On Monday 27th July 2015, the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) held their first ever gala dinner in Johannesburg, with the aim of engaging their many alumni. The evening was a great success with many current and past activists in attendance. Since our earliest incarnation as the “Jewish Student Association” 102 years ago, SAUJS has been working tirelessly to support all Jewish South African university students.
One of the aims of the dinner was to explore the history of the union; uncovering the past and looking forward to the future. The focal point of the evening was a panel of three past national chair-people, who spoke about their experiences during some of the most fascinating years in the unions recent past. The panel was chaired by Michael Freeman, the Deputy Ambassador of Israel to South Africa, who himself was involved in student activism in the United Kingdom.
The first panellist Brenda Stern, SAUJS Chair 1989-1991, told us of SAUJS during the era of South African apartheid, when SAUJS was a leading voice in the struggle against the regime. The second, Professor David Bilchitz discussed his time as chair during the change of Governments while the third speaker, Mark Pozniak spoke about SAUJS during his time in the early 2000’s. For the many current SAUJS leaders who attended it was an eye opening experience hearing the different challenges that were faced in the past. It was clear that while much has changed in the years since, there is much within South Africa and the South African university campuses that is still very similar. To accompany the panel, was a compilation of video messages and pictures sent in by other past SAUJS leaders who are now living overseas.
Natan Pollack, the current national chairperson of SAUJS, also addressed the dinner reminding the alumni and community members present of the importance of SAUJS, the work we are doing on and off campus and the difficulties that the union has faced in recent years.
Many of the guests have told us that the evening of nostalgia got them thinking about their SAUJS days and what they can do to help the future young leaders of the country. We are now looking forward to hosting more events in which SAUJS alumni, present SAUJS leaders and senior community members can engage in conversation to inspire one another to develop our union further.
You can see pictures from the event here.
Cayla Urdang is in her honours year of Biokinetics at the University of Johannesburg. She has been involved in SAUJS since 2013 and currently serves as the national special projects officer. She previously held the position of national vice-chair for the 2014 academic year.
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