World Jewry is
rallying to Zimbabwe Jews’ assistance – May 2008
African Jewish Congress Spiritual Leader Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft
(centre) with Lord Greville Janner,
President of the Commonwealth
left and Chief Rabbi Sir. Jonathan Sacks of the Commonwealth
There is widespread concern internationally over the
situation in which the remaining Jews in Zimbabwe find themselves,
coupled with a strong desire to assist. Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft,
Spiritual Leader and CEO of the African Jewish Congress, recently
completed an intensive two-week-long visit to Israel and London, in
which he met with a wide array of senior Jewish communal leaders.
The visit was aimed at raising awareness of the issue and securing
financial assistance for various relief projects headed by his
organisation, specifically the African Jewish Congress Zimbabwe Fund
All funds raised for Zimbabwe Jewry, both in South Africa and
internationally, are channelled through the AJCZF, which assists
over 160 needy Zimbabwean Jews with food parcels, rent and
medication, etc. While donations from South Africa comprise a
significant component of the AJCZF’s budget, overseas contributions,
including from the American Joint Distribution Committee and Chai
South Africa in the US, are assuming increasing importance in light
of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe.
During the London leg of the trip, Rabbi Silberhaft met with Chief
Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and Lord Greville Janner, President,
Commonwealth Jewish Trust (CJT) to brief them on the Zimbabwe
situation and on ways in which UK Jewry could assist. Other meetings
took place with Flo Kaufman, vice-president of the Board of Deputies
of British Jews, and Leon Silverton, a senior representative of the
Hebrew Order of David.
Rabbi Silberhaft spoke at a CJT function. It was subsequently agreed
that the CJT would be the UK link to the AJCZF and would channel all
UK-raised funds to it.
Rabbi Silberhaft said that he had been most gratified by the concern
and helpfulness shown Chief Rabbi Sacks and by Syma Weinberg,
executive director in the Office of Chief Rabbi (herself a former
Zimbabwean). Rabbi Sacks offered to assist where possible in
fundraising and stressed the urgency of the situation in a message
to the wider Jewish community. As quoted in the UK Jewish press, he
said: “This is a genuine humanitarian crisis and I ask the community
to hold the people of Zimbabwe in their prayers”.
While in London, Rabbi Silberhaft also addressed a meeting of the
World Jewish Relief, which takes on projects on behalf of distressed
communities, both Jewish and non-Jewish, throughout the world. It is
one of the supporters of Savyon Lodge, the Jewish aged home in
Bulawayo, and also helps fund projects on behalf of Zimbabwean
HIV/AIDS orphans and grandmothers whose children have died of
HIV/AIDS and who must now raise the grandchildren themselves. The
latter projects are headed by Bulawayo resident Ruth Feigenbaum, a
leading member of the local Jewish community.
In Israel, Rabbi Silberhaft met with the leadership of Telfed,
including Maish Isaacson (chairman), Dave Bloom (Vice-chairman), Sid
Shapiro (director), and Doron Kline (Director of Project
Development). Potential aliyah from Zimbabwe was one of the issues
discussed. Both Bloom and Kline are former Zimbabweans. A reunion of
former Zimbabweans in Israel, which will focus on responses to the
current situation in Zimbabwe, has been arranged for 11 July.
Potential Zimbabwe aliyah, and the possibility of special assistance
being arranged for such olim, also featured in Rabbi Silberhaft’s
meeting with Zev Bielski, Chairman of the Jewish Agency. Bielski
confirmed that the report that the Jewish Agency was planning to
airlift the Zimbabwe Jewish community to Israel had been totally
inaccurate, as well as irresponsible.
Rabbi Silberhaft further met with Solly Kaplinski, who heads the
Israel office of the American Joint Distribution Committee.
While in Israel, Rabbi Silberhaft took the opportunity to deliver a
Sefer Torah on behalf of the Messina Jewish community in Limpopo
Province (Northern Polokwane) to the Rehabilitation Centre at Tel
Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. He also officiated at a wedding of
the daughter of a former Pietersburg couple today living in Israel.