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S. African Jews Involved Constructively in Nation’s Complex Social Problems

There are no specific “Jewish issues” in South Africa’s politics, the outgoing Executive Council of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies reported to the 27th biennial national Congress of the Board. The country’s 120,000-strong Jewish community shares with all other sectors of the population the same complex challenges to the Republic, the Council said.

Recognizing the “race policies in South Africa are crucial to the future of this country.” the Council welcomed the “far more open debate than has been the case for many years” that has “lately been evident.” The report pointed out that South African Jews have participated in the debate on the national, provincial and municipal levels, but as individual citizens.

“Jewish opinion upon politics and racial issues reflects the same diversity of views as non-Jewish opinion, and there are Jews among the supporters of each political party,” it said, adding: “In an overall perspective, it can be claimed that Jewish citizens, by and large, make their influence felt in a constructive way towards helping to solve the political and racial problems of the country–in public affairs, business, philanthropy and in many other spheres.”

JEWS ACT AS INDIVIDUALS

The Council noted that since the Board of Deputies’ establishment in 1903, “(it) has been governed by the principle that it does not enter the political arena, except in matters which specifically affect the Jewish community as such, in contrast to all other interests which Jews share with their fellow South Africans.” As a result, the Board “has taken no explicit stand for or against the general race policies advocated by the different political parties,” but “has taken what it believes to be the only practical position based on both principle and on experience, and that is that Jews as a group should not be involved in politics, but that individuals should play their part in terms of their personal political outlook.”

The Council stressed that “this policy, advocated both by the Board of Deputies and by the Zionist Federation, and indeed by virtually the whole organized Jewish community, does not imply the neutrality of the individual Jew in the political sphere.” In fact, the report said, “the duty of the individual to play his rightful part has always been emphasized,”

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