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J.D.B. News Letter

December 16, 1928
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South African Notes By Our Johannesburg Correspondent

The question of the title of Chief Rabbi as applied to Dr. J. L. Landau, which was raised in a letter from the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation, was discussed at the last meeting of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies here, S. Raphaely, the president, being in the chair.

The minutes of a special meeting of the Executive and of a joint meeting of the Executives of the Board and of the United Hebrew Congregation of Johannesburg were read, at which it was unanimously agreed that the following recommendation be made by the Executive Committee: “That a statement be issued to the constituent bodies and the Jewish press to the effect that Dr. J. L. Landau is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of Johannesburg and of the Federation of Synagogues of the Witwatersrand.”

This announcement happily ends a controversy which at one time threatened a disruption of the otherwise harmonious relations which have existed among the several Jewish communities of South Africa, the “South African Jewish Chronicle” comments in an editorial.

“The communique,” it says, “contains the welcome news that an official pronouncement has been made with reference to the correct designation of the spiritual head of the Johannesburg Jewish community. When we referred to this matter in a leading article a few weeks ago, we did so in an attempt to bring the controversy to an end and to remove an obstacle to perfect unity and harmony between the different communities in the country. We saw that unless something was done, there was grave danger of a schism in South African Jewry that would cause incalculable harm to Jewish communal interests. In the Cape Town community–the Mother Community of the sub-continent–particularly, feelings ran high whenever the question was referred to. This paper particularly welcomes the news which heralds a new era of cooperation in South African Jewish life. The leaders of Jewry in the several centres of Jewish population can now go forward with a united front, and take in hand the many problems which await solution in a virile and growing community such as ours.

“As hitherto, we shall cooperate with our leaders in maintaining the peace of the community and furthering the progress of all communal endeavors, secure in the belief that the goal can only be reached by esprit de corps, with team work and a solid from, and by setting principles and the interests of the community before personalities. The time hitherto devoted to the airing of grievances, real or imagiturary, can now be fearlessly applied to constructive work so necessary in the upbuilding of an united South African Jewry. We tender our congratulations to the learned spiritual chief of the Johannesburg community, to the Board of Deputies and to the United Hebrew Congregation on the happy removal of an old misunderstanding, and to the Jewish community of South Africa on its entry into a new epoch of peace, harmony, mutual trust and better understanding.”

A dinner in honor of Sir Ernest and Lady Oppenheimer was given by the Jewish Guild here. In his address, Sir Ernest, who is a member of the Legislative Assembly, and a leading power in the world of South African mining and finance, declared:

“This is the first visit I have made to the Jewish Guild. I have so far not been connected with Jewish institutions in South Africa, having always devoted myself to public affairs of the country. I have, however, always taken a keen interest in the Jewish Guild and you will remember that I was one of the contributors to the original fund.

“I am glad of the name of the Jewish Guild War Memorial Hall. With regard to the word ‘Jewish,’ I am pleased that we can boldly declare it is a Jewish institution in a free country. The word ‘War’ indicates that South African Jews had been ready to do their duty in defending their country and the British Empire.

“I would like,” added Sir Ernest, “to be a leader of South Africans of the Jewish faith. How could I lead? Not in the synagogue. I am not in favor of that prayer where we express our gratitude that we are men and not women. Nor could I lead in Zionism. I deeply respect the Palestine of the Bible. I am also in sympathy with the idea of Palestine becoming the spiritual center for the Jews, but there my adherence and sympathy end. On one subject I am totally keen to help–to lead our people so that we become finer South Africans of the Jewish faith. The Jewish Guild can play a great part in increasing this love of our country and of the British Empire. Give me an opportunity to lead in this direction!”

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