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THIRTY THIRD BIENNIAL CONGRESS OF THE ZIMBABWE JEWISH BOARD OF DEPUTIES
HELD ON 4 - 5 SEPTEMBER 2004 AT THE RODIS MEMORIAL HALL, HARARE
NATIONAL PRESIDENT'S REPORT READ OUT BY MR PETER STERNBERG ON SATURDAY
4 SEPTEMBER 2004
Spiritual Leader to the African Jewish Congress, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft,
National Chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Michael
Bagraim, Chairperson of the African Region International Council of Jewish
Women, Irene Zuckerman, Head of the Community Security Organization, Mark
Notelowitz, Distinguished Guests, Visitors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Prior to presenting my Report for the past two year period, it gives me
pleasure in welcoming you all here this evening to this, the Thirty Third
Biennial Congress of the Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies which, for the
consecutive time is being held in conjunction with the Central African
Organizations Biennial Conference. A hearty welcome to delegates from both
these organizations, especially those that have made the journey from
because your participation at this Conference is vital.
To our visitors from South Africa, thank you for coming - your support in
here is greatly appreciated and we look forward to your participation in
deliberations. Thank you for giving up your time to be with us and we hope
you will find your visit to have been a worthwhile one.
In presenting my Report for the two year period 2002/2004 I would like to
only briefly upon certain events as these will be reported upon in greater
detail by delegates at tomorrow morning's session.
The Zimbabwe Jewish Board of Deputies is divided into two Divisional
Mashonaland and Matabeleland - each headed by a Senior Vice-President. I
like to take this opportunity to thank the Mashonaland Senior
Illana Hasson for the assistance shown to me during the past few years and
keeping the Mashonaland Division an active one, with regular committee
held every 6 to 8 weeks. You will be hearing her report tomorrow, as you
hear Dr Bernie Tatz give his report for Matabeleland.
Security in this day and age is of vital importance and you will hear a
given on that aspect by Jonathan Zlattner tomorrow.
I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Bulawayo
and especially Brian Sher, on maintaining the high standards set by Savyon
Lodge, Zimbabwe's only exclusively Jewish senior citizen's retirement
which is strictly kosher. We feel they are doing an excellent job in a
difficult environment. You will no doubt hear more about Savyon Lodge in
tomorrow's report from the Senior-Vice-President from Matabeleland.
Likewise, the annual Yom Hashoa service both in Bulawayo and Harare will
reported on but I should just like to mention that fewer and fewer people
attending these memorial services as the years roll by, especially the
folk who perhaps feel that this is an event that does not really concern
In this they are mistaken, for the Holocaust concerns each and every one
Last year I had the honour of addressing senior members of both the
Board of Deputies and the Commonwealth Jewish Council at a luncheon held
House of Lords in London. Arranged by the President of the Commonwealth
Council, Lord Janner, the members were given an up to date briefing
the position in Zimbabwe and how it affected our community in particular.
assured that, despite Zimbabwe's exit from the Commonwealth, our community
this country would not be affected by this decision and thus we remain
members of the Commonwealth Jewish Council. And, if need be, assistance
rendered to us if the need arises.
In September last year it was my pleasure to attend the Centenary
the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg at their very
invitation. The Conference proved to be a most interesting one and
the opportunity of meeting delegates from various parts of the world. The
African Jewish Congress annual meeting was held in conjunction with the
Centenary Conference and members from various Southern African countries
updated on our position.
In May this year the film 'The Nazi Officer's Wife' was screened at the
Margolis Hall and presented by Angela Schluter from London. When I
brought up the possibility of importing both speaker and film into
was asked whether I thought that 50 people would even bother to attend. I
genuinely surprised at the negativity shown by many members of our
My answer was to book the Margolis Hall, launch a vigorous publicity
and we drew an audience of almost 600 people for the one night
My intention was to turn this event into a public relations promotion for
community, as in this day and age we could certainly do with a positive
Considering that 95% of the audience were non-Jewish, I certainly feel we
succeeded in our objective.
The Kwekwe Jewish Cemetery project was completed recently and in June this
we had a very successful Re-Dedication service conducted by Rabbi
Rabbi Asmoucher from Bulawayo. This was attended by over 20 people from
Harare and Bulawayo. Although the Kwekwe project took some time to
to various shortages of materials and other factors, I should like to
that donations received from well wishers and former Kwekwe residents
expenditure involved in this project. Kwekwe was the last of the smaller
and country cemeteries to be attended to; the others having been Kadoma,
Mutare and Penhalonga.
