Jewish world mourns Nelson Mandela


Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have joined world leaders in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, who has died at the age of 95.

Mr Peres said: "The world has lost a great leader who changed the face of history. Nelson Mandela was a human rights fighter who made his mark on the war against discrimination and racism."

Mr Netanyahu said that Mr Mandela "was one of the outstanding figures of our time. He was the father of his nation, a man of vision, a fighter for freedom who avoided violence".

He added that the anti-apartheid icon "worked to heal the rifts in South African society and succeeded, through the power of his character, in preventing racial hatred.

"He will be remembered as the father of the new South Africa and a moral leader of the highest order".

Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who was born and raised in South Africa, said Mr Mandela had been "an inspiration to me and countless others.

"A transformational figure who truly changed the world, Mandela proved that hope is a powerful tool for change.

"When coupled with a shared vision for a better future it is an unstoppable force for good. Nelson Mandela's courage, dignity, moral clarity and message of peace and reconciliation should inspire us all.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his fellow countrymen at this time."

Lord Sacks, Emeritus Chief Rabbi, paid tribute to Mr Mandela's leadership.

Rabbi Sacks said: “Today we mourn the loss of one of the world’s great leaders, the man who was our generation’s mentor in forgiveness and reconciliation.

"Nelson Mandela lived and breathed the politics of hope. It takes courage to hope, and even greater courage to lead a people on the long walk to freedom. Because of him not only South Africa but the world is a better place.

"The greatest tribute we can pay him is to be inspired by his memory and lifted by his ideals. Let now be a moment for a new birth of hope in some of the many conflict zones throughout the world. We offer our sincere condolences to his family.

"May they find comfort in the knowledge that his spirit will live on. He permanently enlarged the horizon of human hope.”

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: "Having visited South Africa both before and many times after the fall of apartheid the transformation is remarkable.

"Nelson Mandela is mainly responsible for the absence of bitterness and the genuine friendship which has grown up between former enemies. His is an inspiring example."

Mr Mandela was a principal patron of South African Jewish charity Afrika Tikkun. Its UK chair, Gary Lubner, said: "Over the past 18 years President Mandela's commitment to Afrika Tikkun was demonstrated through his numerous project visits, endorsements and fundraising efforts on our behalf.

"In light of the competing demands for his time, along with his deteriorating health, we are honoured and humbled that he remained our Patron-in-Chief to the end.

"Today, as we mourn his passing, we recommit ourselves to achieving the vision we shared with Madiba; that of nurturing, educating and supporting South African children living in the most dire of circumstances in the hope of offering them a better future."

Natan Sharansky, executive chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said: "Nelson Mandela was able to transform an armed campaign into a peaceful struggle for human rights. In so doing, he succeeded in building bridges and fostering cooperation where such ties had previously been unimaginable.

"When we met in 1990, several months after his release from prison and several years after mine, I was struck by his ability to see beyond the immediate goals of his efforts, pursuing the brighter future he wished to see for all South Africans.

"Nelson Mandela's death leaves a void that will not be quickly filled, and I join all defenders of human rights in mourning his passing."

World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder said Mr Mandela was “unquestionably the most inspiring human rights advocate of our times”.

“Whilst he will be greatly missed, Nelson Mandela will continue to serve as an inspiration for countless people around the word, including many Jews."

Michael Grabiner, World Union for Progression Judaism chairman, said: "Nelson Mandela will be sadly missed; the two million members of the World Union for Progressive Judaism joins with our South African members to express our sorrow at his passing and sends sincere condolences to his family and to the people of South Africa."

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, chairman of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, said that "the dignity with which Nelson Mandela overcame imprisonment and the brutality of apartheid is an inspiration to us all.

"The love of God knows no barriers of religion or race; his legacy must be that all of us continue to fight hatred and prejudice wherever we find it, to continue in our work of tikkun olam, repair of the world.”

Throughout his life Mr Mandela maintained a close relationship with the South African Jewish community.

Four days before his inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994, Mr Mandela attended a Shabbat service at the Green and Sea Hebrew congregation in Cape Town – the biggest synagogue in the southern hemisphere at the time – where he thanked the Jewish community for their contributions to the country.

Mr Mandela also spoke of how he took encouragement during his imprisonment on Robben Island by reading Anne Frank's diary.

In August 1994 he opened an exhibition on Anne Frank in Johannesburg. The Anne Frank House presented him with a medal in recognition of his struggle to make South Africa a democratic multicultural society.

Accepting the award Mr Mandela said: “On Robben Island, some of us read Anne Frank's Diary. We derived much encouragement from it. It kept our spirits high and reinforced our confidence in the invincibility of the cause of freedom and justice.”

US President Barack Obama said he was "one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life".

Prime Minister David Cameron also paid his respects, saying that "Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death - a true global hero.

"Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life."

The flag above Downing Street is flying at half-mast today in his honour.

According to current South Africa President Jacob Zuma, Mr Mandela's body has now been moved to the One Military hospital in Pretoria, where he will be embalmed.

A memorial service will be held in the Johannesburg football stadium where the 2010 World Cup Final took place, before a state funeral is held next weekend.

President Zuma has also ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half mast until after the funeral has taken place.

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