Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg where the event is due to take place, an agreement has been reached with the family. As a result, Goldstone will not be attending the synagogue service, scheduled for early next month.
Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated last winter's Gaza war. The commission's final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and said there may be evidence of crimes against humanity.
Some of the role-players were tight-lipped when contacted by JTA, with Avrom Krengel, chairman of the SAZF, saying: “We understand that there’s a bar mitzva boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues and at this stage there’s nothing further to say.”
Jewish groups had planned to organize a protest outside of the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.
Reached in Washington where he is currently based, Goldstone was reluctant to comment save to say: “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”
Retired chief justice of South Africa Arthur Chaskalson said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzva. “If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone. They should hang their heads in shame.”