South African Jews celebrate diversity at annual convention

Thousands of South African Jews attended the sixth annual Sinai Indaba Torah convention, celebrating unity and diversity.

SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY holds its annual Sinai Indaba Torah convention on Sunday in Johannesburg. (photo credit: GUY LERNER)
SOUTH AFRICAN JEWRY holds its annual Sinai Indaba Torah convention on Sunday in Johannesburg.
(photo credit: GUY LERNER)
JOHANNESBURG – South African Jewry came out in their thousands on Sunday to attend the sixth annual Sinai Indaba Torah convention in Johannesburg.
African-American Jewish rapper Nissim Black, founder and head of Jerusalem’s Orayta Yeshiva Rabbi Binny Freedman, thought-provoking Panama sensation Rebbetzin Raquel Kirszenbaum and Jerusalem Post editor- in-chief Yaakov Katz were among 11 speakers who spent the day inspiring the country’s multifaceted Jewish community.
For many of those attending, the unity of the community and diversity of the speakers is what keeps them coming year after year. More than 5,000 people gathered to learn about topics including Israel’s becoming a hi-tech military power, the Jewish impact on civilization, and using the Bible to encourage optimism.
This year was no different for Ashira Hill, who said she loves the fact that the convention always features world class speakers. “Charlie Harary was the highlight for me and how he spoke about ratzon [will] and that if you don’t have a strong drive for ratzon, you won’t be able to reach the core of winning,” she said.
Moshe Singer described Sinai Indaba as incredible: “I love it, I love the speakers and that it brings everyone together. It’s deeply rooted in soul connecting, like the #BetterYou that goes with some of the talks calls on people to come and learn about selfhelp and wellness,” he said.
Fifteen-year-old Chani Bookatz said that speaker Nissim Black was a draw-card for the youth. “The musicians, the speakers and the programs like Sinai Next, which are especially for the youth, make it interesting for us. It’s also amazing to realize how many Jews there are in Johannesburg, how we all look out for each other and the togetherness that such an event creates,” she said.
Evan Posner said it was the atmosphere, speakers and people that made the conference unique, while Shaun Margolis said the main message he’d taken from Sinai Indaba is the importance of learning about the “why” [of Judaism] first before going into all the detail.
Margolis said that Rabbi Reuven Leuchter, whose main focus is mussar [character development], was the speaker who had motivated him the most during this year’s Sinai Indaba.
“His mastery of understanding the human mind, the drives of a person and explaining how you can overcome those drives was a highlight for me,” he said.
South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein said that what’s so heartwarming is how the community came out in such numbers. “In the spirit of true unity, people from all backgrounds have come out to be inspired. It’s unity and inspiration that are such precious things in our community,” he said.
Speakers like Black, Ken Spiro and Freedman in turn expressed their feeling that the warmth and unity of the community was inspiring. Black explained that the highlight of the trip for him was “meeting all the kids” and engaging with them on a personal level as well as discovering how many people want to be close to God.
Freedman said seeing a thousand Jews from every background imaginable, all sitting in one room “watching a guy in a kapota [ultra-Orthodox frock coat] who’s African-American do rap-jam to Jewish music is mind-boggling. There’s something so beautiful about this community.
"There’s a yearning to go deeper to discover meaning and a thirst to grow, which is such a beautiful thing."
Spiro commented that, “There’s something very special about the South African community, it’s extremely homogenous, everyone gets along really well. Compared to any place I’ve been, there’s more unity here and interest. People are just so receptive. The South African Jews are the easiest to reach out to,” he said, adding that there is a “great energy here – it’s a very special place”.