the big showdown in Israeli society came over the summer in the lead-up to the Supreme Court-ordered expiry of the Tal Law, which had granted haredi Orthodox Israelis exemption from the military draft. Reforming the law was one of the four major agenda items set by the remarkable coalition government that came together in May, when Israel’s centrist Kadima Party led by Shaul Mofaz joined Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, creating a super-majority in the 120-seat Knesset of 94 seats. It was that same issue, however, that prompted Kadima to withdraw from the coalition just two months later, with Mofaz charging that Netanyahu’s proposed reforms did not go far enough and Netanyahu blaming Mofaz for playing politics.
Their breakup was overshadowed almost immediately by the year’s first major successful terrorist attack against Israelis overseas following several mostly failed attempts in India, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Georgia, among other places. Israel blamed Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, for the July 18 bombing that killed five Israelis and their bus driver in the coastal Bulgarian city of Burgas.

It was the year’s second major attack against Jews, following the shooting deaths in March of three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse by a Muslim gunman, Mohammed Merah.

European Jews also were unnerved by what they saw as growing attacks against Jewish practice - from the Dutch Senate's consideration of a shechitah ban (later dropped) to a court ruling in Cologne banning circumcision that German lawmakers later clarified did not actually outlaw Jewish circumcision. Nevertheless, the ruling prompted the Jewish Hospital in Berlin and two Swiss hospitals to halt religious circumcisions, and Jews to worry that other European institutions or countries could follow suit.

The year was not without its high points. In October, longtime Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit was released after more than five years in captivity in a swap that saw more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel set free. Some criticized the Israeli government for releasing terrorists with blood on their hands, but Shalit’s liberation was greeted with euphoria by Jews around the world.

In the United States, Israel continued to dominate American Jewish conversation, whether with regard to Obama’s record, author Peter Beinart’s critiques of American Jewish Zionism or the ongoing battles over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Acknow. JTA

Jewish World

Africans For Israel Protest March


The Inkatha Freedom Party joins this march with a clear and unambiguous message. We oppose our Government taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in an atmosphere of escalating tension that threatens to boil over into violence.

The IFP supports the two-state solution. We believe that both Israel and Palestine have a right to exist as sovereign states. We advocate a negotiated settlement and are vehemently opposed to violence, regardless of its origin.

We therefore view as gravely serious the public statement by the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces on 20 May 2012, that the cause of his nation is, and I quote, “the full annihilation of Israel”. We also reject the inciting statement of the Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution, that, and I quote, “The Zionist regime is a real cancerous tumour that should be cut and will be cut…”

The IFP is cognisant of the heated nature of the debate even within our own country, where opposition to Israel is gathering pace and exposure.

We note that the University of KwaZulu Natal bowed to pressure to retract an invitation to the Ambassador of Israel to address students. We note Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s public call for a boycott against Israel. We note that when Members of Parliament were invited to the second Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism, not one responded. We also note that Government was barely represented at the Israeli Embassy’s celebration of the 64th anniversary of Israeli independence.

South Africa has official diplomatic ties with Israel and recognizes its sovereignty. Yet our Government has maintained an unstated position with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has made no effort to conceal the fact that it supports the Palestinian cause. One seldom hears an unbiased statement in Parliament. Our Government has taken sides.

Against this background, the IFP opposes the move by the Department of Trade and Industry to require traders in South Africa to label products from the West Bank or Gaza as products from “Occupied Palestinian Territory”. There are no legal bases in our law or in international law to support this requirement.

The IFP believes this is a provocation aimed at promoting a consumer boycott.

This action on the part of the Department of Trade and Industry is not in the interests of South Africans. It reflects the political interest of the ANC which continues to utilise the State to pay off its political debts, confusing the national interests of South Africa with the private interests of the ANC.

Imposing this labeling requirement is detrimental to our national interests, to our trade relations, our economic growth and employment generation.

We remind our Government that consumer boycotts were the precursor to the persecution of Jews in Germany, which ended in the Holocaust. Indeed, soon after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor in 1933, Nazi storm-troopers began posting signs on storefronts warning, “Kauft nicht bei Juden!”, “Don’t buy from Jews!”

