When Hertzel met Ruvi

Israeli president hosts Telfed delegation

President Reuven Rivlin poses for a photo with the Telfed delegation, flanked by Hertzel Katz on his left (next to Dorron Kline in African garb) and Batya Shmukler on his right (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin poses for a photo with the Telfed delegation, flanked by Hertzel Katz on his left (next to Dorron Kline in African garb) and Batya Shmukler on his right
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
For leaders of Telfed, the South African Zionist Federation in Israel, meeting with President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin at the presidential residence in Jerusalem on August 7 – and receiving his blessing and support – was a significant gesture as they marked the organization’s 70th anniversary after the establishment of the Jewish state.
Former Telfed chairman Hertzel Katz, who attended the meeting organized by Dorron Kline – Telfed’s CEO who wore traditional African garb for the occasion –  together with its current chairwoman Batya Shmukler and a 20-member delegation of volunteers and professionals from the organization, spoke of its success in conjunction with that of Israel. He also noted that Rivlin – like many former South African Jews – was raised in the Betar Movement in the spirit of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
“You are the mirror of Zionism,” Rivlin told the delegation. “You have realized the true meaning of Zionism by making Aliyah.”
Shmukler said, “As the first woman to serve in this position, I am very excited to be here and meet the president. It is important for us to present Telfed’s mission, which is to support immigrants from South Africa and encourage them to participate and contribute to Israeli society.”
Katz, one of three who addressed the president, told The Jerusalem Report that he opened with the words “Tel Hai,” the traidtional greeting among Betarim.
“When Rivlin became president, I approached Betarim in Israel to sign and send a letter of congratulations and best wishes to him,” Katz says. “He replied formally in print and then added a few kind words in his own writing, saying ‘You are the Zionists!’”
Katz then told Rivlin about Telfed’s history. “I mentioned that originally the organization was known as the South African Zionist Federation – Israel and this was the name under which it was registered in Israel. But, shortly thereafter, when the new system of communication changed to large Telex printers, we required a short code name – hence ‘Telfed.’ Our headquarters were Tel Aviv and we were known as the ‘Fed,’” he explains. “I had never really thought about the name until Sharon – my daughter – told me that she always thought it was ‘TellFed’ – an invitation to anyone with a problem to turn to us – and indeed this was true. We were and remain, even today, the address for any Southern African who needs help or guidance.”
Katz has been on the Telfed Executive since 1970 until today. He served as Telfed chairman for two terms and introduced many innovative projects. Among these are the NGO Keren Telfed, the Board of Governors, the Award Ceremony for Outstanding Volunteers, and, most significantly, Keren Telfed’s Special Urgent Relief Fund (Surf), which offers immediate financial assistance to people in distress without the need for lengthy red-tape procedures.
At the age of 85 he still goes to his office six days a week as an advocate and notary. Most recently, he has become the chairman of ESRA (English-Speaking Residents Association) in Ramat Hasharon. He organizes a Luncheon Club – The MIFQADA – for Betarim at Beth Protea, the South African home for the aged, and is chairman of the Ochberg Committee. In addition, he sits on the boards of and serves many other NGOs.
According to Telfed, about 25,000 South Africans have made aliyah since the establishment of the state, while an estimated 60,000 Jews remain in South Africa. There are an estimated 20,000 South African Jews living in Israel, as well as others from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Lesotho. And for some time, Telfed has also been assisting new immigrants from Australia too.
“I ended on this note,” Katz adds. “In 1982, five South African soldiers were killed in the Lebanon war and Telfed representatives visited the bereaved. I was then chairman and Sid Shapiro was the director. We went to each home to express our sympathies and we told by the parents in each home what Telfed had done for them and how appreciative they are – this, under these circumstances, was so moving. It showed how Telfed was helping South Africans and even in mourning, the parents spoke to us thus. And this is what Telfed did and does for the South African community is Israel.”
Asked how Rivlin responded, Katz says, “Actually, he spoke first. Inter alia, he spoke about his connection with South Africans and mentioned the names of a number of well-known Zionists of the time.”