In memory of Mervyn Smith

November 18, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
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World and Australian leaders have praised the work and life of Mervyn Smith, the late president of the African Jewish Council, an organisation he founded and lead for more than twenty years.


Mervyn Smith

Mervyn Smith

Mervyn Smith was a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress from 2009 to 2013 and since then the co-chairman of the WJC Policy Council. He was actively involved in a number of international efforts, notably the quest for restitution of looted Jewish property. He also served as a director of the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said: “Mervyn’s dedication to the Jewish cause, his intellectual lucidity and his wit will be greatly missed not just at the World Jewish Congress, and we have lost an outstanding Jewish leader and a good friend. Together with Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, he was a great champion of the small Jewish communities in southern Africa, and it will be hard to fill the void. Our heartfelt condolences go to his children and grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing.”

From Robert Goot, President of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry: “His passing is a huge loss Henry. The Jewish world has lost a great leader and I have lost a wonderful friend and colleague.”

From Dr Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia: “Mervyn was a gentleman and a scholar , a lovely mannered but formal communal leader with whom I worked at both the WJC and CC ,during my tenure as ECAJ President .He leaves a void of experience and analytical contribution to the Jewish world.”

In his native South Africa, the practicing attorney Smith was the first person from Cape Town in 100 years to be elected national chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. It was largely thanks to his efforts that the Board adopted a resolution at its conference in 1985 condemning the apartheid system.

Mervyn Smith was also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the South African Holocaust Foundation.

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