I often find that people, during confrontations, tend to do more speaking than listening. More effort is put into fortifying ones own argument with facts, figures and examples, in order to either prove ones opponent wrong or to completely undermine their belief or perspective.
It is with these findings that I found the AJC Global forum to be a rose amongst an orchid of thorns. The conference was an exceptional example of how doing a lot more listening rather than arguing and debating, can assist leaders in solving some of the most complex issues facing our society today.
I along with Gila Jankelowitz and Rachel Raff had the privilege of attending the annual AJC Global Forum on behalf of SAUJS – South African Union of Jewish Students. The Forum, which hosted more than 2,500 leaders from over 80 countries, gave a platform to a host of speakers ranging from Muslim community leaders to the Presidents of Cyprus and it was from this platform that often-sensitive issues could be addressed and discussed. Gila, Rachel and I participated in sessions where these issues were tackled and we were able to share our perspectives and experiences as Jewish South African students. The session topics that we attended included “Muslims and the Jews”, “Radicalism on the Rise: Is Religion the Disease or the Cure?” and “The Z-word: Zionism and the Contemporary Case for Israel”.
One of the most commendable aspects of the conference was the diversity of its attendees. Participants ranged from Muslims to Jews, students to professionals and Americans to Asians. This immense range in diversity ensured that every voice was heard and each perspective given. It allowed people to engage with each other on problems that they currently face in their country or community and share their knowledge and experience in dealing with them. The open platform could then be used to help other participants. It allowed them to both listen to the speakers and learn from their narrative, and engage with the speakers and other participants, where often the extension of a helping hand was given in the form of contact details and a promise to connect after the proceedings. The identification and engagement on similar issues was a re-occurring theme amongst the student leaders attending the forum, as we have all faced various forms of anti-Semitism on our University campuses.
Subsequent to the sessions and the plenaries was a trip to the Capitol building, which concluded the conference. We were given the opportunity to meet with the representatives of Congressmen Ted Lieu and Michael Doyle in the form of Corey Jacobson and Kate Werley respectively. During these meetings we discussed certain diplomacy and legislation that had either been passed or that was being written to eradicate anti-Semitism within the United States.
The forum encompassed what it means to gain wisdom from listening as opposed to speaking. It was in that sense a meeting of the minds, where each and every person attending came with the objective of learning something new and walking out a little more informed than they were walking in.
I greatly appreciate being given the opportunity to participate in such an incredible event by SAUJS. I now look to use the experience and knowledge gained from the Forum in assisting me in my role as a student leader and global activist.
Written by Dean Weil
Dean is the WITS Chairperson for SAUJS
Walking into AJC's opening plenary, I was startled. And it wasn't because of the blue lights that made me feel like I was on a spaceship. I felt like an alien among all these established politicians, businessmen, diplomats, religious leaders and opinion makers. However, there was a common thread amongst us all. One that eased the overwhelming feeling. We were all here for the same purpose: as activists within the Jewish community, we were working towards a common goal of understanding the world's current issues and finding ways to contribute towards remedying them.
Over the course of the AJC Global Forum, I realised that these established activists once started out like me: a young Jewish student activist. Here was my chance to listen to what they had to say, gain insights from their sessions and workshops and take the inspiration home with me to use constructively towards further empowering myself and SAUJS (South African Union of Jewish Students) to be 'global agents of change'.
I am extremely grateful to AJC for the exposure provided into the global Jewish community as well as indebted to them for the tools and knowledge that I gained during the remarkable GloFlo.
Written by Rachel Raff
Rachel is the National Vice Chairperson of SAUJS
SAUJS is proud to have once again facilitated the Birthright Tour to Israel, where South African students got to experience Israel for the first time. Our madrich describes the highlights of the tour.
When I first applied to go on Birthright South Africa 2017 as a madrich (councillor), I didn’t know what was to be expected. Having been to Israel on three previous occasions, this would be my first opportunity to visit in some sort of a leadership position.
With the phenomenal experiences that I had, my goal was to provide the Birthright participants with an insightful and bonding experience, one that would forever connect them to the Holy Land. After an excruciating three hour wait in the queue at passport control at Ben-Gurion Airport on the Tuesday morning, our tour eventually commenced...
We were joined by a mixed group of Israelis. They provided invaluable insight into the culture and intricacies of their country (throughout the tour).
With everyone “on board” the tour kicked off, and we spent the first two days in Tiberias. We saw the north of the country during the day, and then had the opportunity to relax and get to know each other in the evenings.
The North was both educational and fun, with highlights including kayaking on the Jordan River and a tour of the ancient and mystical city of Safed.
On the Thursday, we travelled from Tiberias to Jerusalem, and over the course of three days, we explored much of the city. After experiencing the electric atmosphere of the Mahane Yehuda Market on a Friday afternoon, we walked to the Kotel (Western Wall) for Kabbalat Shabbat. There we experienced an incredible Friday night service, which pulled at our heartstrings. The group spent a relaxing Shabbos in the city centre, which gave everyone an opportunity to gather their thoughts from the preceding week’s hectic schedule.
We then made our way to the Negev region on Sunday, following an emotional visit to Har Herzl (military cemetery). The Israeli soldiers’ presence made the experience more poignant and meaningful. We then spent the night in Bedouin tents and spent the next day exploring the surrounding area. On Monday we spent the night in Arad, which is located on the border of the Negev and Judean deserts.
A magnificent sunrise greeted us upon summiting Masada, and the day continued with a visit to the Dead Sea. Everyone enjoyed floating in the lowest place on the planet - a tourist must! We travelled onwards towards Tel Aviv that evening and spent the next two days in the bustling city, before our departure.
