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Cape Board not sitting on their laurels – Chair

Cape Board chair Eric Marx (pic) delivered a comprehensive report to the “Citizen Cohen” conference last Sunday. SA Jewish Report Online publishes his speech of the highlights in text form as well as his full chairman’s report as a PDF document which users can download, print or send to family and friends. Marx painted a picture of a Cape community under duress from anti-Semitism, but holding its own due to programmes it has put into place over the past few years, as well as new initiatives it is pursuing.

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ERIC MARX

CAPE BOARD CONFERENCE: CITIZEN COHEN

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies chairman Eric Marx (pictured throughout) delivered a comprehensive report to the “Citizen Cohen” conference (poster below) last Sunday. SA Jewish Report Online was at the conference and published: CITIZEN COHEN – THE LIVE BLOG.

The following is a verbatim transcript of the speech delivered by chairman Eric Marx to the 150-odd delegates attending the conference:

5774-greek HOMEKavod HaRabbanim, distinguished guests and community leaders, National Chairman of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, Mary Kluk, members of the Cape Board, ladies and gentlemen.

My Detailed Report has been included in your packs and covers the activities of the Cape Board generally, and specifically during the past year.

I shall now highlight a few areas:   

  • The Cape Board came into existence 110 years ago with its mission to represent Jews in the Cape, safeguard their civil rights, prevent threats of anti-Semitism and contribute to the enhancement of Jewish communal life           
  • This mission remains true today but, in addition, the Cape Board has extended its activities to include political lobbying, outreach, interfaith, and an extensive information resource.
  • We also now have two new departments namely social change and young adult development 
  • The Cape Board has its own independent constitution and is the umbrella organization of Jewry. Its 15 members are democratically elected for a two-year term by the various constituent organizations and by ballot of the Cape Community. Various other individuals sit at the Board table by virtue of their past or present leadership positions in the community.  Our funding comes from the United Jewish Campaign and we are affiliated to the National Board with whom we share common goals and have a close relationship.

 

INTERNAL           

In broad terms, we ensure that there are effective channels of communication to and by our community.

We collaborate with other Jewish organizations and individuals to ensure that our message is transmitted and that we focus on issues that are relevant.

We understand the need to grow and encourage future leaders and young adult participation.

 

EXTERNAL          

We network with international communal organizations as well as with local NGOs.

We facilitate conversations and initiatives to play our part as agents of positive change in SA.

We have established extensive networks and friendships through interfaith initiatives.

 

ANTI-SEMITISM               

I recognize that our core mandate is to protect and defend the civil rights of Cape Jewry.

The fact is that, here in the Cape, we have a huge Muslim community who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. The ANC under Fransman is in political opposition and COSATU has a strong and vocal presence. This all combines to make our community particularly vulnerable.

We support our Jewish students through SAUJS (the Union of Jewish Students) particularly during Israel Apartheid Week (or as we call it Israel Awareness Week) at UCT. I have pledged, together with the SAZF Cape Council, to renew our efforts to advise and support SAUJS.

REPORT CONTINUES BELOW PICTURE…
5774-Fiddler Tevya
Operation Protective Edge in Gaza has resulted in an unprecedented onslaught of anti-Semitic incidents, particularly on social media.

During the period January to August 2014, the Board and the CSO, recorded 144 incidents classified as Anti-Semitic, nearly 90 during July alone. Unlike in other Diaspora communities, our anti-Semitism is non-violent, but the huge onslaught has been a cause for concern and, correctly, has occupied a great deal of our time. 

I am, and we are vigilant and committed to act speedily and where necessary in all matters affecting Cape Jewry.

We partner with the National Office to act decisively where there is anti-Semitism or where our civil liberties require defending.

It is noteworthy that, at a meeting of Board leadership, which I attended with President Zuma on Thursday, he emphasized the government’s abhorrence of anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance       

               

SOCIAL CHANGE DEPARTMENT

Our Social Change Department takes its mandate from a key strategy in our mission statement which is “working for the betterment of human relations between Jews and all other peoples of SA based on mutual respect, understanding and goodwill.”

It directs us to build relationships within and outside of the Jewish community by engaging with issues of concern to all South Africans, increase the credibility and reach of the Cape Board and build the brand of the Jewish community.

This work is both strategic and an authentic expression of our Jewish values and tradition           

The Gender Based Violence and Abuse Education and Awareness campaign is a joint initiative of a large number of communal organizations and aims to raise the profile and awareness of GBV inside the Jewish Community. The campaign has included a number of workshops for youth movements, CSO, EZRA and Herzlia teachers, counsellors and support staff.

