Tag: Progressive Judaism (Page 1 of 2)

2019 is a year of celebration and a chance in bringing South Africa together

Chaverim Yakarim

 I have been asked to share my sermon from last Friday via the AdKan with all of you. Please let me and/or ManCom know what your thoughts are on the subject, and please join the conversation.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Welcome back – and it is good to be back.

Summer in Johannesburg is – as we all know – a much quieter time, and if we decide to stay at home, we actually can use this quietness to reflect on the past and the future.

I did just this:

Last year was an important one, because of some of the historic milestones that were commemorated. The End of World War one, the 80th anniversary of the “so called” Kristallnacht, the night of the broken glass in 1938, which marked the beginning of the Final Solution of Nazi Germany. And not to forget, there was, of course Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

2019 will be a year filled with those kind of remembrance days, too. In September we will mark the beginning of World War II in 1939, and in June we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. But most importantly this year, we, South Africa, celebrate the end of Apartheid and the first democratic elections in 1994 – 25 years ago.

This is a milestone in the younger history of South Africa and I am looking forward to it. For me personally, it is an opportunity to learn more about the history of South Africa, the different biographies of people whose lives I share, and it is my hope that I will understand more how South Africa’s multi-faceted society has tackled the many problems on the path of reconciliation. However, I think this year, is also a great opportunity for Bet David to examine our own identity within this larger context.

Last year, we started a discussion about the future of Bet David, our Vision for this congregation. Where do we see Bet David in 5, 10 and 25 years from now? And more importantly, what impact will we make as progressive Jews in the future? How can we keep our congregation significant for our members, for the Jewish community and for the society we live in.

The questions can only be answered, when we start thinking about our own identity right now. Where does Bet David fit in, in this post-Apartheid South Africa. What is our role in the reconciliation process that perhaps only begins now? What is our history, where did we fail, where did we match the principles of Judaism?

When I look at the congregation, I see a very diverse congregation, with members and worshippers coming from all kind of backgrounds, seeking here a safe space to encounter God and Judaism. I see people united and willing to shape the future for the best. But do I see everything, am I seeing the broken identities of some of you, the scars of the past, the open wounds that are not able to heal, yet?

Do we see them?

Friends, I am not an expert on reconciliation for South Africa. My biography is very different to yours. But I share with you this dream, this hope, this longing, to bring healing into our world. As a progressive Jew, as a Jew, as a human being, I know that we have the strength and the ability to work together to bring about this change—aiming for a healed world. I invite all of you to join me and ManCom in this effort.

Let us make 2019 a year of celebration and a real milestone in bringing South Africa together.

Shabbat Shalom


Because they lived, we will too

Chaverim—Beloved Friends,

 Normally, when Jews die, we recite a prayer: ‘baruch dayan ha’emet’ blessed is the True Judge. It’s a way of saying: “the good and the bad they did, can pass with them — their soul is in God’s hands now“. When Jews are slaughtered by anti-Semites, however, there is a different prayer: ‘hashem yikkom damam’ – may God avenge their blood.

It may sound awful to call for revenge in the wake of an attack. It may sound like a summons to continue the cycle of violence. Please be assured, that is not the type of vengeance we are speaking about.

The best form of revenge, in the face of people who want to destroy you, is to carry on living, more than ever. Nothing pains anti-Semites and haters more than to see the people they want to extinguish go on and thrive.

Last Shabbat we celebrated our Judaism proudly. We came together for our Challah Bake, we had joyful services, some of us went to the Johannesburg Pride, and on Monday we welcomed a new Baby Boy into our covenant with God. And this is exactly how we will carry on, being more Jewish. More visible. Louder. More different. More inclusive.

Last Shabbat was also painful, hurtful, and shocking. Not only have we, the Jewish people, lost members of our community, but humanity has lost—as in so many other terror attacks before—wonderful souls, human beings created in the Divine image.

In their honour, we will be more faithful, more humble, closer to God. Because they lived, we will too. We will outlive the anti-Semites, the haters, the racists. With our lives, we will avenge their blood.

– Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell


Happy pride day Johannesburg


 This weekend, Johannesburg is celebrating Pride day, and by that diversity in our South African society. While the legal position of people, who identify as LGBTI* in South Africa, is not bad at all (not only in comparison to other African states but also in  comparison to Worldwide standards), still many of the queer, gay and trans community suffer from great discrimination, social exclusion and marginalisation, often including physical and sexual abuse when people “come out“. It is happening in our neighbourhoods, in the countryside, and in our cities, and it is not only part of the reality outside our own circles, but also inside the Jewish community, including our own one.

