19 November 2007

19 November 2007 - In memoriam: Abe Barron

My good friend Abe Barron succumbed to cancer yesterday in Cape Town after a long and brave fight. Abe was a prominent leader in the South African Jewish community as well as a successful businessman. He took an interest in my career when I was a freelance journalist and was a constant ally in political debates within the Jewish community and in the broad cut-and-thrust of South African politics.

When I began working for the opposition Democratic Alliance as a speechwriter, Abe was a constant source of advice and support. We often shared ideas and gossip about policies and personalities. When I ran for city council in 2006 as a “flag-waver” in an unwinnable seat, Abe was so committed to an opposition victory that he pledged to match whatever funds I raised for my campaign. And he did.

Abe was that rarity in Jewish communal politics: a man who believed that Jewish leaders should stand up for the community’s values and interests even (and especially) when doing so might be risky or unpopular. He challenged the lethargy and apathy of his colleagues, often earning their ire but always commanding their respect. He was a maverick who delivered, a dreamer who got things done.

When I think of Abe there is one phrase that always leaps to mind: “Maybe they could do something.” He was always interested in new voices and emerging leaders. He was a strong supporter of Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille long before she announced her candidacy. He was a DA man but non-partisan in his enthusiasm for skill, talent and commitment. South African politics needed more men like Abe.

I will miss him dearly. I will miss our coffees and lunches at Café Riteve. I will miss our long telephone conversations. I will miss our dinners together at the High Holidays. There are many, many more people who will miss him as well. I thought to use a Biblical phrase to mourn him: “How the mighty have fallen.” But Abe might have found that a bit too much. So let me just say he was a great Jewish citizen.

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