Gina Flash is the professional running this department and she has been elected to the board of the SA Faith and Families Institute, which assists faith leaders to support their communities in regard to GBV.

We are now in the third year of our Peer 2 Peer Mentorship program at UCT. In partnership with the HCI Foundation, Jewish third and fourth year students mentor first year students from disadvantaged backgrounds to ease them into university life to combat the 40% first year dropout rate.

An exciting development is the creation of a Social Change network called “Mensch.” The Cape Board has brought this much-needed network of Jewish individuals and organizations engaged in social change and community building to fruition and there will be a launch in November. This will comprise an on-line internet based network as well as off-line networking meetings creating a map of Jews working in the field of social change and facilitating access to others in similar fields.

Under the social change department we continue to promote recycling, assist in emergency relief and participate in the annual One to One festival for the physically and mentally challenged, as well as various other initiatives.

               

GENERATION NEXT DEPARTMENT           

I think that the most significant initiative of the Cape Board this year was the creation of the Generation Next Department with Lauren Kessler as the lead professional.

Jewish continuity and ensuring involvement by Jewish young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 is an imperative and the Cape Board has taken this on.

Lauren has undertaken extensive research both locally and internationally to provide young adults with relevant programming and platforms to express themselves Jewishly and communally. The aim is to foster young leadership, research trends and identify interests, issues and agendas in the community, network and reach the unaffiliated            

Moishe House is an international project, which has now been established as a country first here in Cape Town. A Moishe House is now in Vredehoek and residents are expected to arrange Shabbat dinners, shiurim, films, learning and outreach – to attract young people to be part of a young adult Jewish Community

A new brand “cool Jews doing cool things in cool places” has been established aimed at attracting young Jews to hear interesting ideas and perspectives.

Ignite is an innovative project to develop future young leadership where participants attend an 8 week leadership development course. I am pleased to be able to welcome some of this years’ participants to this conference.

We have also continued with our Mini Nachum Goldman program where we provide a safe environment to develop members in an independent setting outside of the formal community structure

               

POLITICAL LOBBYING DEPARTMENT       

The Political Lobbying Department is a vitally important part of the Board’s activities. We pro-actively lobby and engage local politicians, journalists, business and influential people, not only to establish a line of communication should we need it, but also to educate and promote the Board brand.

This department, under professional, Craig Nudelman, serves as a media contact and strengthens the Board’s Brand, and therefore the profile of the Jewish community.

The National Board takes the lead role in lobbying Government and has established good relationships with key politicians. So much so that the Government has been clear in its support for our community, has contradicted and clarified statements made by certain ANC members, and have resisted the call to expel the Israeli Ambassador. The Government recently sent Envoys to the Middle East, and they returned with a balanced view. Government sees itself as a role player for a peaceful two state solution.

B Jen has been an amazingly successful initiative where we have partnered with SABEF (SA Black Entrepreneurs Forum) and Investec to bring together Jewish and Black Entrepreneurs to network with each other. We have had five events in Cape Town, bringing together over 250 entrepreneurs. The Board Councils in Johannesburg and Durban have picked up the project.

I firmly believe that we should increase our efforts to reach out to the Black community, both to understand each other and to play our part in the broader SA Society as agents of positive change.

This department also holds so-called “Think n Drink” sessions where Board and invited Community members meet influential and interesting people.

We held two “Transformation Conversions” which are events open to everyone on subjects addressing SA issues.

These high profile events were well attended, the speakers were experts in their fields, and it showed the commitment of Jews to address wider issues and be part of civil society.

Events held were

  • Immigration policy in SA
  • 20 years on – reconciliation in SA and Rwanda
  • We continue to co-ordinate the annual Yom Hashoah event

               

INTERNATIONAL

 

The Cape Board is in touch with organizations overseas and Leaders and Staff attended a number of seminars and events. Substantially all of the funding for international travel was subsidized by outside organizations or personally.

 

INTERFAITH       

I regard interfaith dialogue and events as crucial to our mandate and would like the Cape Board to increase its profile in this area. We also must not take our relationship with the Christian community for granted as they are committed supporters.

Through the often behind the scenes work down by people such as Gwynne Robins, Gina Flash, Lester Hoffman and Mickey Glass, bridges with other faith groups are built and enduring relationships established.  58

               

COMMUNICATION        

We recognize that effective communication with our constituency is crucial, having due regard to the diverse nature of our community.