As Progressive Jews, we recognise the Divine image in every human being. Human dignity doesn’t have limitations. As much as we do not discriminate race, social/economical background, and skin colour, we must also uphold the rights and dignity of every person who is identifying as Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay, Trans, Queer, Hetero, or even not within any of those terms. As early as in the Talmud, our sages have recognised at least 7 genders, teaching us that gender-identity is more than two options*.

It goes without saying … but I guess we/I have to say it again: This rabbi, our movement and our community, Bet David, has and always will welcome, respect, embrace and shower overflowing chesed (love) upon all, including people who are/identify as LGBTI*.

Happy pride day – Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

 *A handout with the teaching of the Talmud is available here: Handout More Than Just Male and Female The Seven Genders in Classical Judaism


Parashat Bechukotai – I will look with favour upon you

Chaverim, friends

It has taken the orthodox community in Johannesburg almost 3 ½ years to realise that Bet David has an openly gay rabbi. To be honest, I am not so sure if this news went around earlier, but to me it looks like that this became a topic in the wider – not progressive community of Johannesburg – only recently.

I am not sharing this observation with you all because I want to discuss my sexual orientation with you, but because of the way this discussion apparently has made waves outside of Bet David. Some of you have shared with me how your friends have expressed their “concerns” in this regard, saying that ‘being gay might be against the bible’.

Of course, this kind of argument is not new, nor is it only common in Judaism. My usual reply would be to counter such an argument with one of the following statements:

OK – so – now we are taking the words of the bible literally? Interpreting it word for word? Yes, let me ask you this:

  • Are you considering stoning your sons to death because they didn’t obey your instructions?
  • Do you intend returning the house you bought to its previous owner 50 years ago – of course, without asking for the any financial compensation to be paid?
  • How can you rightfully go to synagogue when you’ve had contact with a dead body? You know, killing a spider count, too.
  • The same applies to animal sacrifices and much more ….

The simple point I’m making is that one can’t just pick certain laws as absolute and eternal to point fingers at others, while declaring other mitzvot as not relevant or “flexible” when they touch your way of living.

Of course, the discussion often ends here. Not because the other person agrees or is convinced that having a same-gender relationship could be as holy as any other loving relationship, but because the sexual orientation discussion – particularly of a rabbi – might not be worth the full theological dispute.

For today, because of the Torah portion we have before us, allow me to go a bit further. The opening of our parasha says:

If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. … I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone … [and] I will look with favour upon you, and make you fertile and multiply you; and I will maintain My covenant with you. [1]

Only some verses later, we read what is supposed to happen if we choose to follow a different path:

But if you do not obey Me and do not observe all these commandments, if you reject My laws and spurn My rules, so that you do not observe all My commandments and you break My covenant, I in turn will do this to you: I will wreak misery upon you … [and] I will set My face against you: …[2]

In beautiful language our Torah portion levels the playing fields, making us all equal while standing in front of the Torah/God. It also points fingers at each one of us, telling us that the Divine has presented us with a colourful set of ideas, concepts, values, rules, and commandments, and that we – every single of us – is expected to make a choice, to decide now, on the path ahead of us.

However, the challenge of this Torah portion is that it appears very limited in its options and it seems that we only got one of two choices:
Option A: to follow, or option B: not to follow. Each has its own set of consequences as stated above. The text doesn’t say, you might follow Options A, B, C, but not D, and perhaps E with some amendments.  We are given an ‘Either – Or’ choice. Take them all, or you are in breach of the contract, says the text.

Here is the real struggle we face when we take the Torah literally. No one, and I mean not one of us is capable of adhering to the biblical text in its literal sense. We know it, and I am sure the Torah itself knows it, too.

Still, it poses a terribly challenging question:

  • How can someone be Jewish in these circumstances?
  • How can someone be part of the Covenant with God, knowing that parts of the Torah come either as a challenge to their existence, or are even in clear contrast to one’s very nature?

Men and women alike, straight, gay, trans, old and young, families and singles, poor and wealthy, white or black, Reform, Orthodox or secular!