Let us therefore remain vigilant against the escalation of tensions. The South African Government has a moral responsibility to support peace, nondiscrimination and nonviolent negotiation wherever these are threatened.

The IFP recognizes that there is pain on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is tragedy on both sides and a story to be told from many different perspectives. Suffering is never something we can turn a blind eye to. We must support a peaceful outcome to this historic conflict to ensure that neither side sustains a loss of dignity or basic humanity.

We seek to stem the flow of blood and promote a different path forward that embraces compromise as well as the importance of accommodating different views. We seek to create peace.

By virtue of our long struggle for freedom, South Africa should relate to the heart’s cry of Israel. We sought peace and freedom for our own country. How can we seek anything different for Israel?

We cannot accept the portrayal of the Israeli situation as an apartheid situation. I have been a victim of that kind of propaganda and know the damage it can cause. Indeed, in 1985, Prime Minister Shimon Peres told me, “We are brothers in suffering”.

Let me make the IFP’s message clear: We believe in the Two State solution. By engaging this march, we are not taking sides, but are telling South Africa’s Government in no uncertain terms that taking a stand against Israel is irresponsible, damaging and contrary to our country’s stated principles.

We call on the Minister of Trade and Industry to desist from imposing the new labeling requirements, as this is neither in South Africa’s national interests nor in the interests of Israel.

Jewish World

Russia, China & Israel against Islamism?

Two recent developments - Vladimir Putin's recent trip to the Middle East and the Chinese government's financing of an Israeli cargo railway - hint at a reshuffling of alliances in the region.

The Middle East's most consequential divide is no longer the Arab/Israeli one but the Islamist/non-Islamist one, with Iran in one corner, Israel in the other, and other states somewhere between. It's far from a linear alignment, with plenty of incongruities; the revolutionary Islamists in Tehran and the evolutionary ones in Ankara, for example, increasingly are at odds, while the Tehran-Damascus axis flourishes as never before. 

The Russian and Chinese actions point to these alliances shaping the foreign policies of outside powers too. Whereas the European Union and the U.S. government are increasingly sympathetic to Islamism, in part as a way to tame their own Muslim populations, Moscow and Beijing have a history of open conflict with their Muslim populations and therefore adopt policies more hostile to Islamism in the Middle East.

Which brings us to the president of the Russian Federation. Pinhas Inbari notes at "After Putin's visit: Are Israel and Russia inching closer together?" that his "decision to begin his tour in Israel, along with the large size of his delegation, indicated that Israel was the focus of the visit, while the PA and Jordan were of secondary importance." That's because, despite their major differences on Syria and Iran, the two governments "agree on another, no less relevant issue that dominates political discourse in the Middle East: the concern over the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood to power." 

Inbari notes how Putin's trip mirror imaged Obama's various trips, both stylistically (the holy sites he visited) and substantially (tacitly agreeing with Netanyahu on Palestinian diplomacy). He concludes: 

One should not be deluded into thinking that Israel and Russia have become fast friends and strategic allies. Regretfully, Russia's best friends in the region are the rogue states of Iran and Syria. Yet, the shared concern regarding the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood and its welcoming by the United States, bring Russia and Israel a little closer. 

Today's Chinese deal fits the same template. Israel and China today signed historic cooperation agreements to build the Eilat railway and future projects, including the inland canal port north of Eilat. … The main project on the agenda is construction of a cargo rail line that will link Israel's Mediterranean ports in Ashdod and Haifa with the Eilat port. There are also plans to extend the line to Jordan's Aqaba port. … [Israeli sources indicate that the Chinese] consider the project to be important, as it fits in with China's global strategy to strengthen critical trade routes. … The Israeli delegation were guests at a special dinner given by the Chinese government. The food was kosher lemehadrin. 

Acknow. National Review Online.


Jewish World

Israel and the Boat People


It is 35 years since 66 Vietnamese refugees, fleeing the communist takeover of their homeland on a small, leaky boat, found deliverance. They were without food and water, and ships from Panama, Norway and Japan had ignored their distress signals (violating the most basic rule of the sea). They despaired of rescue. 

