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The Jewish Report Editorial

Celebrating our youth as they matriculate

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This is one of my favourite editions of the year, when we get to celebrate our children completing matric. We pay tribute to them as they move from school into the rest of their lives, from childhood into adulthood.

For parents, it’s an emotional time because it’s proof positive that their babies are growing up and getting ready to take on lives as independent individuals.

For matriculants, it’s a little scary but extraordinarily exciting. Some know exactly what they want to do from here on. For others, the idea of choosing a career is daunting and almost impossible.

I was lucky. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a messenger of the truth and use my writing skills and extreme inquisitiveness to do it.

Many people aren’t so lucky, and finding their path isn’t easy. It can be daunting because of fear of wasting time.

Can I say that taking a gap year, starting a course or degree that interests you, or even getting a job is never a waste of time? It represents life experience, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. Any experience is worthwhile, and will take you to the next step in your life.

Besides, if you start studying or begin your career a year or two later, in the bigger scheme of things, it doesn’t make a jot of difference.

In this edition, we profile as many matriculants as possible. However, no matter how many we do, we never seem to do enough, and someone or someone’s parents are going to be upset.

I recall a few years back how I was accosted at shul by a grandmother who wanted her incredible grandson’s profile in the newspaper. We didn’t get it in for some reason, and she was livid and abusive. No matter how much I explained the situation to her, she took it personally and insisted that I was a bad person because I didn’t tell the community about her phenomenal grandson.

I understand her. I understand the love and pride we have in our children and grandchildren. However, please understand that no matter how well your child or grandchild has done or how phenomenal their story, we only have so many pages. We can only do so many profiles. So, forgive us if their personal story hasn’t made it into the newspaper.

I know there are many who question why we put some stories in the newspaper and not others. Some don’t like what we put on the front page, and believe another story should have gone there. I’m grateful that people care enough to worry about this, but we do put a lot of thought into what we cover and what we don’t and where it goes in the newspaper.

So, we led the newspaper today with the incredible news that those of us – myself included – who are of Lithuanian Jewish descent are likely to have an easier time getting Lithuanian passports.

This is a major step forward. However, I do hear the Lithuanian ambassador, Dainius Junevičius, calling for us to take more of an interest in Lithuania and what it has to offer us. Also, what we can do to form alliances with the country of our ancestors.

I also understand the terrible tragedy that befell many of our ancestors in Lithuania, which makes it uncomfortable for some. However, we do share so much and, as long as Lithuania acknowledges it and wants to make real amends, we should be looking at how we can do this.

This week, the Lithuanian ambassador visited the Holocaust memorial at Westpark Cemetery on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Wednesday). He said: “We will never forget the 200,000 brutally murdered Lithuanian Jews and will never forgive their killers.”

However, as we always say, we can forgive, we just cannot and must not forget. See Sylvia Foti’s piece on this page about her grandfather.

On page 3, Nicola Miltz writes about the new hechsher offered by disgruntled former Beth Din mashgichim. Although they say they’re doing it for the community and not because they have an axe to grind, I wonder if it’s in the interest of the community.

Though I believe competition is always good and keeps us on our toes, the truth is that we are a small community and don’t need more than one hechsher, or do we?

Is it actually possible to bring costs down and do things better? I can’t say. However, in the same way as I believe we have way too many Jewish schools and perhaps shuls for our community, having more than one hechsher seems unnecessary. Especially because if you really want to, you can find your way to acquiring the Canadian or other international hechshers.

Think of it this way: you have 200 children at a school as opposed to 1 000. That means you have far less money to pay for the best teachers and equipment because you get far less in school fees. It works exactly the same for shuls and in regard to a hechsher, or am I wrong? Time will tell.

Before I end off, I would like to welcome officially our new Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsercovsky, and his spouse, Elena Esteban Oleaga. He submitted his credentials on Tuesday. May he have a successful tenure.

And finally, I want to congratulate our 2021 matriculants who did us proud. This group of youngsters have probably had the toughest and most challenging two years leading up to those finals, but they triumphed.

May you all go on to have successful careers and lives. Don’t forget to let us know about your achievements.

Shabbat Shalom!

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