Netzer South Africa has been without equal representation in the Jewish community for nearly a decade.

Netzer South Africa has been without equal representation in the Jewish community for nearly a decade. Affirming that no body or organisation should have a monopoly over Judaism, we call for equal treatment of the movement in the King David schools.

It is because of the Progressive Jewish aspect of Netzer’s ideology that the Jewish Board of Education sees fit to exclude Netzer from equal access to the King David schools. While the other Zionist youth movements may run activities and promote their events in front of all students, Netzer has harsh boundaries that prohibit its members from doing so. At the beginning of 2008, the King David schools held an open day where institutions of higher education and youth movements could present post-Matric study and gap-year options. Shortly before this event, Netzer was uninvited on that grounds that it was a Progressive movement. Even after letters of protest from both Netzer and the South African Union for Progressive Judaism were sent to the Board and the schools, no response was given. Only six months later was a letter sent to Netzer, stating that its involvement in the Jewish Day Schools was to be limited according to the Board’s requirements. These requirements are still imposed upon Netzer’s activities:

Netzer madrichim (leaders) may run activities in a closed classroom, but this activity is for already-Netzer-affiliated chanichim (participants). Netzer madrichim may give Netzer chanichim flyers, but no posters may be stuck up around the school, and the movement is not allowed to promote its Machaneh in front of the school alongside the other youth movements. This is not the way to act in a country whose constitution stands for equality of all people, and the right to expression of religion, culture and opinion. Just as other streams of Judaism are allowed access to the King David schools, Netzer’s, too, should be fully included and represented.

For the past year, Netzer has abided by the Board’s rules, in an attempt to come to a reasonable understanding between both parties. However, an announcement made for “all Netzer children to go to classroom x for your activity” is ineffective; children are often out of the classroom during

announcements, and “non-Netzer children” (the Board’s label, not Netzer’s) disrupt the activity by coming in and out of the classroom, fetching lunchboxes and sports kits. Worse still is the fact that Netzer representatives are required to openly exclude any non-Progressive children by forcing them out of the classroom. It is a situation both impractical and upsetting.

Aside from the frustrating petty logistics of the issue, the fundamental elements of exclusion and discrimination are highly disturbing. South African Jewry cannot allow itself to be forced into a box with the label “Orthodox only”. Jews of Progressive, Conservative, Traditional and secular streams are alienated and made to feel illegitimate in their Jewish identities. In a community that is so vibrant and home to many different Jewish schools of thought, Orthodoxy cannot be considered the only “real” Judaism.

Before King David adopted its strictly Orthodox education policy, the school was a largely secular environment which incorporated lively and necessary Jewish aspects. No Jewish stream hatefully imposed itself on another. Today, however, the majority of the schools’ pupils and families are still secular (and possibly with Orthodox affiliation, but secular nonetheless) but the Board insists that Orthodoxy is the only legitimate means of education. We cannot stand for this.

A place of education should be one that preaches open-mindedness, tolerance and inclusiveness – in the spirit of open and democratic education – not one of closed-mindedness, bigotry and exclusivity. Even if the school chooses to adopt an Orthodox Jewish education policy, it cannot limit other streams of Judaism in its informal sector, specifically with regard to youth movements – the future Jewish leadership of South Africa. We are certain that no parent would want his or her child to grow up in an unconstitutional, discriminatory institution, being taught to go against the values of acceptance and care of others, which are so prominent in the Jewish faith.

We sincerely hope that our message is heard, and that the move towards pluralism in South African Jewry is a speedy and effective one.

The Netzer South Africa Tzevet of 2010

Please forward this letter to congregants and friends, collegues and family; people who will partake in an effort like this. We have chosen to ask people to send in an actual letter or email rather than a petition. We believe that constant reminders of the injustice of the situation sent to the necessary parties will be more effective than a once-off petition email with lots of names on it. We are aiming not to have 20 or even 100 letters – we’re expecting thousands. Change will only come about when there is mass action to create it – only if we show a strong presence and make enough noise will this effort be taken seriously.

The contact details of people to whom the letter should be sent are as follows:

Rabbi Craig Kacev (director of the South African Board of Jewish Education):
Avrum Krengel (chairman of the South African Zionist Federation):
Zev Krengel (chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies):
Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein:
Jewish Report:
Jewish Chronicle:

Thank you so much for your support. We look forward to seeing tangible, meaningful change in our community.

Warm regards,
The Netzer South African Tzevet of 2010