Captain Meir Tadmor of the Israeli cargo ship Yuvali was on his way to Japan when he saw them on 10 June 1977. The Yuvali’s Chief Engineer wrote the following late last year: 

"I was there. In South China Sea, close to Vietnamese coast, we met small fishing boat, few people on the deck, asking for food and water. We stop ship, and first wanted to give them as they asking: food and water, but than come on the deck a woman with small baby in the hands, and told us that they are Vietnamese refugees. That is when we decided to take all on board… Their leader was the only one to talk English, very nice person, he was with family – wife, child, wife’s sister and parents. We took care of them, give them proper food and accommodation (sic)." 

After receiving permission from the Israeli government to find them refuge, Capt. Tadmor made an unscheduled stop in Hong Kong, which refused to allow the ship to dock. He sailed on to Taiwan, where the refugees were refused because they had no citizenship. That would be fixed.

In his first official act, newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin made the Vietnamese citizens of Israel. The Taiwan government then allowed the former refugees to enter the country, receive assistance and be taken to the airport for their trip to Israel, the first of nearly 300 Vietnamese refugees to find safe harbor there.

At the ceremony to welcome them, Israeli Minister of Immigrant Absorption David Levy chastised those who had ignored the leaky, dangerous boats and ignored their hungry, sick and desperate passengers:

" Let them do as we have. May they lend a hand to save women and children who are in the heart of the sea without a homeland, and lead them to safe shores."

Israel understood boat people because Jews in living memory had been boat people.

Prime Minister Begin told President Carter:

"We never have forgotten the boat with 900 Jews, the St. Louis,having left Germany in the last weeks before the Second World War… traveling from harbor to harbor, from country to country, crying out for refuge. They were refused… Therefore it was natural… to give those people a haven in the Land of Israel." There was the St. Louis, and there were other boats.

More than 100,000 Jews tried to reach Palestine by sea between 1934 and 1948 on 120 ships making 142 voyages. Only a few thousand made it to Israel that way. More than 1,600 drowned. More than 1,000 were killed on the SS Struma (768 dead, one survivor) and the Mefkura (345 dead, five survivors), both sunk by Soviet torpedoes. The British interned as many as 50,000 in Cyprus, or back in Germany, including the passengers of the Exodus in 1947. The Hannah Senesh docked; the Enzo Sereni didn’t. The Salvador and the Europa were wrecked in storms. 

The experience of Jewish refugees and the hopelessness of statelessness made Israel sensitive to the hopelessness of people from another place, another culture, another war, giving the Vietnamese a place to start over.

(For those rolling their eyes on behalf of stateless Palestinian refugees: It is precisely the Jewish experience with statelessness that impels Israel to continue to seek a mechanism by which Palestinians can achieve the state the Arab states declined on their behalf in 1948 – without losing the State of Israel.)

Some of the Vietnamese left Israel, looking for a more familiar culture (and seeking Vietnamese spouses for their children), but others stayed. You can see the story of Hanmoi Nguyen, who remained in Israel, and his five daughters in the film “The Journey of Vaan Nguyen.”

The Yuvali’s Chief Engineer left his e-mail on his blog post so the Vietnamese could contact him, saying, “I do believe that they all remember me.”

 No doubt they do. 


Jewish World

Catholics, Jews and Jewish Catholics

Jews and Catholics have so much in common that they ought to make common cause more often than they do. The friction between them is often based on mutual ignorance and mistrust. On the Jewish side, given two thousand years of the Church’s anti-Judaism, that is hardly surprising. Only after the Holocaust did a small group of Catholic thinkers—most of them converts from Judaism—have any success in persuading the Church to rethink its anti-Jewish doctrine. 

It was a process that culminated in 1965's Nostra Aetate ("In Our Age"), the declaration of the Second Vatican Council that definitively repudiated the ancient accusation against the Jews of deicide, and stated that the Church "decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed at the Jews at any time and by anyone." Thus the Church, which had always seen itself as the new Israel, at last gave the people of Israel its due place in the history of salvation: the duty of Catholics to "Abraham's sons" was not conversion but reconciliation. 

