Sadly, earlier this week the Jewish community was informed that Jocelyn Hellig passed away after a long illness. Jocelyn always gave of herself to the community, either as a member of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (with over twenty years of services, this past year she was the national vice-chairperson) or as a respected academic (she was the Associate Professor of World Religions at Wits University) renowned as one of Jewry's leading minds on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
Hellig's intellect belonged to Jewry, always marshalled to the benefit of the community. She had the courage and foresight to, at times, adopt controversial opinions which challenged her constituency, creating debate and questioning cherished beliefs.
Those lucky enough to have ever heard her on the radio will agree with me that when she was a guest on a talk-show, we could always rest assured, that the Jewish perspective of whatever the issue under discussion was, would be put forward accurately and articulately.
The last time I heard her on the radio was June 2007. Mike did a quick write-up at the time and his praise back then is a fitting tribute to her quintessential characteristics: Jocelyn Hellig crucifies anti-Semitism
|I happened to catch Professor Jocelyn Hellig’s interview on Sunday night with Kate Turkington on her Talk Radio 702 show “Believe It or Not”. She was speaking on traditional largely Christian anti-Semitism. To put it mildly, she was brilliant.
She never once lost her cool despite many infuriating questions. When callers claimed that Romans had never been in Israel or that Judea was actually called Palestine in Jesus’ time, her responses were tolerant and yet still convincing. I was not the only one impressed by Professor Hellig. Many non-Jews sent smses after the show imploring the host to invite her to come back. Even Kate Turkington was impressed. In closing she described Professor Hellig as a person of immense tolerance.
To be honest, I don’t always agree with Professor Hellig’s positions and have on a few occasion written letters to the South African Jewish Report (SAJR) in response. But she is certainly one of SA Jewries greatest intellectuals. We are fortunate that she has taken such an active role in the leadership of the South African Jewish board of deputies.
Her passing is a tremendous loss and she will be sorely missed.
The Jewish Board will be compiling a tribute book for Jocelyn's family and they have asked if anyone has memories, tributes or messages that they would like to share, to please send it in to their offices (beagle - at - beyachad -dot-co-dot-za). You are welcome to use the comments to add your tributes or memories and we will forward them on to the Board.