*** Jewish Africa is filled with fascinating people and their stories. “JEWISH STARS” features some of the remarkable people I have met during my Jewish Africa travels. ***
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft is widely-known as “The Travelling Rabbi” for the religious, spiritual, social, and logistical support he provides to Jewish communities big and small all across the southern African region and beyond.
Before I came to South Africa in August 2012, positively everyone I met and/or reached out to for Jewish Africa contacts and information insisted I “get in touch with Rabbi Silberhaft.” I tried to do just that, and tried and tried — to no avail. I sent him at least a dozen emails to multiple addresses over many weeks. At least half that many people sent him introductory emails to him on my behalf. Zilch in response.
Then, at last, on November 25, 2011, a breakthrough. He sent me two words: “Will do.” This succinct note was his CC’d response to the director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) who had asked him to contact me. It wouldn’t be for another five months — in April 2012 — that I’d hear from him again directly. Persistence paid off. Big time. Once the communication nut had been cracked, Rabbi Silberhaft graciously opened up and much needed information began to trickle through his emails.
I finally met the Travelling Rabbi in Johannesburg last August. We had a brief meet-and-greet in his cozy office located inside Beyachad, the headquarters (if you will) of the Jewish community of South Africa. The first thing one notices about his office, and of the man himself, is that he is not camera-shy. The walls are covered with portraits of himself with prominent Jewish leaders and captains of industry from all around the region. In every photo, Rabbi Silberhaft’s smile gives away the zest he has for his work. In certain respects, I share that enthusiasm with him. Though our paths are uniquely different, I believe our missions are parallel: To contribute to the preservation and sustainability of Jewish communities.
On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, the first day of leg #2 of my Jewish Africa photo project, the indefatigable, the amiable, the effervescent Moshe Silberhaft treated me to lunch alfresco at a kosher deli in the heavily-Jewish Glenhazel neighborhood. And next Tuesday, February 5th, we fly together to Livingstone, Zambia (he’ll go just for one night; I’m in the country for a week).
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