OPINION

Naledi Pandor should engage us not malign us – SAJBD

Board says Minister's remarks at memorial service of AnnMarie Wolpe were uncalled for

Minister Pandor engage don't malign 

26 February 2018

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) last week wrote to Minister Pandor requesting a meeting to discuss and clarify certain remarks she had made in Parliament concerning the South Africa-Israel relationship.   Our letter was respectful and non-confrontational (see attached). 

However, on Friday Minister Pandor was invited to speak at a service in memory of the late AnnMarie Wolpe, held at Temple Israel, Green Point, to reflect on Mrs Wolpe’s illustrious career in the field of human rights activism and in particular her important contribution to defeating apartheid.  She used the opportunity to rebuke the SAJBD: “It is a very interesting moment. I am Muslim South African, in a Synagogue, in a temple, and who has just made the Jewish Board of Deputies very angry with her. They have written to me, they say on behalf of all the South African Jewish community [sic], which I don’t quite believe, nevertheless, I am a recipient of such a letter.”

The Minister claimed we were `angry’ with her.  Nothing could have been further from the truth. Our letter was courteous in our request for a meeting to engage with the Minister.  Surely as the representative body of one of the South African stakeholder groups, this was the correct recourse in addressing what we believed to be distressing to members of our community?  The Minister further questioned the credentials of our 115 year old democratically elected representative spokesbody of the South African Jewish community.  Since the Minister has chosen to interact with us in the public domain, we too are forced to respond in this way.

Furthermore, we fail to understand why it was relevant to draw attention to the fact that she is a Muslim South African speaking in a synagogue?  Those who had come together for the occasion were not doing so as Jews or Muslims, whites or blacks, but as fellow South Africans wishing to pay tribute to someone whose life had been devoted to bringing people together, not dividing them. Moreover, the implied suggestion that there was something very unusual in a Muslim person speaking in a Jewish place of worship is entirely incorrect. The Jewish community regularly holds interfaith events in our places of worship, and joint prayer services.

The SAJBD remains committed to engagement and dialogue.

Text of the letter:

20 February 2018

Minister Naledi Pandor

Ministry of Science and Technology

Dear Minister Pandor

We hope you are well.

We noted your comments in parliament yesterday, “The majority party has been mandated to cut ties with Israel give the absence of genuine initiatives by Israel.”

This statement has caused great distress amoungst members of the local South African Jewish community.

We request a meeting with you to discuss this issue.

Yours sincerely

Zev Krengel Shaun Zagnoev

SA Jewish Board of Deputies National Chairman

ENDS

Issued by Wendy Kahn, National Director, SAJBD, 26 February 2018