For the week ending 10 December 2016 / 10 Kislev 5777

African Delegation Visits Ohr Somayach

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
Library Library Library

Late on the holy Shabbat eve of this past Parshat Chayei Sarah, the “Dark Room” of the Slonimer Chasidim in Meah Shearim was lit up by the presence of a group from Ohr Somayach. They had just come from a tishe at Toldos Avraham Yitzchok, where they experienced a “minor earthquake” caused by the rapturous singing of the young men in bleachers reaching up to the rafters. They were already on a spiritual high. In Slomim, after the tishe, the Chassidim retreat to an unlit and totally dark hall for an additional connection to the holiness of Shabbat. As the soulful nigunim (tunes of singing) were picked up by the crowd, the spirits of the Ohr Somayach group soared. While this may not sound unusual, the group was not the usual collection of visiting young menfrom the Yeshiva, but high-powered businessmen and CEOs from Africa, Israel and England. The group was multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious. They came together for an amazing Shabbat experience organized and led by Rabbi Avrohom Connack, Rabbi Reuven Geffen and Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz, of our staff.

The contingent of South African Jewish businessmen was led by Sean Melnick (who has been the mainstay and chief recruiter of the “Executive Learning Programme” from its start five years ago) and who is the Chairman of the Board of Peregrine Holdings, Ltd. a South African publicly-traded company, and also of its UK subsidiary Stenham, Ltd. of London, a large asset management and investment group with billions of dollars in assets. There was another part of this group consisting of African CEOs led by Raoul Gamsu, who is CEO of Consolidated Infrastructure Group, which operates across 23 African countries providing power, logistics, oil and gas, and waste services. Raoul’s group included:

Clive Zulberg: CEO of Stallion Holdings (Pty) Ltd., a multi-services group which operates predominantly in the Security Services sector, with more than 12,000 employees spread over six African countries.

Christopher Whitfield: CEO of the Batswadi Group, a healthcare company primarily focused on Biotechnology sales, marketing, research and development.

Rowan Crowie: CEO of Holdings (Pty) Ltd. and Enza Construction (Pty) Ltd., a property and infrastructure group that has many subsidiaries operating in the property development, infrastructure development and construction space in Africa.

Themba Mkhwanazi: CEO of Kumba Iron Ore Limited, which is one of the largest producers of iron ore in the world. It has over 8,500 employees and income in the billions of dollars a year.

Adam Craker: CEO of IQ Business, the leading independent management consulting firm in Africa. IQ Business works with clients across Africa, Australia and the UK, mainly in consumer segments (financial services, retail and telecommunications).

The Shabbat experience, which was centered in the Old City and began with davening at the Kotel and meals at the home of Sean Melnick, was the culmination of a four-day program called the “Executive Learning Programme”. This event was organized and led by Rabbi Avrohom Connack, a former South African who teaches the highest level shiur in the Beit Midrash at Ohr Somayach. The core group, consisting of ten South African businessmen, spent Thursday, Friday and Sunday at the Yeshiva learning gemara with intensity, and also hearing shiurim in Chumash and from Rabbis Brietowitz and Dovid Kaplan; in philosophy from Rabbi Dovid Gottleib; Mussar (Ethics) from Rabbi Pesach Segal, and lectures on various topics from Rabbi Avraham Riesman, Rabbi Nachshon Schiller, Mr. Dovid Olesker and the Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Nota Schiller. A highlight of the extremely leibadik (lively) Friday night dinner with much singing and dancing was an address by one of our Center students, Betzalel Yedidya from the Cameroons. Betzalel is from noble ancestry on both sides of his family.

As they left the “Dark Room” a number of participants (and not just Jewish ones) told him that it was the most exciting and meaningful experience they had had in their lifetimes.

The Executive Learning Programme has become a yearly event, and the appreciation of the attendees was expressed by one participant in the following email received by Rabbi Connack:

Dear Rabbi,

Thanks so much to you and your esteemed colleagues for putting on such a fantastic programme this past weekend.

The memories will live with me forever, but more importantly, G-d willing, the benefits should continue to have a positive impact on my life (and my family’s life) going forward.

I will certainly spread the word about the good work that you are doing, and the wonderful acceptance of all people, no matter what their backgrounds, into your organisation.

Wishing you all the mazel and brocha going forward that you deserve.

Kind regards,

Ivor Klitzner

CFO – Chief Financial Officer
Consolidated Infrastructure Group Limited

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