Assuming that we all agree upon the common dominator – not to reject the Torah, and that we cannot re-write the Torah

  • how can we follow God’s laws, especially the difficult and challenging ones, and at the same time being faithfully authentic to the way we live our lives?
  • How can we be true to our commitment to our Jewish heritage?
  • How can we end the fear that God might turn God’s favour away from us?

Rabbi Dalia Marx, in her article “Walking and Standing”, gives us a different perspective to understand this very challenging parasha by pointing out a wonderful interpretation of Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a well-known Israeli intellectual:[3].

Looking at the third word of our reading – Im Bechukotai telechu, If you walk in My laws – Leibowitz brings our attention to the different character of the word “to walk” (hei-lamed-chaf) in contrast to the Hebrew words for “to hold,” (chet-zayin-kuf), or ” to stand,” (ayin-mem-dalet). Using either ‘to hold’ or ‘to stand’ as the opening word of our sidra instead, would offer us a very different result in guiding us to understand God’s will.

Leibowitz explains that to follow the Torah is neither a static nor a passive endeavour, but rather an on-going process. The word Halacha – Jewish law –  means path, implying, that you have to walk – holech – and not stand still, in order to fulfil the religious obligations. The meaning of a commandment’s fulfilment is to carry it out, and to realise its potential.

Walking is not only a recurrent metaphor in our reading today. Elsewhere in the Torah, we have read that

  • Noah is praised for walking with God (6:9).
  • Abraham is the biggest walker of them all, covering many hundreds of kilometres in his dusty sandals. God commands him to get up, walk around the land (13:17), and walk before God and be blameless (17:1) and later Abraham is using his experiences of his journeys to challenge God in God’s plans
  • In Exodus, God walks before Israel in a pillar of cloud,
  • and in Deuteronomy, Moses promises that God walks before you; God will not release you nor will God abandon you.[4]

Chaverim, Friends, is it any wonder that Judaism came to associate its method of religious practice with walking, and that our movement is defined as a Progressive Movement, a movement that is not standing still in its interpretation of our Jewish heritage? Of course not. The Rabbis created this normative world of halacha to keep the Torah relevant for future generations.

In a wonderful Talmudic midrash, the Sage Ulla claimed that since the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One has no place in the world except for the four cubits of halacha [meaning the Talmud][5]. This may sound claustrophobic, but unlike the Temple, the halacha is not enclosed on four sides. It has boundaries, yes, but its origins stretch way back to the mystical beginning of time, and its destination remains beyond our imagination, open for new interpretations.

I like to think of the four cubits of halacha as the width of a path. A cubit is said to be somewhere between 40 and 60cm long, so a four-cubit path is 1,20 to 1,80m wide. It is broader than a regular path, but narrower than a proper road. It is just right for two people to walk side by side, engaged in an animated conversation.

The metaphor of walking and talking is a beautiful way of thinking of Jewish life. — Our religion has seldomly emphasised a solitary lifestyle or Jewish path. The image of someone going through life’s challenges without the support of a community, or struggling with a text alone, has never been the concept of Jewish learning and being part of the Jewish Covenant.

Walking on a path together with one another is a social, dynamic metaphor. And, never forget: God is available to walk with you — to walk alongside you. Religious life is a journey and not a road we must fear.

Yes, the section of blessings and curses in Parashat B’chukotai may at first seem to alienate us and detach us from God and our heritage. But, if we ‘translate’ it to our world of meaning, and when we read it in context with all the teachings of the Torah, we will understand what it means to walk with God.

The Torah demands that we do not avoid our responsibilities and our duties. We need to choose to do what is right, but also to be ourselves, to be who we are. Never forget that we all are created in the image of God, to be God’s partners.

Friends, following Abraham’s example, we have the right to say no when necessary … even to God. There is no way that we must tolerate injustice vis-à-vis ourselves and/or others. We need to choose life, and to live that life, always.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell
Shabbat Bechukotai 5778 / 12 May 2018

SAUPJ Biennial Conference – Johannesburg, South Africa

[1] Leviticus 26:3-9

[2] Leviticus 26:14-17

[3] Rabbi Dalia Marx, Walking and Standing, reformjudaism.org

[4] Cited after: DANIEL NEVINS, Walking together with God

[5] bT Berakhot 8a / Cited after: DANIEL NEVINS, Walking together with God

A place of hope and unity


There are a number of Shabbatot throughout the Jewish calendar that have special names. The most familiar of these is probably Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return, which takes place between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These special Shabbatot each serve a purpose, some historical, some still relevant today. On Friday evening begins Shabbat Shekalim, the Shabbat of Shekels. It takes place every year on the Shabbat before the month of Adar. It is named for a special verse of Torah read on this date which commands every Israelite to contribute half a shekel to support the sacrifices in the ancient Temple.

