Supporting Jewry in southern Africa

November 25, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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The leaders of Jewish communities from several countries in southern Africa and members of the African Jewish Congress (AJC), earlier this week met with the leadership of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Johannesburg to discuss the challenges ahead.

Ronald S. Lauder with Ann Harris, chair of the African Jewish Congress, and Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO of the AJC

Ronald S. Lauder with Ann Harris, chair of the African Jewish Congress, and Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO of the AJC

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder told the heads of Jewish communities from Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe that the WJC is fully committed to preserving and strengthening smaller communities, many of which operate in a difficult environment. Jews and Africans – groups that had both known persecution for long periods – should stand together, Lauder told the group.

“You are the face of Judaism in every place you are. We stand with you. We are very proud of the African Jewish Congress,” Lauder said, adding: “We know how difficult it is to maintain Jewish life in isolated places, and we appreciate very much what you are doing. The WJC will always be there to support you in whatever is needed.”

Lauder also urged the Jewish leaders to stand up for Israel vis-à-vis the political leadership in their respective countries: “We need you to talk about what Israel stands for,” he told delegates.

Geoff Ramokgadi, head of the Jewish community of Swaziland greets Ronald S. Lauder

Geoff Ramokgadi, head of the Jewish community of Swaziland greets Ronald S. Lauder

Ann Harris, newly elected president of the African Jewish Congress, called Lauder “a modern-day Montefiore,” in reference to the 19th century British philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore who donated vast amounts of money to foster Jewish life in the Holy Land.

She paid tribute to Mervyn Smith, the former AJC president and a vice-president of the WJC who died in November last year. “He always saw the big picture,” she said. “The AJC was not only his vision, it was actually his creation.”

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, CEO of the umbrella body, reported on a wide variety of AJC activities in many countries, focusing in particular on the new Jewish museum in Mauritius and activities in Zambia, including significant funding for institutions of higher learning in Israel and Zambia that were now working in co-operation with each other.

The new office bearers of the African Jewish Congress are: Ann Harris (South Africa), president; Mary Kluk (South Africa), Richard Lyons (Botswana), Geoff Ramokgadi (Swaziland), Peter Sternberg (Zimbabwe), vice-presidents; Li Boiskin and Irene Zuckerman (both South Africa), sub-committee chairs; and Steve Felder (Kenya) and Michael Galaun (Zambia), committee members.

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