Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris (OBE)
1936 – 2005
The Chief Rabbi and his wife Ann came to South Africa towards the end of 1987 and were immediately aware that much needed to be done. But this work was slow to get off the ground; beginning at first with influencing the hearts of the Jewish community.
By the time of Nelson Mandela’s release, the Rabbi felt that if the Jewish community was to remain a presence in South Africa, it would “have to accept the new situation and it would have to be seen to accept the situation and do something about it.”
So it was from that idea that the word Tikkun was used to start an initiative that would harness the energies of those committed to building a new South Africa.
The Chief Rabbi was vociferous in his efforts, successfully, to establish and improve relationships between South African Jews and the black community. During his tenure as South Africa’s Chief Rabbi, he made known his strong opposition to any kind of racial discrimination, and his partnership with Bertie in the establishment of Tikkun provided him with the perfect vehicle to put his theories into practice.
Read the Chief Rabbi’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation. Look out on page 5 where the Chief Rabbi explains why “Tikkun” was started.
The Chief Rabbi drew on the Jewish tradition as a rich source of ethical and practical imperatives to help build a non-racial society.
“Faith in the essential unity of humankind as creatures of one G-d and as descendants of one common ancestor provides the foundation for the proper development of inter-community relationships. Recognising the moral imperatives governing human affairs, men and women of goodwill can face up to the challenge of our time and make the caring society a reality.”
his remains the guiding principle of Afrika Tikkun.
The Chief Rabbi said that the concept of Afrika Tikkun was twofold – ideological while at the same time ‘brutally practical’. He saw his role as co-chairman of Afrika Tikkun as “the inspirer to continue the efforts… to create new avenues of help and get more and more of our community involved”.
For seventeen years, from 1987-2004, the Chief Rabbi brought gravitas, passion and humour to bear on political, social and religious issues in South Africa. His memory lives on in the work of Afrika Tikkun.
“Next week we look back at the contribution of Nelson Mandela to Afrika Tikkun.”.