EAST COAST REGION REPORT – SOUTH AFRICA
Prof. Antony Arkin
The Management Committee of the SAUPJ met at Bet David in Johannesburg on 17 May 2009. Rabbi Avidan, Karen Krausey, Diane McColl and I, as chair of the East Coast Region, attended.
It was a good meeting. Held in a constructive atmosphere, ably chaired by Steve Lurie. Below are a number of observations, which may well differ from the other delegates.
It is with concern that the SAUPJ has not been able to attract a competent, involved and responsible honorary treasurer. While the accounts seem in order, the organisation has been weakened in this area.
The non-attendance of the chair of the Sisterhood may be a potential problem. As the Sisterhood has provided the leadership and outreach in many congregations, its chair should play a major role in the management of the SAUPJ.
The new rabbinical appointments in Gauteng have immeasurably strengthened the SAUPJ.
The leadership of Netzer in Gauteng has been strengthened with the appointment of the local chair as a full-time youth worker and the arrival of the new shlicha from Israel. The movement remains tiny compared to Habonim and B'nei Akiva, but this reflects the Reform community's demographics. The massive increase in the costs of the Shnat program in Israel is likely to have a very negative effect on future leadership.
The role of Israel for the Reform movement has become the cornerstone of our movement. The unconditional support for Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people was emphasized while the freedom to criticize specific policies of the government was recognized. ARZENU, the Progressive Zionist party has been fully integrated into the SAUPJ structure. All congregations should have a line item in their accounts for their members to automatically become members of ARZENU, by paying the R 20 annual fee and confirming their acceptance of the Jerusalem Program.
A discussion document by Rabbi Robert Jacobs on the centrality of Israel in our movement was accepted and has been circulated to the members of the Management Committee.
The East Coast Region remains by far the smallest of the provinces. It was a great pity that neither Port Elizabeth nor East London sent representatives. They are small, isolated congregations which would only benefit by participating at the national level. Their travel expenses have historically been covered by the SAUPJ. A meeting was held over lunch with Rabbi Matatiani as chair of the SAUPR, Steve Lurie, National Chairman, Rabbi Ash and myself discussed the specific issues of Port Elizabeth and East London. It was agreed that Rabbi Ash, with his congregation's approval, would visit Port Elizabeth and East London four times a year and would have rabbinic oversight over them. Durban's Sisterhood would assist in trying to kick start a Sisterhood in Port Elizabeth. In a subsequent telephonic discussion with Mike Sacks, Port Elizabeth's president, little interest was shown - there is not a single woman on their executive. Diane has also offered to run a distance education program for their children via e-mail. As most of them attend Theodor Herzl this might be unnecessary - but adult education support would be welcome. The concept of Israel cultural evenings under the auspices of ARZENU was however accepted. The films will have to be supplied by Durban from our library, the Israel Embassy or Beyachad.
Though there remain weak spots, we are an ageing and declining community, the SAUPJ has over the past few years become a much more vibrant organization, well integrated into the broader mainstream while retaining our own unique identity.