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Op-eds

So over chicken

  • Howard Feldman 2018
I just can’t talk about chickens anymore. I really, really can’t. And that’s not only because I am being sued by Jeffery C Shull of Stan & Pete for defamation of his character, but because I am just done with it. I am so over the chicken story, you have no idea.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Mar 22, 2018

If I hear one more “Why did the chicken cross the road” joke, if I hear one more time that the whole saga is “fowl”, if one more person asks me if my “wings have been clipped”, I think I am going to lose it. If another stand-up wannabee suggests that the Beth Din is running around like “a chicken without a head”, and if I see one more S&P Downgrade reference, I am not sure that I will cope.

As it is, I will never be able to look a chicken in the eye again. Or in the breast.

The story has consumed the community and it’s time to move on. Is it not high time that we spent some of our valuable energy complaining that we have to have the Greenbaums again for the Pesach seder, when not once in 30 years have we had so much as a cup of tea in their house? Not a cup of tea, never mind one of Edna’s dry biscuits she tells us about ad nauseum. One would think she is Nigella Lawson, for goodness sake. 

And the expectation! That’s what kills us. It’s the expectation that first night they will come to us. What if, for once, we wanted to go out? Or if we got an invitation? And it’s not like they contribute to the evening in any way. It’s actually such a disgrace, and I want to say something, but you know how it is. And I heard that Sally Williams is not going kosher for Pesach this year, but watch Edna bring a box from last year. I wouldn’t be surprised. Not. One. Bit.

Perhaps we can channel some of our pent-up outrage towards Pesach food prices? That way, we get to bash the Beth Din as well as the retailers, who must be “laughing all the way to the bank”.

Alternatively, we can look at our community and be grateful for what we have. We might have our challenges with rising institutionalised anti-Semitism in the ANC and some other political parties, and yes, there is no doubting the chaos of the Stan & Pete debacle and the cracks that it might have elucidated within the Beth Din; and yes, kosher food and Jewish schools are expensive. As is life in South Africa.

But the blessings that we have in South Africa as a Jewish community are tremendous. A vivid image I have from a recent trip to Amsterdam is of an armed soldier, dressed in fatigues, standing watch from a tower above the entrance to the Jewish day school. It highlighted for me just how fortunate we are.

The aisles of various supermarkets are filled with “kosher for Pesach” items and the number of Jewish day schools, shuls, welfare organisations, orphanages, retirement homes,  charities and Zionist organisations – and even kosher restaurants and caterers per capita of Jew – is the envy of the world. It is, in fact, rare for an international speaker not to speak about the unity of our community and what an example we are.

And whereas the awful chicken saga has made us question the foundation of Jewish South Africa (certainly Jewish Johannesburg), we do need to zoom out just a little and to note not only what is treif, but also what is kosher.

We are good at complaining. We have mastered the art (I certainly have), and of course there are conversations that need to be had. The community needs to understand how the chicken story happened and needs to feel confident that kashrut is in capable hands.

But it is equally important not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and to focus on the important things… Like what we are going to do if Edna actually gives us last year’s Sally Williams. On Pesach, noch al. 

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