The chairman of the South African chapter of World Likud was gunned down on Tuesday outside of his air-conditioning firm in Benrose, a suburb of Johannesburg.
Sergio Kowensky, 67, sustained multiple shot wounds and was left for dead on the side of the road by unknown assailants, who fled the scene without taking his car, wallet, or cellphone, according to the South African Jewish Report. A police investigation is ongoing.
“The initial fears were that this could have been the work of anti-Israel fanatics,” the paper explained, “given that Kowensky spent his entire life dedicated to Zionist ideals, with an intense passion for the well-being of the State of Israel.”
Kowensky was an outspoken supporter of Israel and its ruling Likud party, which he represented on the South African Zionist Federation’s management committee.
According to his friend Mike Fisher, Kowensky was also “known to members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” the SA Jewish Report noted.
Other sources told the paper that in recent months, Kowensky was allegedly “involved in fraught wage negotiations with staff members at his company,” which went into liquidation last year.
“Some speculate the murder may have been revenge for the many lay-offs,” it reported. “His friends and family would not be drawn on the matter.”
Kowensky was described as a spiritual, Sabbath-observant man who attended Torah classes every week and did charitable work “behind the scenes.” He was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Holocaust survivors, and taught Hebrew at a local school before making aliyah to Israel with his parents. He studied engineering at the Technion and met his wife, a South African, while in Israel.
“My father breathed Zionism,” Kowensky’s youngest son Joni told the SA Jewish Report. “As a religious man, he knew all sides and engaged everyone on the subject, including those who held opposing views. He knew the history of Israel backwards, and enjoyed engaging people on the subject, including people like well-known United States lawyer Alan Dershowitz.”
Ifat Ovadia-Luski, CEO of World Likud, expressed shock at Kowensky’s “tragic death,” saying he “dedicated his life to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
He was also eulogized by Yaakov Hagoel, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization and chair of World Likud, who praised his passion for Zionism, activism, and Israel.
Kowensky is survived by his wife Alison, their daughter Michal, 42, and their sons Doron, 40, and Joni, 32.
Late last month, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies raised alarm over what they described as a rising number of antisemitic incidents, both on social media and in person.
These included a mural in Johannesburg of a German flag overlaid with a swastika.
“We are being told that we are ‘scum’, ‘rats’, ‘bastards’, ‘pigs’, ‘swine’ and ‘fat-nosed f***ks,” the group warned. “We are further being warned that ‘our time is coming’ and that ‘the Holocaust will be a picnic after we are done with you.’”
Days earlier, South African model Shashi Naidoo said she received several death threats after defending Israel and accusing the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas of turning the Gaza Strip into a “s**thole” on social media. The model has since walked back her statements, saying they were written on her behalf by a friend, and committed to visiting the Palestinian territories in a tour organized by the BDS campaign.