South Africa’s Jewish community, from all backgrounds and walks of life, came together on Sunday for the ninth year in a row as part of the Sinai Indaba Encore event held in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
According to the organizers, around 1,100 people in Cape Town and more than 4,000 people in Johannesburg – “Jews of every persuasion, observant and not, young and old,” came out to hear an “eclectic assortment of speakers.”
Some of Sinai Indaba’s best speakers from the past eight years were brought out, including rabbis and rosh yeshivas, psychologists and political advisers, academics and entertainers, mystics and business leaders.
Addressing the conference about Israel’s strides in the rapidly shifting Middle East, former security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror said that “because of Israel’s amazing innovations in technology, agriculture, health, education and many other areas, we can help change societies for the better, and, at the same time, win allies.”
Amidror also emphasized that “for Israel, there is no substitute for America as an ally. It’s not just the $3.8 billion of military aid a year that Obama signed into effect. It’s strategic, it’s symbolic, it’s crucial.”
South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein explained that this year’s conference confronted some of the world's most burning issues through a Torah lens.
“Our world is moving so quickly,” he said, “with dramatic changes in the field of genetics, shifts in global power, leaps in technology, and the spiraling cost of living fundamentally changing our lives and the world we inhabit. This year’s Sinai Indaba confronted these and other burning issues.”
According to Goldstein, to explore these issues “through the lens of the Torah, our Divine guidance for life, we brought back some of the Jewish world’s top thinkers and speakers for Sinai Indaba [Encore].”
Although, “our challenges may seem new... their solutions are encapsulated in our eternal Torah wisdom, G-d’s blueprint that guides us. As our sages say: ‘Turn it [the Torah] over and over, because everything is in it,’” Goldstein said, adding that they had drawn on the “warmth and energy of being part of the spectacular South African Jewish community,” as well as “gained insights to help us confront life’s challenges with confidence, courage and clarity.”
Speakers were excited to take part in the conference, with most amazed by the community’s unity.
A new guest at the conference, Rabbi Simon Jacobson – who is most well-known for his best-selling book Toward a Meaningful Life, and the founder of The Meaningful Life Center, which has been described as the spiritual Starbucks by The New York Times – said he had experienced “such warmth” and “such unprecedented unity, [which] you don’t see this in any community around the world.”
Renowned parenting and relationship instructor, Slovie Jungreis-Wolff, who is also the daughter of inspirational Holocaust survivor Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, was in awe of the event.
She described Sinai Indaba as something “incredible to see – Jews of all ages, all types, come together in achdut [togetherness].
“This is what Am Yisrael need,” she said. “South African Jewry, I’m in awe of you. You are such a passionate people. Right here, right now, you are creating a chain back to Sinai. You are continuing a legacy.”
During her address, she said that her “mother taught the gift of being proud of who you are. The gift of being proud to be a Jew.”
Musical entertainment included renown musicians Alex Clare and Yonatan Razel, who also inspired the crowd through their music and wisdom.
Attendees shared their enthusiasm following the conference, saying that “it’s a special thing to see Jews from all walks of life.”
“Those born Jewish and those who have converted, those who are observant and those who aren’t, coming together to grow personally and religiously,” said one attendee, Dovi Brom. “The range of topics speak to all of these types of Jews, with each lecture deep, yet put over simply and concisely. Each speaker brought their own unique flavor, rabbi and rockstar alike.”
Another attendee, Loren Epple said that Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi brought “the pulse of Yerushalayim and the energy of the Shechina [Divine presence] into my heart.”
She said that there “is so much to learn and gain at Sinai Indaba, whoever you are and whatever your beliefs.”
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