Inauguration Speech by President Thabo Mbeki
Updated: May 7
Address by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the occasion of the inauguration of Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, at the Sandton Synagogue, Sandton
Chief Rabbi Goldstein, Honoured Rabbis, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Judges, Religious and Community Leaders, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen:
It is my privilege to address you on this auspicious occasion, both for the Jewish community of South Africa and for our country as a whole. Today, we proudly celebrate the official inauguration of the first South African-born and fifth Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein.
We salute Rabbi Goldstein as a true South African patriot. Like his esteemed predecessor, Chief Rabbi Emeritus – Rabbi Cyril Harris – he is a true nation-builder and has embraced with enthusiasm our democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society – a society in which Jews can take pride as fellow South Africans and join hands with the masses of our people to give real meaning to our collective belief, expressed in our constitution that: South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in their diversity.
In his contribution to the recent “Good News” series, South Africa 2014: The Story of Our Future, Rabbi Goldstein says:
“Societies are held together by a shared moral vision and not by mere convenience. The continued survival and endurance of our new South Africa will depend on our combining to formulate a common moral, religious and spiritual vision.”
(extracted from Goldstein, W. in Lundy, Guy, South Africa 2014: The Story of Our Future (SA The Good News Pty Ltd, Hyde Park: 2004, p. 340)
Rabbi Goldstein champions the very values which government would like to instil in our society. Civil society, including religious leaders, has a crucial role to play in South Africa today. By their personal example, and through the wisdom of their teachings, religious leaders such as Chief Rabbi Goldstein, can imbue our country with values of honesty, compassion and self-discipline that are so vital in establishing a truly just and moral society.
As we know, government, working with other social partners, is at the forefront of social and economic development of our country and people, especially the upliftment of the poor and the marginalised. While these are critically important and should be pursued with ever renewed efforts, they should, however not be seen as being sufficient in themselves; they have to go hand in hand with the important challenge of moral regeneration.
In this regard, Rabbi Goldstein, has already offered his leadership, including in the book he has co-written with Dumani Mandela, called ‘African Soul Talk’, which addresses the important matters of morality and values in our society. Indeed, we are blessed to have a Chief Rabbi who is a formidable Torah scholar whose doctorate is in Human Rights and Constitutional Law, including that of our own Constitution.
May I take this opportunity to pay tribute also to Rabbi Cyril Harris and his wife, Ann, for their unstinting and selfless devotion to nation-building and reconciliation and having worked in projects aimed at uplifting our communities. At the time of his failing health, we all pray for his speedy recovery.
The Jewish Community of South Africa is an important component of the South African nation. Its members contribute in many vital fields to the well-being and progress of our country: in medicine, in law, business, the arts, education, and in many other fields. Through their work, like that of many other South Africans, Jews in our country have enriched and continue to enrich the marvellous tapestry that is South Africa. I know that in the leadership that we have, such as that of Chief Rabbi Goldstein and others, this contribution will increase.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a joyous and kosher Passover.
Chief Rabbi Goldstein, on behalf of the government and all the people of South Africa, I wish you success in your challenging new position and look forward to your future participation in the greater affairs of our country.
As you assume the mantle of this august position as Chief Rabbi, may you, your wife, Gina and your children, Mordechai, Levi and Shayna be blessed with infinite wisdom, vigour and a passion to help build a better South Africa for all who live in it, black and white!
Issued by The Presidency on 3 April 2005