The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and politics, 1930-1978.
The pivot around which the controversy over the Board's political policy revolved was the question whether a collective Jewish attitude towards the government's racial policies should be formulated, or whether this was the province of individual Jewish protest. Stemming from this was the question of the extent of communal responsibility towards the individual who had fallen afoul with the law in expressing his protest. The complexity of formulating policy was exacerbated by the trauma of the 1930's and 1940's where the National Party and its leadership espoused a radical anti-Semitic ideology and a pro-Nazism policy. Added to this was the very real sympathy felt for the aspirations of survival of the Afrikaner People, conflated by a revulsion and antipathy towards the measures the nationalist Government took to attain this end. The solution hit upon by the Board was a policy of 'neutrality' in the political area. This dissertation is an attempt to highlight the problems with which the Board grappled and its central concerns in formulating policy vis-a-vis the political issues that were at the centre of the political life of South Africa. The study follows the evolvement of the policy of collective non-involvement from the 1950s and the gradual evolution it underwent in the 1970s and 1980s towards a commitment and a responsibility to openly and publicly speak out on the moral aspects of Apartheid. In view of the above, the thesis begins in 1930 with the promulgation of the Quota Act, which initiated the new antisemitic policies of the National Party, until 1978. The epilogue ends 1985 when the Board of Deputies abandoned its policy of neutrality towards the political arena, when the 33rd National congress of the Jewish Board of Deputies, passed a resolution condemning the Policy of Apartheid, thus adopting a collective stance towards the government's racial policies. Although this stance was in line with the views prevalent in the white community, it signalled a giant step in the Board of Deputies' drive to abandon its policy of accommodation towards the NP government and Nationalist forces.