SAUPJ and WUPJ tributes to ex-chair Jack Jankes

The South African Union for Progressive Judaism and the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis note with sorrow the passing of Jack Jankes. A distinguished leader, he dedicated most of his life to the Progressive Movement and Bet David in Johannesburg.

Jack was very passionate about the work he did and was totally committed to serving the progressive community. He gave of his time freely and willingly and was always available to give advice and remained actively interested in the SAUPJ right up until his recent illness. He will be truly missed by us all.

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Jack Jankes (centre with light-coloured jacket) at the SAUPJ conference in 2008

The following tribute was made by Mr Leslie Bergman (President for the European Union for Progressive Judaism):

“Jack Jankes, Honorary Life President of the SAUPJ, died on11 January 2013. He had been ill for a lengthy period of time Jack was a prominent leader of Progressive Judaism in Johannesburg, and later at national level, during the growth phase of the 70’s and 80’s. He was variously Chairman of Temple (later Bet) David, the United Progressive Jewish Congregation of Johannesburg and the SAUPJ. He was known for being firm yet moderate, above the petty politics of Jewish organizational life and a doer rather than just a macher. He provided wise counsel to leadership that followed him and I personally benefited from this enormously. In later years when faced with an issue, I often would say to myself:” What would Jack have done?”

But Jack’s beacon of achievement was Temple David. He was one of the small group of UPJC leaders in the early 70’s to have the foresight to purchase the large plot of land on which the synagogue was to be built. In those days the site in Morningside was “out in the sticks”. Today it is prime property. More than that, Jack became the founding Chairman of Temple David and, being an architect by profession, the designer of the iconic synagogue completed in the late 70’s.

No greater tribute could have been paid to this beautiful and distinctively South African synagogue, than the request from the church across the road to have Jack be the architect for their new church – which he duly obliged. Possibly unique – synagogue and church directly opposite each other- same architect.

After his retirement around 1990, Jack and Bueka retired to Cape St Francis. They were frequent visitors to Temple Israel in Port Elizabeth.

Jack was one of the last of the group of Progressive leaders who oversaw the growth phase of our movement in South Africa. We will miss him, but in the words of a famous London architect who built a not so small house of worship, visitors to Beth David can “look around – that is his memorial”.”

The following tribute was sent to Jack’s wife Bueka by Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, Honorary Life President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism:

“Dear Bueka and children and extended family

Baruch Dayan Emmet. I just learned of the passing of your beloved Jack. Hamakom Yenahem Etchem. May God console you on the loss of the head of your family.

How well I remember the exceptional leadership role he played within the SAUPJ and within the Bet David congregation. He was so highly respected by everyone for his intelligence and sound judgment and capacity to articulate his views in a quiet manner.

And you, Bueka were a true partner in all his endeavours. One of our distinguished talmudic sages said, “I never call my wife “my wife.” Instead I always call her “my home” You, Bucka were “the home” of Jack. Together you exemplified a life partnership which gave honour to the highest values of Jewish tradition.

My wife Bella and your many friends in the World Union family extend to you all our most profound condolences.

Yehi Zichro Baruch: may Jack’s memory be a blessing to all who knew and loved him and may his noble character continue to impact on our lives and values.

Bivracha, Dick