We continue to insert regular articles in the monthly Chronicle, we have a monthly on-line publication “Yada Yada” which reaches over 1600 people, our Facebook page has more than 3600 likes, we actively Tweet and, of course, we email whenever necessary.

 

BURSARIES        

I want to make special mention of Bursaries, co-ordinated by Jodi Goldberg, where, for the 2014 academic year, we awarded over R1,5m to 85 tertiary students from funds that we administer

 

OTHER ASSOCIATIONS  

Staffwise is chaired by Board Member Bev May and here there has been renewed energy.

We also enjoy a good relationship with the CSO headed by Jacques Webber and I thank them on behalf of us all for protecting Jewish Life and the Jewish Way of Life.

 

TALK TO US        

The Board strives to not only react to issues that have affected our community, but to take the lead in regard to our obligation of tikkun olam, to bring transformative light to the societies in which we live.

Ultimately, we are accountable to you, our Affiliates and community, so please contact us with your concerns and suggestions, or to get involved.

Like our Facebook page which will ensure that you are kept up to date, or visit our website.

 

I want to acknowledge and thank            

  • Our amazing professional staff comprising David Jacobson, Gwynne Robins, Gina Flash Craig Nudelman, Lauren Kessler and Jodi Goldberg who have achieved so much under difficult circumstances during these past few months. I thank them as well for arranging this conference;         
  • The members of the Cape Council. We meet every two weeks and many members are involved in Departments and get together more often. A special mention of my Executive, Michael Donen, Lester Hoffman, Viv Anstey and Li Boiskin for their incredible support and commitment, often under battlefield conditions; and
  • Finally, it remains for me to wish you and your families Shana Tova. May this Rosh Hashana bring peace in Eretz Yisrael and everywhere else, health, happiness and success to us all.

Related reads on SAJR.CO.ZA

SAJBD - Citizen Cohen poster

The poster for the Citizen Cohen confernence

 

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SA warmly welcomes Palestinian foreign minister

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Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor, warmly welcomed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine Dr Riad Malki to South Africa last week – hospitality certainly not offered to Israelis.

Malki was in the country from 7 to 9 October, and was hosted by Pandor on 8 October for bilateral talks, according to a media statement made by department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela.

In reiterating their commitment to each other’s causes, “both sides agreed to exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”, according to a joint post-talks communiqué. The ministers also agreed to a planned a state visit in which South Africa would host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

South Africa is also going to host a conference for Palestinian heads of missions in Africa this year to deliberate Palestine’s policy towards Africa.

“South Africa attaches great importance to its relationship with Palestine, which is underpinned by historic bonds of solidarity, friendship, and co-operation. South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause conforms with the basic tenets of its foreign policy,” Monyela said.

“The international community has an obligation to find a comprehensive and just resolution to the Palestinian issue,” he said. “South Africa calls for international support and increased efforts for the just cause of the Palestinian people to address their legitimate demand for an independent state alongside a peaceful state of Israel. The visit aims to further strengthen the relationship between South Africa and Palestine.”

In their joint communiqué, the ministers “expressed their satisfaction with the cordial relations that exist between the two countries, which is to be further augmented by Abbas’s visit and the Palestinian leaders’ conference to be held in Cape Town in November this year”.

The South African government committed its support for initiatives that would refocus the international agenda on Palestine and the Middle East peace process. South Africa reiterated its support for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The two ministers agreed that “they would continue to work to achieve peace for the Palestinian people”, and “in the absence of sustainable peace in the region, there could be no global peace, stability, and economic prosperity”.

In their communiqué, the ministers insisted that “security and stability in the Middle East is being undermined by continued occupation of Palestinian territories and the aggressive actions of the Israeli regime”. Having said that, they called on the international community to “further strengthen their support for the return of all parties to the negotiation table without pre-conditions”.

They agreed to “exert joint efforts aimed at reversing the decision to admit Israel as an observer member to the African Union”. They also expressed support for “the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action” which they say “remains a clarion call for anti-racism advocacy and action worldwide”.

The Durban Declaration was the document that emerged out of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, also known as the infamous “Durban Conference” held in South Africa in 2001.

According to the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa Facebook page, Malki also met with a group of African National Congress leaders in Pretoria, and Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) groups Africa4Palestine, Palestinian Solidarity Alliance, and the South African BDS Coalition, amongst other meetings.

Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says the visit shows that South Africa’s support for the Palestinians “continues to be vocal and loyal. The hot issue, however, is the granting of Israel’s observer status at the African Union. The two pledged to work together to overturn it. Relations with Israel will remain tense. There has been no change from South Africa towards the [Naftali] Bennett government.”

