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 – SACRED’s new chairlady

The new Board brings a wealth of experience to SACRED and is in very good hands under the Chairladyship of Leah Livni. Leah was born in Tel Aviv and for over 30 years has called Africa, and South Africa, home and it’s where she and her husband Isaac decided to bring up their three children. Leah has been involved  with NGO’s and human rights for most of her career and has the ideal experience to take SACRED from strength to strength.

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.