Alana Baranov is a freelance writer and social justice activist based in Durban, South Africa. She holds an MPhil in Justice and Transformation from the University of Cape Town and was formerly the first Diplomatic Liaison for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) as well as the Vice President of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry. Alana is a founding and Steering Committee member of the Hate Crimes Working Group, a multi-sectoral network of civil society organizations working together to advocate for hate crimes awareness and legislation in South Africa. Alana also runs various refugee and interfaith projects for the SAJBD, including forming the country’s first interfaith and multi-national election observer team ‘Make Us Count’. She spent many years engaged in Zimbabwean democracy advocacy work and has been extensively involved with the Durban Holocaust and Genocide Centre, running their adult education and social justice programs. Alana is a Steering Committee member of the World Jewish Congress’ flagship program the Jewish Diplomatic Corps. Writing on feminist issues and refugee and asylum seeker rights; interfaith and current affairs as well the fight against xenophobia, antisemitism and other forms of hate, Alana has been published in local and international newspapers and websites and has appeared on television and radio as a spokesperson for the Jewish community.
Andrea Mifano is a partner in a construction and development company in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. She went to Law School, has a postgraduate degree in Management and an MBA in Real Estate. She is part of the Young Entrepreneurs Group of SECOVI – SP, a respected Real Estate organization in the country. She is also one of SECOVI’s Vice Delegates before FECOMÉRCIO SP’s (São Paulo’s Trade Federation) Board of Directors. She has been a member of the World Jewish Congress JD Corps for almost two years, is part of AJC’s ACCESS group in Brazil, and was part of the Young Jewish Leaders Diplomatic Seminar from the Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017.
Chaya Singer is the incoming Executive Director of the South African Zionist Federation Cape Council (SAZFCC). For the past four years she served as the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Liaison for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), facilitating legislative input and building relationships across the political spectrum. Prior to joining the SAJBD, she served terms first as Chairperson of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and thereafter as Chairperson of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS), becoming the first South African to hold that position. She is graduating with a Masters Degree in Government, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution from the Lauder School of Government at the IDC Herzliya, and holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. Last year the Gauteng Provincial Government presented Chaya with its Youth Excellence Award for Social Cohesion, which recognizes inspiring young people whose development has had a significant impact on people and communities in Gauteng.
Sara Galico was born and raised in Mexico City, where she graduated with honors from the Universidad Iberoamericana in International Relations. She is a high school teacher at the Colegio Hebreo Sefaradi in Mexico City. For more than 15 years she has fought against antisemitism, discrimination, and hatred, seeking alternatives to create environments of inclusion and tolerance in society. She is currently a member of the JD Corps of the World Jewish Congress, an elite diplomatic program representing the Jewish communities of the world.
Sara has contributed to the publication of several articles related to social justice and has given international lectures for teachers, families, and students on prejudice, discrimination, antisemitism, the holocaust, bullying, and cyber-bullying. She is a writer on current affairs and the creator of “Dos de Opinion” blog.
Dr. Efrat Sopher serves as Chair of the Board of Advisors at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, and serves on the Executive Committee of the HMS Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Centre at the University of Haifa. She is an advisor on foreign policy in the Middle East to governments and organizations. She formally practices as a solicitor in London, she is an active member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps and has represented the WJC worldwide, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council. She is also a Deputy at the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Dr. Sopher studied international relations, earning a Bachelors from the University of Southern California, and from the London School of Economics and Political Science her masters and her PhD, specializing in Israeli foreign policy towards Iran 1948-1979. As part of her degree she revealed and analyzed documents that have previously been sealed from public view.
As kids, we had a climbing frame in our garden. In that non-digital age, I spent hours climbing, swinging and occasionally injuring myself on it – but once a year it was transformed by my father into our sukkah.
I would help to attach three walls, leaving one entrance open. We would cut down branches for the roof and then decorate it, with fruit hanging from the ceiling. Then we would bring in a table and chairs ready to spend the next eight days celebrating the festival of Sukkot with friends, commemorating the temporary dwellings made to shelter our ancestors on their way out of Egypt to the Land of Israel.
We continue this tradition today with our children. It is customary to eat and sleep in the sukkah – however, we live in Manchester and as it rains here... a lot. We take the soft option and just eat in it.
During the festival, we engage in the custom of the taking of the ‘Four Species’ - A palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim) – these are wrapped together and held with a citron (etrog). On each day of Sukkot, we recite a blessing over the Four Species and the citron, bringing them together and shaking them to the right, left, forward, up, down and backward. We teach our children, as we were taught, that the Four Species represent the strengths and failings of the Jewish people and how we are bound together to support each other and atone for each other.
For me, it is this message of unity which is at the heart of Sukkot. We are one people, whether we are at home in Israel or within the Diaspora. Like the Four Species, we are here to support each other as a unified people, to offer strength to those who are weak, guidance to those who are lost and to be able to turn to others when we are lacking. ‘Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh BaZeh’, ‘All Jews are responsible for each other’.
The inclusivity of the festival and the importance of bonding together is underlined by the mitzvah of inviting guests to the Sukkah. Throughout our community, sukkahs pop up – in the city center and locally so Jews can come together, eat, meet and say blessings.
Sadly, during the COVID-19 pandemic which blights the world, we are unable to do sit together in the sukkah this year. We cannot be there in person with family and friends. Virtual, online options help to keep us connected, but there is no feeling like being able to sit together, around a table and share stories and celebrate our shared history and faith.
We have faith however and we know that this too shall pass. There will be a time in the not too distant future when we will be together again, like the Four Species, under the branches of the roof of our sukkah.
Daniel Berke is a Director of UK Lawyers For Israel and a Member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps of the World Jewish Congress.
He is the founder of 3D Solicitors specializing in criminal, professional discipline and regulatory law. Daniel has acted in a number of very high-profile cases, acting for clients including politicians, celebrities, senior police officers, and well-known business-people. He has appeared on Newsnight, Radio 4, mainstream news broadcasts, and been quoted in all major broadsheet newspapers. In 2007, Daniel was presented with the Herzl Award by the World Zionist Organisation. He has worked nationally and internationally for the World Jewish Congress on a range of issues, including tackling online antisemitism.
Florin Zevi is a technical engineer based in Prishtina, Kosovo*. He has been deeply engaged with the worldwide Jewish community through many years of involvement on the national and international stage. Florin organizes a Jewish Festival, Israeli film and Art week, and Holocaust Remembrance Day event giving a stage to Holocaust survivors. He also works to bring minorities and religious communities together in dialogue. He is pushing for Holocaust education and antisemitism awareness in schools.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence