Category Archives: Press Release

Statement regarding the attack on the Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

South African Association of Progressive Rabbis

“For death had come through our windows into our strongholds” (Jeremiah 9:20)

Together with all the Jewish people, together with all good and decent people, we feel great pain over the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We grieve with the families of those who were murdered and send our wishes of recovery to those who were wounded.

This hate crime was performed by an individual, but it has a wider context, aiming to spread fear and distress, to keep the different groups who build society apart and to try reinstall an old order.

Here in South Africa, we remember well what the outcomes are of such an ideology which tries to keep society in constant dread, refusing to recognize our obvious shared human heritage. Clearly, we are far away from perfection, but South Africa had long moved away from those notions. In a way, the whole dispensation of the new South Africa is intended to ensure that our different communities could come together to live in equality, prosperity and peace.

Our answer to this act of hate will be fortifying our efforts to reach out to one another. We call upon all educators, religious and community leaders to invest in creating an atmosphere of respect, where all voices are heard and appreciated and where diversity is acknowledged as a source of strength.

Though our heart is full of sadness today, we put our trust in The Eternal One, whose wisdom is beyond our grasp. We pray that out of this hard moment shall come forth maturity and understanding, fulfilling the word of the prophet: “They shall not hurt nor harm My holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with knowing The Eternal, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 9:11)

Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked, South African Association of Progressive Rabbis

Passing of Rhona Lubner

It is with deep sadness that we advise of the death last night in London of Rhona Lubner.

Rhona grew up in Johannesburg and was a member of Temple Israel Hillbrow. Rabbi Weiler conducted her Bat Mitzvah, and she remembered this occasion at her second Bat Mitzvah at Alyth Synagogue last year.

Rhona was well known for the many charitable organisations she either founded or worked with. Her contribution to the Jewish world will be remembered for years to come.

May her memory be only for blessings.

Please pass this news on to your congregations. We will inform you as to where condolences can be sent in due course.

(Fri 2018-09-21)

Passing of Ellie Visser

Netzer Cape Town issued the following statement regarding the tragic passing of Ellie Visser, one of their Madrichim:


It is with great sadness that we announce the untimely passing of one of our Madrichim, Ellie Visser.

Ellie was an active part of Netzer SA and our Cape Town branch for the last six years. She was one of the most enthusiastic and charismatic Madrichim we could have asked for.

We ask that you respect her family’s privacy at the moment, during their time of mourning. Should you wish to pass a message on to her family, please get in contact with Jason via his email (, who will pass it on.

The funeral will take place Tuesday, 14 August at 12:00 at Pinelands Cemetery .

May Ellie’s soul find rest and may her memory be for a blessing.

Kind regards,

Jason Bourne

Head of Cape Town Netzer South Africa


The SAUPJ and all its congregations and affiliates join with Ellie’s family and Netzer Cape Town in mourning her passing.

Ellie was 21, and we understand that she died in theatre while being operated on for blood clots on her lungs.

Solidarity with the Muslim community of Malmesbury

The SAUPJ and its affiliates issued the following declaration of solidarity and condolence with the Muslim community of Malmesbury following the recent horrific attack on the mosque there:

Tamuz 5778 – Ramadan 1439 – June 2018

To the Muslim community of Malmesbury

Shalom dear friends!

Kindly accept our solidarity with you during this sad and horrific time following the inexplicable attack in your mosque. We are highly troubled that such a crime should take place at all, not to mention in a house of worship.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims, the members of your congregation that were present, and to your community.

With blessings and wishes of strength,


Rabbi Saar Shaked

Chair, South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR)

Monica Solomon

Chair, South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ)

Rabbi Julia Margolis

Chair, South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED)


To the Muslim community of Malmesbury

Bet David opens its new Synagogue

First new Progressive Synagogue built on the African Continent in decades – Bet David opens its new Synagogue

In a meaningful and moving ceremony Bet David in Morningside opened and dedicated its new synagogue on Wednesday, 20 September 2017, Erev Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). The dedication service was led by Rabbi Adrian Michael Schell.

After nearly 12 months of construction, the new synagogue was opened in time for Rosh Hashanah. Once completed, the new campus of the Progressive congregation in Morningside (Johannesburg), will encompass a Shul, Nursery School, the Mitzvah School, the Middleton function hall, and offices of the congregation and the Progressive Movement of South Africa. The synagogue is the third shul built on the property over a period of 45 years, and reflects the current needs of the congregation.

The design of the synagogue is a modern one, whilst incorporating many elements of the two previous synagogues that stood on the property. The new floor to ceiling windows, which constitute nearly 50% of the outside walls of the shul shall give worshippers a feeling of being part of the surrounding environment, and reflect the openness of Bet David.

After the Torah scrolls had been carried into the new shul by members of Kehillah (Bet David’s Sisterhood), the Trust and Bet David’s Management Committee, Eric Milner, Chairman of Bet David, welcomed the community to their new home and expressed the wish that the new shul will become a place where the Jewish community will come together in prayer, study and a sense of camaraderie and togetherness.

Rabbi Schell emphasised in his sermon the idea that the architecture found in synagogues worldwide mirrors the communities in which Jews live and simultaneously speaks the unique language of the Jewish people by reflecting the values of God, Torah and Israel. Rabbi Schell said: “From the time we entered into a covenant with God, there was always the vision of a sanctuary, a Mishkan, in which our relationship with God and our fellow humans can grow. The Greek word, synagogue, meaning, gathering or assembly, reflects that which we have built. Our synagogue echoes that covenant – to create a gathering place for Jews, the community, and God.” Rabbi Schell’s fervent wish for the new Shul is that “this Shul becomes a shelter for all who seek it, a place of worship of God and a place to encounter one another.”

“The shul is not yet entirely complete – some of the final touches still need to be done, but we are thankful that we could use it to celebrate the beginning of the new Jewish year. The opening of the campus will take place on 10 February 2018 with a special gala dinner,“ said Eric Milner, providing an overview of the next steps in the building process.


Picture gallery of the opening: – All pictures are free for publication in connection with the above-mentioned opening of the new Synagogue. © Bet David/private


Eric Milner
Phone: 011-783-7117


SAUPJ Press Release: No meeting with Hamas

Press Release on behalf of the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) and the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR)

20 Oct 2015

It has been reported in the media that Hamas representatives will meet with a “Progressive Jewish Group” during their visit to South Africa. We have no knowledge of the source of this notice and have no dealings or intentions of meeting with Hamas.

We call on Hamas to distance themselves from anti-Semitism and terror and to remove from their Charter the aim of killing Jews.

Rabbi Greg Alexander
SA Association of Progressive Rabbis

Alvin Kushner
National Chairman
SA Union for Progressive Judaism