He says the visit “reinforces ties [with the Palestinians] and puts South Africa squarely in the Palestinian camp. It has shed all pretensions of being an ‘honest broker’ in this conflict, and for a long time, has chosen sides. The key thing to watch is what happens at the African Union. Israel has its fair share of African opponents, but also many African friends. Will they stick their necks out for Israel? We will see. South Africa has been lobbying against the [observer status] decision, and has influenced southern African states to oppose it.”

Gruzd maintains there’s “virtually no chance” of Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid being invited for a similar visit. “Relations remain tense, and South Africa won’t be seen to reward Israel for its policies and practices,” he said.

Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), says, “The SAJBD believes that for South Africa to play a meaningful role towards a peaceful outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, it would need to engage with both Israelis and Palestinians. Without speaking to the Israeli leadership, it’s not possible to truly understand the situation and to gain trust in order to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

“The dogged campaign by South Africa to exclude Israel from the African Union is antithetical to our international-relations policies of conflict resolution through negotiation and talking,” she says. “This action only seeks to push peace building and the attainment of a sustainable two-state solution even further away.”

“The South African Zionist Federation [SAZF] has noted the comments of Minister Pandor and Palestinian Minister Malki. It seems the entire focus of the engagement was to undermine Israel’s admission as an observer to the African Union,” says SAZF National Chairperson Rowan Polovin. “We believe this is a foolhardy and hypocritical approach to international relations.

“Israel has had a mutually beneficial relationship with African states for more than 70 years. It has been at the forefront of efforts to help solve some of the most important developmental challenges on our continent, including in the areas of health, agriculture, youth development, water, education, and energy,” Polovin says.

“The admission of Israel as an observer to the AU, alongside more than 70 other countries, is a historic and welcome development. The South African government remains out of step with the rest of the continent who are moving swiftly ahead with relations with Israel,” he says.

“The new Israeli government’s prime minister and foreign minister have been warmly welcomed in the major capitals of Europe, the United States, Africa, and the Arab world. It’s not Israel, but South Africa, that’s the odd one out. We would encourage the South African government to take the opportunity to reach out to Israel to engage for the mutual benefit of both nations and as a means of making a positive, proactive contribution to finding further peace in the region.”

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Unterhalter’s bid for Concourt thwarted again

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It was a case of action replay for esteemed Judge David Unterhalter this week at the re-run of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Constitutional Court judge interviews. The internationally renowned lawyer was yet again grilled about his brief charitable association with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) during the pandemic.

Never mind his years of pro bono work, mentorship, and dedication to academia, as well as his global expertise gleaned from serving on the World Trade Organisation’s Appellate Body, it appeared to many commentators that his gender, race, and possibly even his faith stood firmly in his way of being included on a shortlist for possible appointments to the apex court.

He was again excluded from the latest JSC shortlist for two vacancies.

The JSC was forced to re-run its highly controversial and heavily politicised April 2021 Constitutional Court interview process after the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) challenged its lawfulness in the High Court.

Casac accused several members of the JSC, including Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, of “political grandstanding”, and argued that “party political considerations and political agendas should play no role in the JSC’s decisions and processes”.

During the first round of interviews, Unterhalter was interrogated about his association with the SAJBD after his candidacy was vehemently opposed by the South African Boycott Divestment Sanctions Coalition and the Black Lawyers Association.

Unterhalter briefly assisted the SAJBD with the upliftment and welfare of the Jewish and broader community during the direst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. He resigned from the SAJBD because he recognised that it sometimes litigates in the Constitutional Court which might cause conflicts.

The issue was raised yet again this week. JSC commissioner Advocate Thandazani Griffiths Madonsela, one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s candidates on the JSC, rehashed the now stale objections to his candidacy and persistently probed him about his time at the Board.

The Board criticised the JSC interview process describing it as “Groundhog Day for the Jewish community”.

“Once again, a Jewish candidate for the Constitutional Court, Judge Unterhalter, was targeted for his association with the democratically elected representative body of the Jewish community,” it said in a statement, adding “Once again, bias was evident.”

The Board maintained, “In a series of four questions, Commissioner Madonsela’s political agenda was distinctly evident, particularly his comment, ‘It seems to me that the fundamental premise of the objection is the assertion that the SAJBD is a body that is pro-Zionist and that is in fact bullying all their people and organisations who are objecting to the Israeli establishment in the Palestine region’.”