Birthright was far more enjoyable and inspiring than I could have ever imagined. There is no doubt in my mind that every one of the participants had an amazing time and will be returning to Israel soon! A special bond was formed between everyone, and we all left having made some great new friends.
Written by Isaac Lipschitz
Isaac is one of two SAUJS madrichim that led the group on the 2017 Birthright Tour.
Dear SAUJS members
Yesterday a judgement was made in the Equality Court of the South Gauteng High Court which has tremendous significance for all SAUJS members. In a damning judgement, an anti-Israel activist has been found guilty of hate speech.
Over 8 years ago, in March 2009, COSATU member Bongani Masuku threatened SAUJS students in a lecture theatre at Wits University during ‘Israel Apartheid Week’. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC), and later that year the HRC issued a finding of hate speech and ordered him to apologise. Mr. Masuku refused to apologise.
The HRC took him to the Equality Court in the South Gauteng High Court and the case was heard at the beginning of the year, in February, during a 7-day trial. Several witnesses were called including Benji Shulman, a SAUJS leader at the time, who was present during the whole hate-filled experience. David Hirsh (from the UK) shared expertise about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and Professor Gregory Stanton (from the US) testified as an expert on Genocide.
The judgement was unequivocal and damning. Judge Moshidi ruled yesterday that Mr. Masuku’s statements in 2009 constituted hate speech and he was not swayed by the arguments of freedom of speech. Masuku’s recurrent protestations that he was making the statements about Zionists and not Jews was also dismissed, which has tremendous significance.
Bongani Masuku was among the first of the venomous anti-Israel activists to enter the campus domain and to spew hate against Jewish students. Unfortunately, as we know, this trend has continued and escalated, not just in SA but also globally. We believe therefore that this is a particularly significant ruling, and an excellent example of standing up to hatred.
For your interest, the SAJBD press release can be found here: http://www.sajbd.org/index.php/media/equality-court-finds-hate-speech-by-cosatu-spokesperson
SAUJS urged all of its members to send the following letter to Wits University, in an effort to encourage the University management to take decisive action.
I strongly believe that you should SAY NO TO SUPPORTING TERRORISM ON CAMPUS.
The Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) have proved to the public, that they are not interested in dialogue or conversation, but rather in disregarding the shared agreements and terms they had made with SAUJS (South African Union of Jewish Students) and the University. They have proved to the University that they are dishonest and deceitful. They have clearly chosen to align themselves with radical extremist terrorist groups like Hezbollah, showing that the true intentions of their Israel Apartheid Week campaign are hateful and violent.
Are the PSC allowed to break agreements, destroy SAUJS property and vandalize Wits University?
The PSC have shown no regard for the negotiated agreements that were reached on Monday evening with the Dean of Students and SAUJS. They have shown no respect to the University, and continue to force themselves onto the SAUJS allocated space on the Piazza in an attempt to provoke SAUJS students. The PSC have tried to shut SAUJS down first by ripping their posters to pieces, then by cutting their power cord in half, and then by cutting down their banner. The PSC have also now plastered the University walls with illegal graffiti, trying to draw on support from more radicals.
How, in good conscience, can the University allow the flag of Hezbollah to be flown on campus? Hezbollah is an internationally recognized terrorist organization, and there can be nothing peaceful about advocating for terrorism, inciting violence, and promoting murder. It is outrageous to see that Wits University gives radical extremists the platform to wave this flag.
Does Wits University allow incitement to violence on its campus?
The PSC are encouraging extremism and radicalism on Wits campus. Their students have threatened SAUJS students by saying that they feel ‘justified to cut [their] throat here and now’. The PSC have also painted a message on their display that reads ‘Amandla Intifada’, literally meaning ‘power to the Intifada’ (Palestinian wave of terror). Did you know that by the end of the Second Intifada, more than one thousand Israelis were murdered, and more than eight thousand Israelis were wounded? This incitement to violence is inexcusable on campus.
What action will the University take to remove this rhetoric from its campus and how will you ensure the safety of Jewish students on campus?
University should be a space for constructive debate and honest discussions. Radical extremism has found its way onto Wits campus, and this is of grave concern to all students at Wits.
As a member of the student body, I call on you, the Dean of Students, to issue an official statement by the University clarifying that a negotiated agreement was made by all parties, and that the PSC failed to uphold the agreement. I call on you to take disciplinary action against the leaders of the PSC who have consistently been encouraging of hate speech, violence and terrorism as well as failing to respect their agreement and bringing the University into disrepute.
Please put an end to all this NOW. You are allowing Wits University to become a breeding ground for hate speech and intimidation with no repercussions for the offenders whatsoever.
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day (IHRD), January 27th, as designated by the United Nations General Assembly. Today #WeRemember the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and we honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Today, we have seen anti-Semitic graffiti painted in a building at Wits University. Only 2 weeks have passed since one of our students was verbally accosted with anti-Semitic remarks on Wits main campus.
SAUJS unequivocally condemns the anti-Semitism that is being demonstrated on campus. There can be no justification for such hateful, ignorant and offensive acts.
SAUJS has been in contact with the office of the Dean of Students to ensure that the graffiti be removed and to find those responsible.
SAUJS maintains that every student on campus should be free from intimidation, regardless of their race, religion, gender or self-identification. Jewish students are no exception. We call on the University (Wits - University of the Witwatersrand) and the Wits Student Representative Council (Wits SRC) to condemn this blatant Anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms.
We will continue to work for the rights of our students across the country.
If you have any information regarding these incidents, please contact:
011 645 2595