On 01 September 2011 SACRED was launched at the Women’s Jail on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The high profile event was attended by over 90 guests and included luminaries from Jewish and other religious communities in South Africa.
Speaking at the launch, SACRED Chairman, Rabbi Robert Jacobs, said: “In Shoftim we are told ‘You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes … with due justice.You shall not judge unfairly; you shall not display partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just’.
‘Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof – Justice, justice shall you pursue …’
“These ancient and inspirational words are a landmark, setting as a religious standard ideals and values that became political currency many centuries later, when during the Enlightenment of the 18th Century, a great transition was made to democracy, freedom and universal rights for all humanity. Those rights have been more broadly distributed in recent decades, including through the establishment of the renewed Republic of South Africa with what may well be the world’s most progressive Constitution in 1994.
“It is as a direct result of the US Civil Rights Movement that the first of its kind Religious Action Centre (RAC) for Reform Judaism was formed 50 years ago. Through its distinguished history, with support from a broad coalition of diverse religious leaders, the RAC has emerged as a leading advocate for progressive positions, a friend of the court in cases touching upon human rights, a standard-bearer for consistency in separation of religion and state as demanded by the US Constitution and as a voice for the rights of women, children, sexual minorities and religious diversity.
Nearly 40 years ago, a parallel institution emerged in Israel. Since Hebrew lacks a term for pluralism, the centre established there by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, often referred to as IRAC, the Israel Religious Action Centre, but called in Hebrew merkaz l’pluralizm, has led a progressive campaign for religious and social rights for all Israelis as Israel’s society has grown and developed. In particular, IRAC has sought to influence public policy on matters affecting minority groups in Israel, Jews, non-Jews, Arab, Druze and even boat-people who fled Vietnam, and has done so across boundaries of religious affiliation, national origin or gender.
“Tonight, we carry through this idea of the quest for religious equality and diversity into South Africa, as the third centre internationally for advocacy, justice and fairness. The intention is not to either imitate nor to duplicate the American and Israeli centres, but to work in concert with them from a distinctively South African perspective. SACRED is a project of the SAUPJ, but it is intended as a resource and support, an advocate and co-ordinator for lowercase “p” progressive ideas, ideals and values for all South Africans. The Torah commands: ‘do not stand idly by the blood of your brother’. Our commitment through the establishment of SACRED is to act: for brothers, for sisters, for women and children, for sexual minorities and for all the vulnerable of our society as a voice for progressive values, human rights, equality and justice,” Rabbi Jacobs said.
SACRED is a non-profit organisation which relies on donations from our members and supporters. Please assist us to become the organisation you would like us to be. To do this, we need funds and donations – however small or large. Performing an act of Tzedakah is one of the greatest mitzvot anyone can do. A direct translation of the word Tzedakah is righteousness, fairness and justice and traditional belief is that donors benefit as much, if not more, than those receiving the donation. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your donation. While SACRED will be the recipient of your generosity, you will, in turn, receive the merit of sharing in Hashem’s work.