Former South African President Nelson Mandela 390.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The South African Jewish community will commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela
at a series of synagogue memorials to be held in cities throughout the country
over the coming days, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies announced on
South Africa’s Jews remembered Mandela, the country’s first
democratically elected president, as a close friend, one with deep ties to
prominent community figures and a partner in the decades-long effort to end
The Jewish community mourns the passing of Mandela, whom the
SAJBD called the “father of our nation,” the group said in a statement. “Many
heroic men and women played their part in bringing about the triumph of justice
and democracy in South Africa, but the name of Nelson Mandela towers above them
The South African Jewish community enjoyed a “long, close and
meaningful relationship” with Mandela, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said in a
“South African Jews were with Mandela as fellow liberation
fighters and as lawyers defending him at the Rivonia trial, as visitors during
his long and lonely years on Robben Island, and then in assisting in the
exciting years of building the new South Africa. And so we mourn his loss
together with our fellow South Africans and with all people across the
Goldstein called on his co-religionists to “live like Mandela” in
accordance with the values he taught.
“What’s really most important to me
is that after 27 years in prison, to come out and not seek revenge, but to
preach peace and reconciliation between blacks and whites is really a sign of
true greatness,” Rabbi Yossy Goldman, a longtime Chabad emissary in South
Africa, told Chabad.org. He will be remembered for “really putting South Africa
on the right path.”
“I have found Jews to be more broadminded than most
whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have
historically been victims of prejudice,” Mandela once wrote.
close relationship with the Jewish community, however, Mandela’s legacy was not
without controversy. A noted champion of the Palestinian cause, he was close
with several Palestinian leaders, including Yasser Arafat.
His party, the
African National Congress, cultivated close ties with the Palestine Liberation
Organization, possibly due to Israel’s ties with the apartheid regime.
December the ANC passed a resolution in support of the boycott, divestment and
However, Mandela did not allow his support for
Palestinian aspirations to descend into antagonism with Israel and concurrently
maintained warm relations with Israeli leaders.
Jewish leaders around the
world noted their sorrow at his passing.
The American Jewish Committee,
B’nai B’rith and Anti-Defamation League all issued statements mourning the
passing of Mandela.
South Africa’s first black president was
“unquestionably the most inspiring human rights advocate of our times,” said
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder.
Mandela was “one of the
world’s great leaders” and “our generation’s mentor in forgiveness and
reconciliation,” British chief rabbi emeritus Lord Jonathan Sacks
Praising his ability to “transform an armed campaign into a
peaceful struggle for human rights,” former political prisoner and current
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said that Mandela’s death “leaves a void
that will not be quickly filled.”
JTA contributed to this report.