I grew up in a home in which products from South Africa were banned. My Viennese Jewish father got out of Austria 1936 before the Nazi occupation, and went to South Africa. Following a business trip to London in the spring of 1947, where he met and married my mother, the daughter of Russian Polish Jewish refugees from the 1905 pogroms, they returned together to South Africa, only to leave in 1949, following the election of the Nationalist government. As my father put it, as a Jew who had escaped the horrors of Nazism, he was not prepared to live in a racist regime.

In my late teens, I became involved in the Anti-Apartheid movement in London, joining a local Anti-Apartheid group branch in Hampstead. In my twenties, in addition to AA activities, I went on Anti-Apartheid marches and attended concerts calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. In my thirties, I participated in ‘Freedom Seders’ that took place outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London on the 4th evening of Pesach (Passover) each year.

I will never forget that day in 1990, when the live news recorded Nelson Mandela’s first walk of freedom, following his release from 27 years of captivity. I will always remember my heart palpitating at the anticipation of that moment as the world waited for him to appear – and how different he looked from the photos on the banners that we had been holding on our protests for his release…

It is now 20 years since Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace and 19 years since the first multiracial democratic elections were held in 1994 and he became the first Black African President of a multi-racial South Africa. Apartheid was abolished, but the task of achieving equality and prosperity for the black citizens of South Africa has not yet been achieved.

As the people of South Africa and the whole world remember Nelson Mandela, let us pay tribute to his memory by committing ourselves to this goal.


Remembering Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela:


Remembering Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela

his courage and vision

his capacity to endure imprisonment and retain his sense of self

his ability to nurture hope through 27 years of confinement

and find the heart to reach out to his oppressors and touch their hearts

his shining spirit, radiating joy and delight in life

and kindling that spirit in others

Remembering the long struggle against apartheid

Remembering Sharpeville on March 21, 1960 and the massacre of 69 peaceful protesters

Remembering Soweto on June 16, 1976 and the slaughter of schoolchildren dancing for freedom and a decent education

Remembering segregation and exclusion

Remembering passbooks and Bantustans

Remembering humiliation and torture

Remembering Steve Biko, who died in police custody on September 12, 1977

and Ruth First, killed in exile by a parcel bomb on August 17, 1982

and all those who gave their lives for justice and liberty and a multiracial, multi-ethnic South Africa.

Remembering that Mandela’s vision of a rainbow nation in which all citizens of all colours, genders and sexualities enjoy equality, justice and prosperity

has not yet been realised.

May all those who remember Nelson Mandela honour his legacy by continuing the journey.

Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela – Zichrono livrachah – May his memory be for blessing.

And let us say: Amen

Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah

6th December 2013 / 3rd Tevet 5774