Now, the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE and, with its destruction, came the end of Jewish sacrificial worship. So, the notion of a half shekel contribution to The Temple is an interesting historical idea, but, beyond that, seemingly irrelevant to our 21st Century lives. And yet, there were several things about this contribution which still resonate today.

First, this was a shared responsibility. The obligation to give a half shekel fell to each and every Israelite, regardless of income. This shared tax must have led to a unique sense of unity and belonging among the Israelites.

Second, this money went to support what was considered the main institution which guaranteed the welfare of the Israelite nation. From the perspective of the Israelites, that half shekel tax was the first step to providing prosperity, safety and happiness to the entire nation … to providing hope for the future.

To have the official opening of our new Bet David campus this Shabbat, Shabbat Shekalim, was a deliberate choice, because the two above mentioned values, which seem to be from another time, but will be hopefully continue to be the supporting pillars of our congregation. A unique sense of unity and belonging in which all who are part of Bet David enjoy the same rights and responsibilities. And Bet David as a place that provides hope for the future, a place where we grow together and strengthen our community and our Progressive Judaism.

On this Shabbat Shekalim, I pray our congregation will prosper in its new home and that everyone who seeks a place of peace, safety and hope will find it within its walls.

Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Howard J. Goldsmith )

Torah Reading

Shabbat Shekalim – Parashat Mishpatim

Exodus 21:1-24:18 – Reading: Ex 22:27 – 23:22 (Plaut p. 519; Hertz p. 315)

Haftarah for Shekalim: II Kings 12:5-16 (Plaut p.1451; Hertz p.993)


Parashat Miketz: Jew by choice should feel pride and be viewed as courageous

In this week’s portion, Miketz, Joseph moves from being falsely imprisoned to becoming second in command in Egypt. As Joseph settles into his new life, he is given a new name by Pharaoh: Zaphenath-paneah. This name reflects Josephs new status in life and the journey on which he has embarked. We, as a congregation, as the Jewish people, do something similar when we admit new Jews by choice into our holy covenant with God.

To receive a new name marks such an important moment in this person’s spiritual journey and should be something very joyful and outstanding, but unfortunately it is not always, as the second half of the new name, the ancestral link (bat / ben Avraham ve Sarah) is sometimes used by “born Jews” to shame or stigmatise those who converted. Using what should be a symbol of pride – to be a true daughter or son of those who have chosen to follow God’s path for the first time – to single out “converts”, leaves the bitter taste that Judaism is understood by them as a closed club for a born elite in the air, and that those who have joined the covenant are second class Jews, at the most.

The fact that anyone with the drive and honest wish to convert is allowed to do so is one of the most important ideas on the Jewish conception of our covenant with God; being Jewish is not a genetic condition, but a complex hierarchy of identity and choice.  Judaism is an inclusive religion that is willing to welcome individuals who desire to become Jewish. Jewish tradition teaches that Jews by choice are not less authentic or authoritative than those who are Jewish from birth.

When a convert receives an aliyah to the Torah for the first time, he or she should feel uplifted by a process of inclusion and holiness, not deflated by alienation and degradation. Jew by choice, like immigrants, should feel pride about their journeys and be viewed as courageous for responding to their transformative calling. This is why we bestow a new name on them and why we link them to Abraham and Sarah. There is no space to shame them.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Torah Reading Shabbat Miketz / Chanukah
Genesis 41:1−44:17;and Numbers 7:30-41
Reading: Gen 41:47-55 – Plaut p.271; Hertz p.158
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7 – Plaut p. 1448

Rosh Chodesh Tevet is on Monday and Tuesday

Shabbat Vayigash
Genesis 44:18−47:27
Reading: Gen 45:1 – 9- Plaut p.288; Hertz p.170
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15 – 37:28 – Plaut p. 302; Hertz p.178

Shabbat Vayeichi
Genesis 47:28–50:26 (End of Bereshit)
Reading: Gen 49:1-12 – Plaut p.309; Hertz p.183
Haftarah: I Kings 2:1 – 2:12 – Plaut p. 323; Hertz p. 191

Chanukka @ Bet David

A second chance to light the chanukiah with us will be this Friday, 15 December as part of our Kabbalat Shabbat service.

