South African Jews Mourn Nelson Mandela, 'Mensch' of the Nation

Shul Services for Leader Who Paved Freedom Path

getty images

By Dave Goldiner

Published December 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

South African Jews joined the rest of the nation and the world in mourning the death of Nelson Mandela Friday with prayers and memories of the iconic figure who led the country from apartheid to freedom.

“You are talking about a person larger than life with so much compassion for every person in this country and even the entire world,” said Rabbi Dovid Hazdan of Great Park Synagogue in Johannesburg. “Our world is poorer for the loss of a great leader and icon of peace.”

David Sacks, the author of “Jewish Memories of Mandela” called Mandela a ‘mensch’ for South Africa whose spirit of openness would guide the nation going forward.

“A true giant is gone,” Sacks said. “He was a light whose presence informed the spirit of a democratic South Africa.”

On Chai FM, a Jewish talk radio station, tributes blared to Mandela, echoing wall-to-wall coverage on South African media. “Your legacy will live on forever,” one ad intoned.

The South African jewish Board of Deputies said synagogues across the country would hold memorial events for the leader who had a remarkable and durable bond with the Jewish community.

Jews played a prominent role in Mandela’s African National Congress during the struggle against apartheid and Jewish lawyers famously defended him during his trial in the early 1960s. When he emerged from prison in 1990, Mandela forged strong personal bonds with the Jewish community and individual Jewish friends and colleagues.

“Nelson Mandela epitomised the miracle of South Africa’s democratic transformation,” Wendy Kahn, national director of the SAJBD said in a statement. “May his noble example inspire [us] and may his memory be a blessing for all humanity.”

Hazdan planned to start Shabbat services Friday with a statement about the death of the anti-apartheid leader at his shul, which is not far from Mandela’s home in the suburb of Houghton.

South African Jews also expect to be included in the official funeral for Mandela, which is expected to draw leaders from around the globe.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.