This dramatic story forms the subject of John Connelly's remarkable new book, “From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965” (Harvard). Connelly's book is largely peopled with "border-crossers": Catholics who had converted or were in the process of converting from Judaism or Protestantism, inhabiting an uncomfortable no-man's-land, accepted neither by their adoptive faith nor by their former community. Some, such as the later French Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, continued to see themselves as Jews, even when the Chief Rabbi of Paris objected that he had turned his back on Judaism. 

Perhaps the most important of these Jewish-Catholic bordercrossers was John (formerly Johannes) Oesterreicher, who helped draft Nostra Aetate. Connelly relies heavily on Oesterreicher's vast correspondence with the rest of this vanguard to unearth the tensions and quarrels of the struggle for reform. Reflecting on the death of his Jewish parents at the hands of the Nazis, Oesterreicher rediscovered forgotten teachings of the Church: all who lived good lives, Jews as well as Christians, could attain salvation, and the guilt for Jesus's death was shared by all, not just the Jews. 

Among other surprising discoveries, Connelly shows that several major Catholic opponents of anti-Semitism were women, at a time when religious controversy was still very much a male pursuit. 

Connelly also contrasts German Catholic prelates—marginalized by the Protestant majority for generations and in hock to fashionable racist and eugenicist ideology—with their American counterparts, who confidently held the Judeo-Christian belief that all human beings are created in God's image. Rabbi James Rudin reinforces this point in a short, illuminating study of three leading American Catholics: “Cushing, Spellman, O’Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing). Rudin shows how the American cardinals influenced the Vatican Council to ensure that Nostra Aetate broke with the anti-Judaism of the past. In the United States, a nation of immigrants, Catholics and Jews were more likely to make common cause than in the Old World, enduring anti-Semitism notwithstanding. According to Rudin, the influence of the American cardinals was also mobilized after 1945 to strengthen Catholic relations with Israel. 

But doctrine evolves at the level of deep thought, not diplomacy, and it is this change in the theological climate that interests Connelly, though he does not attempt to resolve the vexed question of Pope Pius XII's "silence" on the Holocaust. This, however, does not save him from an intemperate attack from another Catholic writer, Justus George Lawler. In “Were the Popes Against the Jews?” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing), Lawler denounces Connelly for having signed a petition to the present Pope, Benedict XVI, appealing against the canonization of Pius XII. Lawler goes on to link Israel and its Catholic defenders with the historical question of Pius XII and the Church's conduct in the Holocaust, all but accusing Israelis of treating Palestinians as badly as anti-Semites have treated Jews. Such incongruous comparisons are as odious as they are common in public discourse today. 

We cannot know what might have happened had Pius XII acted more vigorously on behalf of the Jews. What Connelly shows is that the small network of Catholics who were actively seeking to change attitudes toward the Jews, several of whom were themselves baptized Jews, at the time believed that Pius should have done more. The crude caricature of "Hitler's Pope" that had its origins in Soviet Cold War propaganda is as false as the uncritical dogmatism of those who want Pius XII canonized without proper scrutiny of the evidence, still only partially open to scholars. Connelly's book, while it has no direct bearing on the papal controversy, hugely enriches its historical context.Catholics and Jews alike should welcome such a scholarlyreappraisal of the most painful chapter in the history of theirrelationship. 

(Daniel Johnson is the editor of Standpoint. This article was firstpublished by Jewish Ideas Daily ( and isreprinted with permission.)

Jewish World


Jews living in Asia gathered near the Great Wall of China for the first-ever Limmud event in the world most populous nation. The program, run by Limmud International, drew nearly 100 Jews from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Israel, Britain and the United States.

Limmud, the open Jewish learning program, has held events in some 60 communities on five continents.

Sessions at the China event included Torah and Talmud text study; the role of women in Jewish community life; Chinese interest in Jews and Jewish communities; the history of the Bene Israel in India; the future of Jewish life in Asia, and a workshop on Asian-Jewish cooking.