 The last candle is lit on Tuesday night, the 19 December.



Gusti Braverman’s encouragement for unity and engagement

Last Shabbat we had Gusti Yehoshua Braverman (pictured above) from the World Zionist Organisation visit Bet David. In her talk prior to the Shabbat service she highlighted the importance of the World Zionist Organisation and of the Progressive Judaism in Israel, and how important it is that we—Progressive Jews—need to made our voices be heard in order to keep the dream of Herzl alive, making Israel a place where all Jews feel connected with.

In her sermon, during the service she explained why destructive organisations – such as BDS – can‘t create anything that leads to a positive solution, as boycott and disengagement always leads to seperation and division. She understood that many of us struggle with and criticise the current goverment in Israel, and she encouraged us continue this, but in a positive, constructive way, which will lead to  more unity and engagement.


My Chanicha Patrizia

Our Parashat Matot Masei, which brings the Children of Israel to the plains of Moab on the border of the Land of Israel, deals with the nexus between two of the founding stories of Judaism. The story of peoplehood frames the Jewish People as a family and a tribe bound together by a shared history and destiny in mutual responsibility. The story of nationhood views the People of Israel as a community that is associated with a specific land, Zion, from which it was exiled and to which it ever seeks to return.

In the second half of our Torah portion, the tribes are informed of the borders of their future dwelling, while the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Menashe chose to remain beyond those borders; on the east of the Jordan river. Thus, we see that even before the Jews entered the land, life beyond Israel’s borders was already a reality accepted and validated by the Torah. However, such a “proto-diaspora,” was not freed from its own obligations to the rest of the Tribes of Israel.

Indeed, in the first half, Moses challenges the two and half tribes: “Shall your brothers go to war while you dwell here?” (Numbers 32:6). However, the tribes assure Moses that they will join their sisters and brothers to conquer the Land of Kana’an, only returning when all of the people are settled.

Thus, the roots of Diaspora Judaism are long and deep; so too are the expectations of the Jewish People from Jews beyond Israel’s borders to contribute to the unity and wellbeing of the people within the Land of Israel, while Israel itself is the beating heart for all, keeping all Jews connected—close by or far away. This obligation has taken many forms in different times and contexts over centuries. This is highlighted in this very moment while we discuss the egalitarian extension of the Western Wall Plaza and the conversion bill.

On the one hand, multiple missions of solidarity especially from the Progressive Diaspora Communities, millions of Rand, Euros and Dollars of financial assistance and broad mobilisation on social media have all embodied our commitment to Israel. On the other hand the on-going diminishing and out-casting of the non-orthodox communities in Israel have left severe marks on our Jewish souls.

Progressive Jews in South Africa, and all over the world have continually shown their unbroken solidarity with Israel. The security and well-being of our sisters and brothers in Israel are without a question part of our “DNA“, and no group or organisation in Israel or outside of Israel has the right to challenge or even cut this bond we have.

Patrizia (in the picture right) is one of my former chanichot at Netzer. She visited Israel for the first time when we had an exchange programme with Noar Telem (Netzer Israel) in 2014. Last year she made Aliyah after her Netzer-Shnat year, and today she serves as a lone soldier in the IDF. I could not be prouder of her, because she lives the values and ideals we teach in Netzer and the Progressive movement. And it is for her and all other Progressive Jews that we stand and fight for a more pluralistic Jewish Israel. Patrizia, as any other Jew, deserves a Jewish home and place that reflects their, our, values and traditions, too. Moses, in our Torah reading, challenges the diaspora to stand on the side of Israel. Today, we challenge Israel to stand on our side.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

(Source: Josh Gottesman/Gidi Grinstein)


My suspension from the SAJBD Board – an update

New photo for RJMs column 19 MarchThis week I received a letter suspending me from the SAJBD – this, just a few hours before a scheduled meeting of the board – I serve on the SAJBD and am also Chairman of the board of SACRED. SACRED and SAJBD have a long history on the subject of discrimination against women. Below is my side of the unfolding story:

Going back in time to 2013; at this time I was not serving on either board when this issue came to light, I was made aware of what I understood to be the last written communication between the two boards – SAJBD’s explicit refusal to compromise on the issue. Moving to present time, from the time I realised that legal proceedings were unavoidable, I attempted to schedule a meeting with Wendy Kahn and Charisse Zeifert (calling well in advance, and explaining the purposes of my requested meeting) which was primarily to keep the channels of communication open, as well as offer to excuse myself from the table, should the (legal) subject be on the board’s agenda for discussion etc. I was informed only an hour before this scheduled meeting that they were cancelling it, and thereafter I received a letter suspending me.

