YOM HASHOA COMMEMORATED AND YOM HA’ATZMAUT CELEBRATED IN ZIMBABWE – MAY 2009
On 3 May, nearly three-quarters of the Bulawayo Jewish community gathered at the Holocaust memorial in the Jewish cemetery for the annual Yom Hashoah ceremony. Amongst those in attendance was MDC Senator David Coltart, the newly appointed Minister of Education. The ceremony was conducted by African Jewish Congress Spiritual Leader Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, who also officiated at a communal unveiling ceremony for eight headstones.
Senior members of the community were called up to light the first five memorial candles in remembrance of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust while Coltard lit the sixth. Reminding the gathering that 2009 was the International Year of the Child, Rabbi Silberhaft said that just as fighting for justice and standing up against oppression was a time-honoured Jewish ethic, so was Minister Coltard striving for the cause of justice and human rights in his own country.
While in Bulawayo, Rabbi Silberhaft met with the residents of Savyon Lodge, the Jewish aged home, and with the leadership of the Bulawayo Hebrew Congregation to plan the way forward following the return to Israel of Rabbi David Alima. During his visit to Zimbabwe, he also attended the Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony in Harare with non-resident Israel Ambassador Ilan Baruch.
With regard to the prevailing mood in the crisis-torn country, Rabbi Silberhaft observed that under the new Finance Minister there was a definite sense that the economy was beginning to improve. However, fears of future arbitrary acts of nationalisation in light of the fact that Robert Mugabe remained in power continued to act as a brake on international investment.Rabbi Silberhaft was gratified to report that the new SGOFOTI (“Support Group of Families of Terminally Ill) library, established through donations of books by the organisation Australian Books for Children of Africa, has been named the Moshe Library. This was not just because he had been involved in bringing the books to Zimbabwe, but because ‘Moshe’ is a popular African name.