Chinese touched by Jewish hand of friendship
The SAJBD called for a show of solidarity against the unjust and irrational treatment of the Chinese community following the virus’s outbreak by encouraging the community to shop at Chinese markets in Bruma and Amalgam in preparation for Purim.
On Monday, 9 March, members of the community and communal leaders from the SAJBD were seen doing their pre-Purim shopping at the China Mall in the south of Johannesburg.
Said Pon, “The visit has touched the hearts of so many in our community. There are many who don’t know about the [extent of the] history that Chinese people have here in South Africa. We have always been a small minority group, and at times we have felt so alone. During this outbreak of coronavirus/Covid-19, our community has been attacked from all sides. Many of us have felt stigma, racism, and discrimination because of the colour of our skin. But through the actions of the SAJBD and the hand of friendship you have extended to us, it has brought us some much-needed comfort and faith.”
Pon said the gesture “brought back our faith in humanity, and in the people of South Africa”.
“Through your actions, you have shown us what compassion and understanding is. You have shown South Africans and the world, that in spite of the challenges and awful things happening around us, you can still treat people with dignity and kindness. For this and more, we as the Chinese community will always remember your hand in friendship during this very difficult time.”
Wendy Kahn, the national director of the SAJBD, said it was committed to “fighting hate whenever and wherever it arises”.
“We have been distressed by the verbal and even violent abuse being experienced by the Chinese community internationally and in our own country,” she said. In line with this, the Board developed #ShoppingAgainstPrejudice to speak out against this bias against a fellow minority.
“We have raised our voice against the stigmatisation by meeting the leadership of the Chinese community in China Mall, one of the places where the effects of this discrimination is so evident. Using our personal experience of being the victims of prejudice, including in the Purim story, we have reached out in support and solidarity with the Chinese community,” she said.
Said Barry Schoub, professor emeritus of virology at the University of the Witwatersrand, and founding former director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, who accompanied the delegation, “The coronavirus epidemic confronts us with two challenges, a new one and an old one. The new challenge is to control the spread of this virus, and we are still in the learning curve. The old challenge is to confront the virus of stigma and prejudice directed at a particular ethnic group.”
He said the stigmatisation and persecution of a population group as the cause of disease outbreaks was something Jews were painfully aware of in our history.
“Over and above the moral abhorrence of doing this, stigmatising any ethnic group, which has absolutely no scientific or medical basis, only serves to drive the disease underground and severely hampers efforts to control the epidemic.”
Expressing gratitude, Chinese community leader and businessman, Ernie Lai King, said the Chinese community had always held the Jewish community in the highest regard.
“Your attributes of humanity, compassion, and generosity of spirit are those of a great community,” he said.