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Isha Bekia

Mmusi Maimane event

Apr 7, 2019 | Chaggim, Current Affairs, Speeches


Honoured Rabbis, communal leaders, chairman of the UOS Harold Novick, Rabbi Shaw, Rabbi Strauss, friends
It gives me great pleasure on behalf of the South African Jewish community, to welcome the leader of the official opposition, Mr Mmusi Maimane.
My great-grandfather, Kalman Meyer Goldstein, escaped the persecution and hardship of Lithuania when he left his home shtetl Vorne. After a long journey, which took him through England, he arrived here in South Africa in June 1899 at the tender age of 17. He left behind his mother, father, six siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends. Except for two siblings, who eventually followed him here, he never saw any of them again – they were murdered in the Holocaust.
This is a story that all of us South African Jews can all tell in one way or another. Our forebears fled from the tyranny, oppression and government sanctioned anti-Semitism of Eastern Europe, to find a better life in South Africa. This is an appropriate moment for us to reflect on the blessings of living in a free democracy like South Africa where, as Jews, we can live with openness and pride, fulfilling the mitzvot and leading active Jewish lives. Freedom is the gateway to enjoying all of the other blessings of life, especially the blessing of being able to serve G-d with dignity and loyalty. Throughout the thousands of years of Jewish history there have been many times when our freedom to practice and live our Torah was severely curtailed. When I attend official State functions here in South Africa and kosher food is provided (double wrapped in tin foil with the Beth Din stickers all over it!) I often think of the blessing of living in a country where our religious rights are so respected and think of how our ancestors were just grateful not to be conscripted in the Czar’s army, let alone be recognised and protected as a religious community by the constitution of the country.
Freedom is also the greatest blessing for South Africa today as it goes through these challenging times. South Africa has many problems, but one incontrovertible fact, that makes this a country with great possibilities, is that it is a free country. It is this freedom that offers the greatest promise for a better tomorrow. It is also the freedom of the press that allowed all of the corruption scandals to be uncovered, and the freedom of an independent judiciary that have given the country hope of being victorious in the fight against corruption. As long as a country is free, there are always mechanisms and opportunities for it to improve. It is the freedom of regular elections, the freedom of the party political system and the freedom of debate in Parliament that ensure that the government remains accountable. It is all these institutions of freedom that ensure that South Africans can confront the challenges and seize the opportunities ahead. It is in this context that it gives me great pleasure to welcome the leader of the official opposition, Mr Mmusi Maimane, whose leadership contributes to the vibrancy of democracy in South Africa. For South Africa to succeed we need a truly vibrant and competitive democracy. We thank Mr Maimane for devoting his life to this noble cause. And it is in dedication to this ideal of an open democracy and commitment to freedom that we as a community look forward to Mr Maimane’s address here this afternoon.
Also, let us also not forget the great blessing that G-d has bestowed upon our generation, to live in a time of a free and sovereign Jewish State in the land of Israel. For almost two thousand years this seemed an impossible dream, until the Divine miracles of our times made it a reality. Israel is the only truly free democracy in the Middle East, and today we give thanks for the blessing of her existence, and the justice of her cause, which will never cease to proudly defend.
The origins of our freedom as a people, come from G-d when He liberated us from Egypt 3331 years ago, the events of which we will be celebrating next week with the arrival of Pesach. We are who are because of the gift of freedom which G-d graciously gave us with signs and wonders all those years ago. Freedom is one of the greatest blessings of all. In grateful thanks-giving, as we sit at our Seder tables each Pesach, the festival of freedom, and relive the drama of the miracles that led to our freedom, we, in turn, rededicate our lives to serving Him, doing His Mitzvot and making the world into a better place for all. Today as we celebrate freedom and democracy in South Africa, please join me in welcoming Mr Mmusi Maimane to address us.