Unterhalter denied this, saying, “Members of the Jewish community in this country, as in many other countries, hold a very wide variety of views about Zionism and the state of Israel. That’s why people who are Zionists subscribe to organisations that bear that name and seek to pursue that particular political agenda.

“The Jewish Board of Deputies is a body that existed long before the state of Israel was ever created, and has its roots in the 19th century in this country, where it’s simply founded to look after the interests of a particular community, in this instance the Jewish community, and largely to take care of its welfare as many community organisations representing many different parts of our society do,” said the esteemed judge.

Unterhalter said that it was on this premise that during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were “peculiarly large demands” placed on the welfare not just of the Jewish community but also in respect of its charitable work with other communities, he accepted a position on the Board thinking that it could be of some service to the community and the work it did.

The SAJBD said the depiction of the Board as a “bullying” organisation was “a baseless and highly offensive smear against an organisation whose mandate is to protect South African Jews’ civil rights”.

“If anyone should be accused of bullying, it’s Commissioner Madonsela, whose factually inaccurate, prejudicial, and irresponsible assertions have no place in an interview to assess judicial competence. The SAJBD objects strenuously to this vile characterisation of our organisation.”

It said it found it “indefensible” that a person’s association with a body that protects Jews’ human rights in South Africa could preclude them from public office.

Advocate Mark Oppenheimer said the question from Madonsela about Unterhalter’s affiliation with the SAJBD “showed an extreme prejudice against the Jewish community”.

“It tries to insinuate strongly that Zionism is an unconstitutional project, and that it’s a sinister belief system and anything even adjacent to it taints one so thoroughly, that one cannot sit as a judge on the Constitutional Court. I think that borders on a blood libel, and the question should have been interrupted by the chair.

“It’s clear that that series of questions which were there during the first series of interviews were inappropriate, and it’s also clear from the Judicial Services Act that judges have every right to participate in charitable work which Judge Unterhalter was doing when he was at the SAJBD.”

Oppenheimer said many of the other questions faced by Unterhalter were pertinent, addressing his career.

“Anyone watching the interviews would be awed at the breadth of the work that he has done,” he said.

Casac’s Lawson Naidoo told News24 that it was crucial that the JSC explained its reasons for excluding Unterhalter and Advocate Alan Dodson.

There are currently no white judges on the Bench.

Their exclusion from the shortlist has raised eyebrows in the legal fraternity over whether the JSC is taking seriously its responsibilities in terms of Section 174(2) of the Constitution, which says that the judiciary must broadly reflect the demographics of South Africa in terms of race and gender.

Said Oppenheimer, “There’s an impression that has been created by the JSC that your race, gender, and possibly your faith can be factors which can permanently exclude you from the Court. It would be a pity to exclude eligible Jews from the apex court, given the fact that they have played such an important role, which should not be forgotten.”

Unterhalter and Dodson, both internationally renowned legal minds, were pressed about their race and gender.

After a full day of interviews and deliberations, the JSC reaffirmed its April 2021 shortlist, producing exactly the same list as it had done before.

The list of candidates on the shortlist include Constitutional Court Justice Rammaka Mathopo, former Free State Judge President Mahube Molemela, and High Court Judges Jody Kollapen, Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane, and Bashier Vally. Their names will be forwarded to President Ramaphosa to select two to fill vacancies.

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Going to Rage like ‘playing Russian Roulette’

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Expert in mass gathering medicine, Professor Efraim Kramer, told the SA Jewish Report this week that “Rage is nothing short of teenage Russian Roulette that may take the lives of its participants and cause large national collateral damage in disease and death, as it did last year.”

Kramer said this following a letter written by the Gauteng General Practitioners Collaboration (GGPC) was sent to local principals, begging them to tell students not to go to end-of-year Rage festivals because of the pandemic.

Matric Rage is a group of festivals held at South African coastal towns like Plettenberg Bay and Ballito to celebrate the end of school. Matric Rage 2020 is widely considered to be the super-spreader event that fuelled South Africa’s deadly second wave of COVID-19.

This year’s Matric Rage organisers say they have put safety measures and protocols in place, including that no one can attend without being fully vaccinated. But in their letter, the general practitioners (GPs) say, “However good their intentions, we don’t believe that the COVID-19 safety measures suggested by the organisers can prevent the spread of the virus. A large gathering like this, run over a few days, and consisting of excited teens is the ideal environment for a super-spreader event – as last year’s event demonstrated. Even a ‘vax passport’ [now that 18 year olds are eligible] and daily rapid antigen tests are unlikely to be able to contain an inevitable presence and spread of COVID-19 amongst the revellers and beyond them to more vulnerable people.