With respect to being “repeatedly invited to attend meetings of the SAJBD,” for over a year as “a guest…” that is certainly far from my understanding of the word “co-opted” onto a committee, though I admit that English is my 3rd language – so perhaps I am naive. Yes, they called my boss  (Desmond Sweke) and asked that he replace me – he refused . I have letters of support from all over the world as well as from across the denominational spectrum, and right to the top of the WUPJ, there is naturally outspoken support.

SACREDs name; “South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity” speaks directly to its purpose, we have amongst other things; monthly evenings of interest, many of these inter-faith, often invite guest speakers, this month it was radio and TV personality Najma Khota.  We try as an organisation to deepen our understanding of many faiths, the difficulties people face within their faiths etc. and yes, if we observe blatant discrimination, then we speak up, try to engage with whomever we need to, or as a last resort we can approach the HRC or the courts etc.

Specifically here this (discrimination) includes the ban imposed by the SAJBD on women singing at Yom Hashoah. This decision is based in principle and is, in no sense, personal. I am therefore deeply unhappy at the manner in which this matter has become personalized against me, rather than focusing on the key issues involved which are of great importance to the manner in which the SAJBD operates and its commitment to constitutional values – and equality in particular. In essence there was never a need to take such drastic action as “suspending me from the board,” they could have simply been open to talking, listened to what I had to say, and requested that I excuse myself if the matter was on the agenda, but perhaps it is I who does not understand their agenda? In conclusion the SAJBD is a secular organisation, organising a secular memorial to a secular tragedy, which tragedy stands for all of time as a warning against the evils of discrimination IN ANY FORM! Then it goes on to implement a policy that excludes half of the people it is supposed to represent from full participation. The “justification” – supposedly to “be more inclusive!” This policy of exclusion, now entering its 11th year, in my opinion should be completely unacceptable to any thinking Jew worthy of the name. To make our policy perfectly clear: SACRED respects and defends Orthodox practises, in Orthodox settings. Our interest has, and always will – stop at the Synagogue door.  Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Julia Margolis  


SACRED Talk: A valuable insight into Najma’s fascinating life as an activist and journalist

Last night SACRED ( South African Center for Religious Equality and Diversity) was privileged to host a talk by Mrs Najma Khota. A broadcast journalist, radio and TV presenter,a counselling therapist and a trauma counsellor. This evening gave us a valuable insight into Najma’s fascinating life as an activist and journalist. She motivated all in attendance by her experiences, fascinating stories and charm.

In contemporary South Africa the promotion of equal rights for women, has created conflicts with those who argue that such rights violate religious beliefs and cultural traditions. Potential tensions between religion and culture, present multiple daily dilemmas for women. Mrs. Khota discussed questions such as; Is it possible for women to hold together their identities in a liberating way? Can women be true to their ethnic racial identity, or faith and tradition without confusion?”

Najma started her journey 20 years ago as a radio presenter, which was her childhood dream. Against the odds Najma founded a community radio station and later co-founded two others. All were unique to the country at the time. Najma was faced with a new challenge when she was told that according to Islamic teachings; women were not allowed to be heard “on air”. She did her own research into this “male-dominated assumption,” and gained support from the community – proving that there was no basis for what some claimed as an Islamic rule.

Najma became a voice for women through her platform on radio and television, a household name locally, and a ‘go-to person’ in her community for many women seeking advice on all fronts. Najma pursued her career as a counselling therapist concurrently with being a radio talk show host and television presenter. As a counselling therapist and a trauma counsellor, Najma is also the director of “Forever Blooming,” an organisation she founded in 2005. This stress and trauma centre offers counselling services to individuals coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. She lives by the adage: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us (R.W. Emerson). Najma is married with three children. Thank you to Bet David for hosting this event in the Rondavel and to the Kehillah for the delicious supper. It was an evening that will stay in our memory for a very long time.

Wishing you a lovely weekend.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Julia Margolis.


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