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December 06, 1991 - Image 58

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-12-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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New York (JTA) — The
Jews of South Africa are not
at the moment concerned
with anti-Semitism from
Afrikaans extremists on the
right or occasional anti-
Israel statements from the
African National Congress
on the left. What concerns
them is the likelihood of a
stable transition to majority
government.
That was the message
delivered by Seymour
Kopelowitz, executive direc-
tor of South Africa's Board of
Jewish Deputies, in recent
meetings with Jewish organ-
izations here.
Following the release of
Nelson Mandela and the
dismantling of apartheid's
legal structure, South Africa
faces the very difficult se-
cond stage of political
change, said Mr. Kopelowitz.
Now on the agenda are the
question of equal voting
rights and the beginning of
the transition to a majority-
Kuled government.
Mr. Kopelowitz, whose
organization represents his
country's 114,000 Jews, said
that while change is in-
evitable, the outcome is
uncertain.
"The Jewish community's
fate is tied to the fate of the
white community," he told
leaders of the Union of Or-
thodox Jewish Congrega-
tions of America last week,
stressing that the country's
economic health is crucial to
a smooth transition.
"If the economy fails, the
whole structure will col-
lapse," he said. "Americans
have an obligation to pro-
mote reinvestment."
While the U.S., the Euro-
pean Community, and Israel
have all lifted their econ-
omic sanctions, the National
Jewish Community Rela-
tions Advisory Committee
still opposes that move as
premature.
"Not all the criteria in the
anti-apartheid act passed by
Congress had been
fulfilled," explained
NJCRAC spokesman Ken
Bandler.
TwO of NJCRAC'S consti-
tuent organizations, the An-
ti-Defamation League and
the American Jewish Corn-
mittee, have signalled their
dissent from the umbrella
organization's position.
Mr. Bandler, while dis-
agreeing with Mr.
Kopelowitz's characteriza-
tion of economic sanctions as
counterproductive, never-
theless agreed with the

South African that sanctions
are "not the issue today."
The prospect of a black
majority government led by
the African National Con-
gress does not in itself
frighten Mr. Kopelowitz.
The ANC has assured
South Africa's Jewish com-
munity that its day schools
— which educate 60 percent
of the, community's children
— and old age homes will
continue to operate, said Mr.
Kopelowitz, who was head-
master at a day school for 10
years before assuming his
present post a year ago.
Mr. Kopelowitz downplayed
concern about anti-Israel, pro-
Palestinian statements by
ANC officials. He cited sup-
portive statements from Mr.
Mandela and argued that
the ANC remains more a
liberation movement than a
structured political party
with definite policy posi-
tions.
He dismissed anti-Semitic
acts, such as the daubing of
swastikas on synagogues, as
"isolated incidents carried
out by one meshuganer with
a driver." The far-right
groups, while anti-Semitic,
are more preoccupied with
their hatred of blacks and of
the President F.W. de
Klerk's reformist govern-
ment, he said.
The South African Jewish
community, which Mr.
Kopelowitz characterized as
primarily "non-practicing
Orthodox," has maintained
a high profile, particular
under the tenure of Chief
Rabbi Cyril Harris, who
came from England three
years ago.
For example, Rabbi Harris
was invited to a conference
on violence sponsored by
Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The Chief Rabbi's wife has
taken a leading position in
the Jewish community's
effort to build bridges to the
black majority.
The reforms of the past
couple of years have coincid-
ed with. a drop in Jewish
emigration which, in the
past decade, has reduced the
Jewish population of South
Africa by an estimated
4,000 people.
Most of the emigrants
headed for Australia and
Canada. Some, particularly
young people, opted for
aliyah.
Mr. Kopelowitz attributed
the drop in emigration to the
fact that those able to
relocate their assets

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