South African Leader Urges Jews to Have Role in Growth

The executive deputy president of South Africa has said his country opposes anti-Semitism and racism, supports the Middle East peace process and wants to maintain good relations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Thabo Mbeki also called on the Jewish community to share their skills, knowledge and other resources as South Africa evolves. He urged Jews to make a contribution to the government’s Reconstruction and Development Program.

Mbeki made the remarks before about 1,000 people here at the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ 38th national biennial congress. The board represents South Africa Jewry.

The theme of the congress, held Aug. 19, was “South African Jewry in a New Democracy.”

“We are now in a new phase of our history and, on behalf of President Nelson Mandela and our government, I ask all of you to open your hearts and minds to the new vision of a South Africa that is seeking to secure a better life for all its citizens, as well as to play a significant role in the development of our subcontinent and in the international sphere,” Mbeki said.

He added that this “new” South Africa had to guard against the “re-emergence of Anti-Semitism or racism of any kind.”

Mervyn Smith, the Jewish board’s newly elected president, said the board had largely succeeded in recent years to interact will all South Africans participating in the building of a democratic country.

The organized response of the Jewish community to the Reconstruction and Development Program is “up and running” under the name “Tikkun,” the Hebrew word for “repair,” he said.

A dinner in honor of philanthropist Mendel Kaplan, who recently stepped down as chairman of the South African board after eight years in office, was held after the conference.

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