There are an estimated 20,000 Jews living in East Asia. In China, up to 6,000 Jews live on the mainland and 4,000 Jews live in Hong Kong. Asia is made up both of long-standing, organized Jewish communities like those in India, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and newer smaller communities comprised largely of business people and diplomats. Many Jewish organizations are active in Asia, and the China Limmud was supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

“This inaugural Limmud event in China is a powerful tribute to the determination of Jews throughout Asia to engage with Jewish learning and with Jewish community, overcoming vast distances and other hurdles,” said Limmud International Co-Chair, Helena Miller.

Acknow. JTA

Jewish World


AdSynagogue in Spitalfields (U.K.) unearths long-lost velvet cloth richly embroidered for Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897

Many of the boxes stacked among broken furniture and old electrical fittings in the dusty cellar of Sandys Row Synagogue in Spitalfields, the last still in daily use in what was once the heart of the Jewish East End, turned out to be rather disappointing.

However, one unpromising box did hide a real treasure: a superb purple velvet cloth embroidered in silk and gold wire, paid for by the women of the community to celebrate the last Diamond Jubilee, of Queen Victoria in 1897.

It will go on public display in the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in London this summer, for the first time since it was folded away carefully after the last celebrations. It came out of the box in pristine condition, the gold shimmering as if it was embroidered yesterday.

"This would have cost a fortune, hundreds of pounds, and it was a magnificent achievement for the women of our synagogue," said Jeremy Freedman, one of the descendants of the founding fathers of the synagogue. "This was never a wealthy community: these women were market traders in Petticoat Lane, people came to the synagogue on alternate days – one would come here and the other would mind both stalls, the next day they'd change places. How they found the money for this I cannot imagine."

There is still a daily lunchtime service, and one every other Saturday, but the market traders are long gone. Freedman is a photographer – he has contributed many striking images of daily life in the area to the Spitalfields Life blog – and his father, Henry, a retired accountant.

Descendants of the synagogue's original founding families are scattered across the world – recently the synagogue housed a reunion of scores of Hamburgs and Mekelburgs, two families who lived side by side in Amsterdam where, like most of the community, they worked as cigar makers, and then in Spitalfields, where they became fruit and veg sellers – but the remaining members are few and ageing.

The synagogue is so hidden away in a narrow lane that even people working a few streets away are unaware of its existence. It was built in 1766 as a Huguenot church, then a chapel, but it had become a lockup store when the founders first rented it in 1854. They then bought the freehold and ingeniously adapted the building to align it towards Jerusalem while retaining a remarkable amount of the Georgian interior.

A £400,000 restoration of the roof and interior was recently completed with major grants from English Heritage for the Grade II-listed building, after the discovery that bomb damage from the Blitz had shifted the roof timbers so that they were resting only on decaying plaster.

There are more spectacular textiles than the embroidered jubilee cloth and also archives awaiting conservation and display.

"The building looks beautiful again now, but it needs a new life, a new purpose. The truth is that the writing is on the wall for Sandys Row unless we find that."

Freedman, who wants more people to share in the building's rich Jewish past, fears that the Jewish contribution to East End history is becoming largely forgotten.

• The synagogue is open daily for services. For guided visits, book through the website.

The embroidered bimah cover for Queen Victoria's diamond jubillee celebrations in 1897, found in pristine condition in the Sandys Row synagogue's cellar. Photograph: Jeremy Freedman





AdWhen the Crimean War broke out in 1854, pitting Russia against the Ottoman Empire and its European allies, Karl Marx was working on Das Kapital in the British Museum Reading Room. Meanwhile, he eked out a meager living writing for Horace Greeley's radical New York Daily Tribune. Most of these articles were pure journalistic hackwork, but a few of them reflect Marx's sophisticated historical insight.

Although the Ottoman Empire at that time stretched far into Eastern Europe, the intricacies of its internal politics and social conditions were little known even to informed Western European readers. In faraway America, people knew even less, and this gave Marx an opportunity to write a lengthy article on the subject, published in the Daily Tribune on April 15, 1854. Marx describes the complex ethnic and religious demography of the Ottoman Empire and dwells at some length on the conditions of the minority communities living under Muslim rule. He provided his readers with detailed explanation of the millet system, which gave non-Muslims a degree of cultural autonomy and religious self-rule, with the right to maintain their own internal courts and collect their own taxes.

