According to a an article posted Wednesday on the Web site of the South African Centre for Law and Social Justice, Judge Richard Goldstone has been effectively barred from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah in the affluent Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, because of objections from the South African Zionist Federation.
THE AFTER-SHOCKS of the Goldstone Commission into the Gaza conflict continue, this time reaching into the heart of a family simcha. Mr Justice Richard Goldstone is effectively being barred from attending his grandson’s barmitzvah, due to be held in Johannesburg early next month. Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, where the event is due to take place, an agreement has been reached with the family. As a result, Justice Goldstone will not be attending the synagogue service. Some of the role-players were tight-lipped. Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, said: “We understand there’s a barmitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues; at this stage there’s nothing further to say.” While Krengel said the SAZF had “interacted” on the matter with the chief rabbi, the Beth Din and others, his organisation was “coming across most forcefully because we represent Israel”. Rosh Beth Din Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag confirmed that the Beth Din had not been officially involved – though there had been “private talks” – and had not been asked by the synagogue to give a ruling on the matter. “But I know that there was a very strong feeling in the shul, a lot of anger (around the issue of Justice Goldstone attending). “I heard also that the SAZF wanted to organise a protest outside the shul – (there were) all kinds of plans. But I think reason prevailed.”
Reached in Washington where he is currently based, Justice Goldstone was reluctant to comment save to say: “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”
Apparently there’s some disagreement among South African Jews as to whether the decision represents “reason.”
Retired president of the Constitutional Court, Mr Justice Arthur Chaskalson said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s barmitzvah. “If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than on Justice Goldstone. They should hang their heads in shame.”
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).