Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Jews in the Rainbow Nation

Not much has been said in the general Jewish press (other than the Jerusalem Post) about the inauguration of the new South African Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, but I think it's worth a mention, because I am such a fan of the South African Jewish community (which I have visited). Four of the five cities I've lived in -- Toronto, Montreal, London, Sydney and Jerusalem -- are magnets for former South Africans and it's always been a mystery to me how a community emerging from an apartheid reality has managed to produce so many exceptionally wonderful and down-to-earth people. Not disregarding its many problems, the community, which is still losing many members (but seeing a small proportion of emigres return as well) is close-knit, increasingly traditional and very dynamic; it apparently has the highest rate of ba'alei teshuva in the world.
In many ways Rabbi Goldstein is emblematic. He's young (32), a Ba'al Teshuva, holds a doctorate in human rights law in addition to his smicha, and is very much at home in the New South Africa. He sees the Jewish presence there as important and positive, and wants to be part of the ongoing rejuvination and healing of the country.
It's worth noting that many major posts in the community are held by under-35s -- a situation unique in the Jewish world. Rabbi Goldstein's inauguration is another exciting opportunity and I wish him good luck in his new position. I also wish a refuah shlemah to the retiring Chief Rabbi, Cyril Harris (who was, incidentally, best man at my parents' wedding). Last but not least, I'd also really like to read some Jewish blogs from the Rainbow Nation but (with one exception) don't really know of any -- suggestions welcome. Perhaps the young Chief Rabbi should start one...

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