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Voices

Cultural comparisons build bridges

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On Friday, starting at 12:10, 101.9 Chai FM will be broadcasting the third in a four-part radio series, titled Abraham’s Children that looks at similarities and differences between Jewish and Muslim cultures.

Hosted by Charisse Zeifert, the head of communications at the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) on her weekly Jewish Board Talk show, the series features Rabbi Ramon Widmonte, heads of the Academy of Jewish Thought and Learning (AJTL), and Muhammad-Nur Nordien, who provide Jewish and Muslim perspectives. Among the topics discussed are food, dress codes, festivals, fasts and feasts, and gender roles.

By acknowledging, drawing on, and developing the common religious-cultural roots of the respective traditions, the initiative helps to build bridges of respect and understanding between our two communities. Hopefully, it will lead to further such engagements in the future. As a follow-up to the series, on 13 December, the AJTL will be hosting a live Q&A on Zoom based on questions submitted by listeners. To register or for more information, go to https://www.theacademy.org.za/

Antisemitism, racism, and the collective-guilt principle

Last Friday’s protest in Cape Town by Economic Freedom Fighters supporters wouldn’t have been expected to be turned into a Jewish issue, but that was what happened once it emerged that the young white spokesperson for the party was a member of the Jewish community. A video in which the individual was interviewed had hardly been uploaded before the Twittersphere was awash with the usual slurs, smears, and conspiracy theories. It would have been bad enough had it been solely a matter of a person’s Jewish identity being used to vilify him when it was in fact entirely irrelevant, but much of the invective went even further than that to malign Jews as a collective.

This, indeed, is how racism, antisemitism, and bigotry tend to play out. Such thinking doesn’t recognise that every community is made up of different individuals with their own distinct beliefs and character traits. Rather, the actions of one or a few members of a particular community are laid at the door of that community as a whole. It’s the collective-guilt principle in action, and is pernicious in the extreme. That social media is today the primary vehicle through which such slanders are spread underlines the ongoing need for anti-racism advocates across the board to work together in bringing appropriate pressure to bear on the companies that host such platforms. It has been encouraging to see over the past several months how these efforts have begun to result in real breakthroughs with some of the companies involved. The SAJBD continues to be part of global Jewish initiatives working towards this end.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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