Cape Board: Moving towards constructive engagement

The Cape Board has a history of tackling difficult issues.  We hold robust debate with community members, politicians, activists and media. When we face constructive criticism, we take it on. Especially so, if it is to strengthen our communal function and efficacy.  

The latest issue we tackle, is the latest SAJR report titled: Cape Board election found to be “flawed”. 

The article has the consequence of adding very little to the public understanding of the matter and amplifies opinions rather than facts. In reference to the opinions in the piece, we would like to clarify for the community: 

  • The Cape Board has accepted its election was flawed. 
  • As soon as certain voting delegates challenged the 2017 electoral process, the Board responded.
  • The Seligson Panel was assigned to fact-find and investigate these allegations and make recommendations. This was an autonomous appointment made by the Board
  • Eric Marx acted improperly. He has acknowledged his error, apologised and withdrew from public life for a period of time. Seligson Report confirms “We understand that the misconduct has been dealt with and there is no need for us to suggest further action be taken.”
  • The two women voted off in the 2017 election were not targeted based on their gender. 
  • The Seligson Report states “(We are) unable to find that there was indeed a concerted, organised campaign to spread specific defamatory allegations against the two candidates among the electorate, on account of their gender.” 
  • The Board in Cape Town as well as the National Board has a proud history of strong women leaders both in lay and professional capacities. We do not want their voices silenced. 
  • The Cape Board has been chaired by Moonyeen Castle and Li Boiskin who served two terms, in previous years. The National Board has been chaired by Marlene Bethlehem and Mary Kluk.
  • Currently, four women were voted onto the cape Board, Viv Anstey, Adrienne Jacobson and Leaza Cowen sitting alongside Daphne Miller from the Union of Jewish Women.  

This process has highlighted that there needs to be a change in the way we take issue in the community. By all means as your community representatives hold us accountable but it should be less about shame and litigation, and more about good faith, learning lessons and seeking opportunity. Quoting questionable phraseology such as “captured by extremists” and “religious agendas” creates a sensational story, fuels conspiracy theories and does little to promote good faith and respect.

Lay leaders give countless hours and years of dedication and service for no gain and very often at extreme personal sacrifice. How are we to attract the best community leaders when at the first sign of fault, a person’s character and reputation, built up over time are ruined?   

We accept diversity and urge all our community members and media to be mindful of the language it uses. Our community is no longer one-dimensional. There are differing opinions and points of view, comparable to Jewish communities worldwide. Within our diversity, there are opinions and outlooks which may never be bridged. We need to accept that. In addition, voters are likely to identify with those standing for public office, who best align with their outlook and understanding of Jewish communal life. And that is also okay.