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Take time to reassess and smell the roses

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As a community, we punch way above our weight. Our contribution to the economy, the country, and its people is quite phenomenal. This was evident on Sunday night at our Absa Jewish Achiever Awards. I was so very proud of our community. We have every reason to be proud. It is not often that we actually take time to consider the good we do as a community and as individuals.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Sep 06, 2018

As our team worked on the Achiever magazine, writing up each finalist and winner’s profile, we were astonished at the calibre of nominees and what our people are achieving. It was hard not to be blown away by the incredible things people are doing. Of course, there could only be one winner per category. But, believe me, every one of those finalists are winners. You can see for yourself in the magazine that accompanies this bumper Rosh Hashanah edition.

When looking at the winners, I couldn’t help but notice a clear inadvertent pattern emerging. A significant percentage of winners are either in legal or media fields. To me, the connection between these two areas are that they are all about communicating, about finding and alerting people to the truth.

In a time where communication has changed significantly, and there is such a glut of fake news, insincerity and hate speech, it feels right that our Jewish Achiever winners have a theme of communication and seeking honesty and truth.

It also fits in so well with what we do on this newspaper. It makes it all the more significant because the Achiever Awards is our annual fundraiser.

At the event itself, I was impressed by the significant acceptance speeches made by a few of the winners. Those particular speeches were less about the people accepting their awards, and more about calling on people to make a difference in the country.

Women in Leadership winner Professor Bonita Meyersfeld, a human rights lawyer, said: “We have the greatest power of imagination; we also have the greatest power of empathy and ability to actualise change.” She called on us to become that change.

Business winner Mike Abel said, “If everybody in this room is happy with a little bit less, and actually focuses on how we use our massive creativity, intellect, and wisdom to help uplift those in South Africa who have been excluded from society – we can make a massive and meaningful difference and have a sustainable future.”

And so it went on. My sense is there is a move among our community – and possible those in the country – to take our power back and make a difference ourselves. We are no longer waiting for government and the “authorities” to create change, we are doing it ourselves. And our winners are calling it.

I am fully behind this sentiment. Once again, it made me feel full of pride and love for this community, and our many winners. Could my love have anything to do with it being the month of Elul? I was reminded this week that the Hebrew letters that make up the word “Elul” are the acronym for the beautiful biblical phrase “ani l’dodi v’dodi li” (I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me). This is about all caring relationships: husband and wife, close friends, us and G-d, and perhaps even parents and children. This is about love that is mutual and shared. It is about connection, and having each other’s backs, protecting, and looking after each other.

It is about who we are at our very core – caring about each other – although we don’t always show it.

As we move toward Rosh Hashanah on Sunday, we start to slow down and take in what is happening around us. This has been a hectic year for most of us. Most are feeling the pinch of what was this week confirmed to be a recession. We are concerned about our future in South Africa, both as Jews and other citizens.

However, despite this, Spring has sprung and the blossoms are in full bloom. The old year is ending, and a brand new one is about to begin. And every new year brings new hope.

As we move into the high holy days, let’s look around us and smell the roses. We have time to appreciate what we have. We have time to look back on our year and our past, and look forward to a better new year.

We have time to tell those we love and care about just how much they mean to us.

We have time to make meaningful decisions about how we want to be and make amends for the mistakes of the past.

We have time to decide to be the change we want to see.

It is about – as our Absa Jewish Achiever Awards theme states – regeneration (or being the Re-Generation). It is about regrowth and finding the buds you want to develop into something more meaningful.

In this bumper edition, we have many thoughtful opinion pieces by learned rabbis and thought leaders, mostly related to Rosh Hashanah.

Someone asked me recently why we provided longer and more opinionated articles in the Rosh Hashanah edition. It is simple: it is a spiritual time, and a time for thoughtfulness. It is a time to consider what we are doing, and what we are about. I reach out to those who know so much more than me to share with us and give us food for thought over this time.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

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