Because the Crimean War started with a religious dispute centered on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Marx devotes a paragraph to the city and its population. He begins by stating that its "sedentary population numbers about 15,500 souls, of whom 4,000 are Mussulmans [Muslims] and 8,000 Jews." He goes on to say that "the Mussulmans, forming about a quarter of the whole, consisting of Turks, Arabs, and Moors, are, of course, the masters in every respect." After this dry recitation of facts, what follows is somewhat surprising. Marx goes on:

Nothing equals the misery and the suffering of the Jews of Jerusalem, inhabiting the most filthy quarter of the town, called hareth-el-yahoud ... between the Zion and the Moriah ... [They are] the constant objects of Mussulman oppression and intolerance, insulted by the Greeks, persecuted by the Latins [Catholics], and living only on the scanty alms transmitted by their European brethren.

He points out that the Jews of Jerusalem are not natives, but hail from different and distant countries, "and are only attracted to Jerusalem by the desire of inhabiting the Valley of Jehoshaphat and to die on the very place where the redemption is to be expected." Marx concludes:

Attending their death, they suffer and pray. Their regards turned to that mountain of Moriah where once stood the temple of Lebanon, and which they dare not approach; they shed tears on the misfortune of Zion, and their dispersion over the world.

To anyone familiar with Marx's venomous portrait of Judaism in his early essay "On the Jewish Question," not to speak of his many uncomplimentary comments about individual Jews (fellow socialists such as Ferdinand Lassalle included), his words here will come as a surprise. That the only place in all of Marx's writings in which he expresses some empathy for Jews refers to the Jews of Jerusalem awaiting the Messiah is, at least, rather extraordinary. As it happens, however, it was Marx's dry recitation of these demographic facts that was to be of diplomatic use to me some 120 years later.

In the mid-1970s, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a series of reports criticizing Israeli post-1967 archaeological excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, claiming that they were scientifically biased and were part of an Israeli plan to "judaize" Jerusalem. This egregious accusation arose from misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and the sheer lies of Arab propaganda—and almost led to Israel's expulsion from UNESCO.

In the summer of 1976, as Director-General of Israel's Foreign Ministry, I headed the Israeli delegation to the General Assembly of UNESCO's meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. With the help of friendly delegations from the United States, Canada, and Europe, we were able to show that the archaeologists leading Israeli digs in East Jerusalem were as keen to discover and preserve Roman, Byzantine, Ummayad, and Crusader antiquities as Jewish ones. After heated debates in the plenary and committees and some diplomatic horse-trading, the attempt to exclude Israel from UNESCO activities was defeated, despite a strong coalition of Arab, Communist, and some Third World countries.

In my speech at the plenary session, I focused on the mendacity of the accusation. Rather than focus on biblical sources, I decided to alert the assembly to the fact that there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since the 1850s before the emergence of Zionism. To underline the point, I said, "Here is what one of the greatest thinkers of the 19th century—some feel he is the greatest thinker of the 19th century—said in describing Jerusalem at that time." After reading the passage from the Daily Tribune about the "4,000 Mussulmans, 8,000 Jews" of Jerusalem I added: "I am sure that our Soviet colleagues will immediately recognize that I am quoting Karl Marx."

The Soviet delegate—plainly a crude apparatchik—jumped up and shouted, "Forgery! This is a forgery! Karl Marx never wrote this!" In response, I took up the volume from which I was quoting and asked that it be noted that I was using the official Moscow Foreign Languages Publishing House edition of Marx's writings on colonialism, adding: "I am sure that our Soviet colleague is not suggesting that the official Soviet publishing house is falsifying the texts of Karl Marx." The room exploded with laughter, although several attendees were less than amused.

At an embassy party that evening, the head of the delegation for the People's Republic of China and his interpreter approached me. With a frozen face, but a glimmer in his eyes, the diplomat said "Obviously we did not agree with your presentation. But we always like it when Marx is quoted to the Soviets."

What Karl Marx, the baptized grandson of two rabbis, would have made of this another question. Be that as it may, the Soviet Union does not exist any more, but the Jewish majority in Jerusalem does.

Acknow. Jewish Review