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A sprinkling of white South Africans and foreigners attended the sprawling memorial service, which was held in chilly conditions under a soaking rainstorm.
Despite the harsh conditions, many South Africans pointed out that rain is considered a traditional blessing during momentous events such as funerals for leaders.
“It softens the earth before you are returned to where you came from,” said one elderly woman, peering out from an umbrella emblazoned with the South African flag.
Samson Dhivula, 45, is a member of the Lemba tribe, which claims Jewish heritage and is scattered across northern South Africa and southern Zimbabwe.
He carried a gourd with him to the memorial as a tribute to Mandela. The makeshift calabash is used in the tribe’s traditional ceremonies to hold valuable seeds or herbs.
In Mandela’s case, Dhivula said he carried important values within his soul.
“He believed in foregiveness and reconciliation,” said Divhula, standing next to a South African Indian vendor selling $2.75 roti wraps filled with curry. “These are values we as black Jews believe in.”
The nationwide outpouring of emotion for Mandela continued as the country braces itself for the burial in his home village of Qunu in the rural Eastern Cape.
Mark Millner, a lawyer, wore a kippah as he paid his respects at Nelson Mandela Square in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Sandton. Flowers stretched across a plaza in the square as scores waited on line to take photos in front of a towering bronze statue of the freedom icon.
He lauded Goldstein’s outspoken role in the mourning process, and said it was remarkable that this week’s Torah portion relates to the story of Joseph.
“Mandela had a particularly close relationship with the Jews,” said Millner, who lives in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Glen Hazel. “And look, all of us South Africans must be grateful for what he did for this country.”