communal matters exploring the concerns of the south african jewish community
In this article, Gwynne Robins looks at one particular Cape Town congregation, the Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation, where, between 1959 and 1988, four Orthodox rabbis took a stand against Apartheid.
Irwin Manoim’s DafkaDotCom article (10 May 2020) on Rabbi Andre Ungar pays tribute to a former leader of the Reform community who not only spoke out against apartheid but was expelled from the country for his efforts.
In 1999, the former Chief Rabbi, the late Rabbi Cyril Harris, testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on behalf of the South African Jewish community. Rabbi Harris not only apologised for the collective failure of the South African Jewish community to protest apartheid, but acknowledged how the community had benefited from this system of racial oppression. As Rabbi Harris’ testimony attests, for the most part, communal silence was the norm, both from the pulpit and from communal boardrooms. Context, of course, is crucial. Caution was justified when dealing with a government with a history of antisemitism.
That said, a handful of rabbis, both Orthodox and Reform, publicly condemned apartheid and took part in protests. This article will look at one particular congregation, the Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation (Marais Road Shul) in Cape Town, where, between 1959 and 1988, four Orthodox rabbis took a stand against apartheid: Rabbi ES Rabinowitz, Rabbi David Rosen, Rabbi Dr Elihu Jack Steinhorn, and Rabbi Selwyn Franklin.