‘jewish Issue’ Derided As South Africa Holds Elections Tomorrow

Maurice Porter, chairman of the South African Board of Jewish Deputies, expressed regret here today over recent “regrettable” incidents in two constituencies in which a “specific approach to the Jewish community had unjustifiably been introduced” into the campaigns for Wednesday’s Parliamentary elections.

While noting that the election campaign had been generally free from any Jewish issue, Mr. Porter told the monthly meeting of the Board of Deputies that “we strongly deprecate appeals made specifically to the Jewish community for support, whether these appeals come from within the Jewish community or from outside.” Jews, he said, vote as full and equal citizens, each entitled to personal, political views, and are under no obligation to exercise their votes differently from any other citizens.

South Africa’s Jewish newspapers today criticized Rabbi Norman Bernhard, an American rabbi who was named spiritual leader of a Johannesburg congregation last year, for supporting from the pulpit a particular candidate in the general elections. In a sermon delivered during Sabbath services, Rabbi Bernhard, who came to South Africa from New York, expressed the hope that his congregants would vote “from conviction and not through fear,” and support Mrs. Helen Suzman, the Progressive Party candidate of the local district. She is Jewish and is a member of Parliament now. Her opponent, Dr. A.D. Bensusan, of the United Party, is also Jewish.

The Southern African Jewish Times declared in an editorial that “for a rabbi to make political comments would introduce into his congregation a bone of contention that has nothing to do with the purpose of worship for which the synagogue was established or the spiritual ministration which the rabbi was called to undertake.”

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