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The Jewish Report Editorial

Looking back and looking forward

  • GeoffEditorial
In my final editorial, at the end of 2014, some reflection on the last 16 years, since the founding of the paper, is called for.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Dec 08, 2014

This has not been an easy year for South African Jews. The ugly incidents of anti-Israel activism put on by BDS, rising sentiments against Israel within the ANC ruling party, open participation in these acts by Cosatu and other events which have become anti-Jewish, not just anti-Israel - such as placing pigs’ heads in supposedly kosher shelves at Woolworths - have cast a pall over the Jewish community.  

The result has been to make it feel increasingly uncomfortable in this country, notwithstanding the growing involvement of Jews in developing the society and their sense of patriotism and “South Africanness”.

Then came the recent meeting of Jewish leadership with PA President Mahmoud Abbas which evoked outrage and consternation among certain sectors of SA Jewry - even leading to accusations of stabbing Israel in the back. And in Israel itself, growing violence and terrorism - particularly by lone wolves - poses the threat of another intifada, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling new elections amidst an atmosphere of crisis in Israeli politics.

During this time the Jewish Report and myself as editor have tried to reflect accurately this roller-coaster, while giving a voice to all members of South African Jewry and being a critical face of it to broader society and government.

This is what we have done for all years of this paper’s life. Integrity and credibility is something one cannot buy, you earn it over a long time. It is a jewel that needs to be protected very preciously. When we started 16 years ago, it was an ideal we fought for against many interest groups who tried to impose on us their own agendas and viewpoints.

Now we can look back. One thing nobody can take away from us is our credibility, integrity and high standard of journalism. We were determined never to lower ourselves to the level of smut, of tabloid reporting, but we never shied away from difficult issues. I talk here not just as editor, but for the whole staff of the paper, who shared zealously the same work ethic and vision. We are indebted too, to those people outside of the paper who gave it their support and encouragement through the good times and bad times, even when they didn’t always agree with everything in it. We are proud of it.

Reporting on matters Jewish is never going to be easy. We serve a readership which is highly critical, with strong diverse views, and in general well educated on local and broader issues. They cannot be fobbed off with platitudes.

Putting a newspaper together is the ultimate collaborative and team effort. Literally thousands of facts, perspectives and questions go into producing the product and treading that golden line with a healthy dollop of realism and scepticism to reinforce its credibility. Readers must know that what is published in the Jewish Report is believable. 

Some 750 editions of the paper have been produced since its founding in 1998, each one like giving birth to a weekly “miracle”. The input of numerous people - both professional journalists and others from a diverse range of interests - has been fundamental. A newspaper is a living, breathing organism with a life of its own, sometimes obstinately so.

Going forward into the year 2015 and beyond, I am confident that we are passing on a solid platform for honest and open Jewish debate and reflection. The Jewish Report has become an intrinsic part of the fabric of South African Jewry, to the extent that it is sometimes taken for granted. The difficulties and obstacles involved in producing a newspaper such as this - which is self-funding - are often not appreciated.

I wish the new editor a long and healthy relationship with this great paper

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