“Given the low vaccination rate in South Africa, a festival event of this size poses a considerable risk of a significant and unnecessary contribution to a fourth spike [wave],” they said.

Kramer, head of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, and professor of Sports Medicine at Pretoria University, said, “No parent has the right to put their children, other children, and society at health risk because of irresponsible personal excuses that the youngsters need to chill out. These mass gathering, high-risk events can cause death – it’s no different to drinking and driving. Or will the same parents agree to drinking and driving because their kids had a difficult year?” he asked rhetorically.

“I agree that the young generation have sustained COVID-19 collateral damage psychologically, emotionally, and even mentally, all requiring adequate and appropriate countermeasures and social counselling activities,” said Kramer. “However, it’s what’s done, how it’s done, when and where it’s done, and the attention to health-precaution detail that’s primary and paramount.

“Regarding vaccination, these close-contact, mass gathering, crowded events remain a super-spreader, and have resulted in the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated occupying the majority of hospital ICU [intensive-care unit] beds, mechanical ventilators, and sadly, coffins,” he said.

“If Rage continues unabated against sound medical advice, no participant should be allowed back home without full COVID-19 testing. In addition, no participant should be allowed into any communal event including shuls or related activities without evidence of full COVID-19 testing. Finally, no participant should be allowed back to school or education institutions without evidence of full COVID-19 testing.

“Let us not redress COVID-19 collateral damage by bring out the worst in us,” he pleaded. “Let it rather bring out the best, the most innovative, the most exciting, energetic, low risk, safety-assured events that allow us all – young and old – to socialise with each other again. It can be done with discipline, attention to detail, direction, and supervision with effective command and control. All for one, and one for all.”

But one Cape Town parent, Mike Abel, said he will allow his son to go to Rage. “The fine balancing act as a parent is always to consider your children’s physical health and their mental health. These two don’t always go hand in hand when your kids run onto a rugby or hockey pitch with gum guards, head guards, knee guards, and silent words to the gods,” he said.

“Lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions have played havoc with mental and physical health. As social creatures, our children have become more sedentary and disconnected. Rage is an opportunity for excitement, fun, and reconnection.

“Our son is 18 and vaccinated. Is Rage ideal? No. Is it 100% safe? No. Do we think it’s the right decision for him to go? Yes. It will be better for him than not going. He’ll have fun. He’ll let off steam. He’ll connect, laugh, play, swim, and enjoy his new-found freedom and transition from school to this new chapter and adventure. Will we sleep easy while he’s there? No. But we hope his maturity, sense of responsibility, and values will guide him well-ish. Our kids need a degree of risk and freedom for both their physical and mental well-being.”

The GGPC letter was drafted by a group of GPs including three local Jewish doctors. One of them, Dr Sheri Fanaroff, said, “Even with COVID-19 protocols in place, in reality they don’t happen. It’s the same as saying there should be no drugs allowed, but we know there are. I have a matric child, and I’m happy for her to go away and have fun, but not to a massive organised event. Yes, they’ve had a lousy two years, but there are safer ways to have fun. Parents don’t want to make their child be the only one that’s excluded, and we would rather the events be cancelled altogether than force parents and children to make a choice.

“The other issue is that many kids born later in the year won’t be fully vaccinated and two weeks post vaccination by the time Rage comes. Many don’t want to get vaccinated during exams,” she said. “And while young people don’t always get extremely ill from COVID-19, we are seeing a fair amount of long-term consequences. A good percent of this age group are battling six months later with chronic fatigue, arthritis, joint pain, brain fog, and the emotional consequences of all of that.”

Another GP involved in the drafting of the letter, Dr Daniel Israel, said, “One has to differentiate between normal social events and super-spreader events. I’m pretty pro people getting out socially at the moment with safe protocols, but super-spreader events are a no-go. These are teenagers who have just finished matric, and everything about their partying has to do with consumption of alcohol, physical closeness, and small spaces, which all lends itself to COVID-19 spreading. So, by the nature of the people who come to it, you can’t have a safe event.

“A question could be, ‘well these are young, healthy kids – what’s the difference?’ But we know even from last year that when they get home, they don’t isolate properly, they go home on planes, and they do spread it,” he said. “So, the same way that we haven’t been able to do certain things in a pandemic – like Broadway is closed – we think Rage should be closed too. We may be able to have holidays, but not Rage. We’re hoping that next year, we’ll be in a different place.”

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