Mission Statement

SACRED aims to provide a progressive Jewish voice on relevant social, moral, ethical and religious issues in South Africa; to counteract religious discrimination in all its forms; to advance freedom of religion and to promote fundamental rights and freedoms through advocacy, activism, scholarly contributions to public discourse and public interest litigation.

Our History

Rabbi Abraham Heschel (L) Dr. King, and Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath carrying the Torah at a Civil Rights march.

SACRED was launched only a few years ago, on the 1st of September 2011, by the South African Union of Progressive Judaism (to which we are affiliated),  to give effect to the words in Deuteronomy ‘justice, justice you shall pursue’. The necessity of its foundation was, in the words of then SAUPJ chairman Steve Lurie, necessitated by ‘certain events which had occurred in the years prior’ to its founding.  These events had shown the necessity of having a Jewish organisation dedicated solely to the pursuit of human rights and social justice. We are the only Jewish organisation dedicated only to human rights in South Africa.

Rabbi Robert Jacobs at the launch of SACRED

The idea of an organisation like SACRED was the brainchild of Rabbi Robert Jacobs, who has extensive experience with the Religious Action Centre (RAC), SACRED’s older and far larger US role model. The RAC was founded by Reform Jews to assist Dr Martin Luther King in his struggle to obtain civil rights for black Americans. And assist they did – in fact so ubiquitous were Reform Rabbis in the civil rights movement that black people in the South began calling kipot ‘freedom caps’. This legacy of cooperation persists to this day – the director of the RAC, Rabbi David Saperstein, is the only non-black person to sit on the Board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Charlotte Fischer, SACRED’s first Executive Director, lost no time in establishing close links with the RAC’s Israeli sister the Israeli Religious Action Centre (IRAC) and its director Anat Hoffman, who also heads “Women of the Wall” – a group which campaigns for women’s rights at the Kotel.

Past Projects 

•Campaigning for the inclusion of women’s voices in secular spaces.
•Inter-Faith discussions and activities, for instance on the role religion plays in violence against women and a gathering to share and appreciate sacred music from different religions.
•To bring home the tragic consequences of discrimination SACRED organized a Memorial and Tribute to the Victims and Survivors of Genocide and the Holocaust. The Memorial brought the Jewish, Israeli, Armenian and Rwandan communities together to mourn the genocides waged against each community. The lesson from all of them was the terrible consequences of unchecked discrimination  and hatred.

SACRED today

Dr Dora Wynchank

2014 has brought something of a sea-change for SACRED. On the 1st of January a new executive director – James Lomberg – was appointed. This was followed by the election of a new Board in June. Then, after two years of magnificent leadership, our Chairlady Dr Dora Wynchank stepped down in order to pursue further studies in the Netherlands.

Leah Livni

It is with great sadness that on 30 December 2016 our chairlady Leah Livni passed away.




Rabbi Julia Margolis


Rabbi Julia Margolis was appointed chairlady.

Rabbi Julia Margolis is the only female Rabbi in South Africa, who was born in Moscow, USSR.

At the age of 12 her family made Aliyah to Israel, where she completed high school and served as an educational officer in the army (IDF). In 2000 after her release from the IDF, she earned a bachelor´s degree from Ben Gurion University in Jewish History, Islam and Art. Rabbi Margolis then went on to complete her Master´s degree in Jewish Studies. She was raised in a family with deep roots in the Reform movement – her mother was the first Russian speaking female Rabbi in Israel.

Rabbi Margolis worked in the Reform movement in Israel and has represented the Reform movement all over the world. Her involvement with the Reform movement in South Africa started in 2009, working  in different synagogues as well as performing in life cycle events in different parts of Africa.

Rabbi Margolis’ Rabbinical thesis focuses on a book of Menachem Finkelstein “Proselytism – Halakhah and Practice”. She was ordained by the Abraham Geiger College, Germany. 

Rabbi Marglis is a member of the South African Association of Progressive Rabbis (SAAPR) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. She lives in Johannesburg, married to Greg, and is the mother of two wonderful daughters, Emily  and Victoria .

Our Current Projects

SACRED has the capacity for 2-3 projects at a time. At the moment we are campaigning for the full inclusion

of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered Jews into Jewish society as full and equal members. We plan to expand our project into wider society as well.

Women of the Wall celebrating Rosh Hodesh Iyar

SACRED has always fought for the right of women to participate in full equality in all areas of secular and/or communal life. In the current year we plan to expand our operations into more areas of this campaign.

SACRED needs to adapt to new needs and operating circumstances in order to maximise its effectiveness. With your help we hope to do just that.