Recently the Jewish community in Harare were invited to participate in an
Inter-Faith gathering, the theme being 'Traditions, Values and Teachings
in One's Religion'. We were lead to believe that the rabbi from Bulawayo
represent the Jewish community but when he failed to materialize and the
invitation was turned down by our community heads, I personally felt that
religion should not go unrepresented and accordingly filled in the breech
I might add, a fair amount of trepidation! However, all appears to have
off well and I should like to thank those half a dozen members of our
who came along as part of the 250 gathering of all creeds and races and
their much appreciated support.
Although our community may be small in numbers in this country, I feel
should keep our heads held high - as we have every right to do!
Unlike in South Africa, where this has become a major concern and even, of
places, New Zealand, we in Zimbabwe, to date anyway, have remained
unscathed from this sickness. Not that we feel it cannot happen here- far
it - and so we remain as vigilant as we can possibly be, but thank
relationships between the religious factions in Zimbabwe look to be
calm. I would like to add that the Kwekwe Jewish cemetery is being cleaned
looked after by the Muslim Community - not just by an odd member but by
standing leader of their community! This sort of co-operation augers well,
long may it remain so.
The decision was taken earlier this year to close down the Board of
offices in both Harare and Bulawayo, as expenses were escalating and the
day workload no longer warranted these increases in expenditure. Certain
have been split up and this will continue for the present time.
To Elsie Alhadeff, our long serving Board Secretary, who chose to step
our very best wishes for a long and happy retirement.
A Website dealing with both past and present Zimbabwe Jewry has been
in Israel under the auspices of Dave Bloom and various others. We have
requested to furnish records, memorabilia and as much local history and
information as we can. Photographs of tombstones in all the cemeteries
throughout the country are also requested and I am pleased to state that
we have supplied those of Kadoma and Kwekwe. This will now become another
Early in 2005 we expect a visit from an American University professor who
be spending several weeks in this country in order to illustrate past and
present synagogues and to write some sort of history of our various
I trust he will receive your co-operation should he call upon you for
I would like to appeal to the members of Bulawayo community to keep in
with us here in Harare. With numbers being as low as they are now, we can
ill-afford to operate separately and must pull together if we are to try
survive the present crisis. We hope in the near future to persuade the
community to let us have the services of Rabbi Asmoucher so that he may
various food processing plants throughout the country and hopefully issue
guide to kosher products processed and manufactured in Zimbabwe.
A number of Mashonaland Board members emigrated during the past year but
will be missed as much as the late Adolph Leon and I wish to pay tribute
long years of service to this community. Our committee's losses reflect
general trend in the community as a whole, for we now number less than 400
persons in the whole country, being approximately 240 in Harare and 140 in
Bulawayo, with a minute handful in other centres. Unfortunately this trend
losing people will continue, of that there is no doubt, and the question
'Yesterday, Today and IS There a Tomorrow' may well be the theme of this
Conference. At the current rate of attrition, be it through age or
the future of Zimbabwean Jewry does not bode well. And government is
up this process through its education bills and others of a similar
I wish to thank the members of the Mashonaland committee and likewise, Dr
Bernie Tatz of the virtual 'one man' Matabeleland committee, for their
assistance and co-operation during my term of office. And I would like to
this opportunity of also thanking Mashonaland Senior Vice-President Illana
Hasson, CAZO President Zac Menashe and CAZO Treasurer Franklin Plein, for
serving on this Conference Sub-Committee and their assistance in staging
week-end's gathering. And of course to the ladies of WIZO for their usual
standard of catering. Despite the times we live in, they always manage to
produce the goods! And Lucy Plein deserves full credit for her always
assistance - throwing a dinner party or hosting a rabbi is no big deal to
Thank you Lucy. And to all others who assisted in one way or another,
during the year or on this particular occasion, my sincere thanks.
And a special thank you to Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft for fully supporting
Conference and at whose instigation the South African visitors are here
- unfortunately for an all too brief period - to see for themselves how
Jewish community is faring 'north of the Limpopo'. They will no doubt come
their own conclusions as to how we still manage to keep functioning and
our synagogues, schools and institutions with a total Jewish population
in numbers to, let us say, suburbs such as Milnerton and Glenhazel!.
Please convey our best regards to Mervyn Smith, President of the Africa
Congress for his ever willing support to the Zimbabwe Board of Deputies.
indeed a true friend. And our thanks to those responsible at Beyachad
Johannesburg for mailing us copies of the 'Jewish Report' every week free,
charge so that these newspapers may be distributed amongst our members.
My sincere thanks to the President and Committee of the Sephardi Hebrew
Congregation for your permission to let us use the Rodis Memorial Hall for
staging of this Congress. And last, but certainly not least, my thanks to
of you who have attended this evening's function in order to support our
combined Congress and so hopefully make it a success. And if you can
tomorrow morning - so much the better!
ZIMBABWE JEWISH BOARD OF DEPUTIES