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Fighting fit and well informed

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In times of stress for our community, there’s an additional need for people to be kept informed about what’s happening and in particular, what Jewish leadership is doing to address the challenges of the day. Much emphasis was put on this during the COVID-19 crisis, and in the wake of 7 October, the Board has similarly arranged regular report-back events. We’re planning our next community webinar, at which our leadership will give a briefing on the situation and the Board’s response and provide an opportunity for comments and questions. The event is scheduled to take place on the evening of Monday, 29 January, so visit our Facebook page for further information and to register.

The theme of the webinar is “Fighting Back”. Our aim is to assure our community that in spite of the multiple strains and stresses of the past nearly four months, we haven’t been passive nor surrendered to despondency, on the contrary, we’ve sought to confront every challenge head-on. Whether it’s the deplorable conduct of the government, persistently biased media coverage, or threats to our community’s fundamental rights to dignity, equality, and freedom of expression and association, the Board has been vociferous and unapologetic.

Our initiatives, as previously reported, have included calling out the country’s president in unprecedentedly harsh terms in a full-page Sunday Times advertorial; demonstrations on behalf of the hostages on Nelson Mandela Bridge and Durban beach; and our 37 teddy bears protest outside the South African Broadcasting Corporation after a Hamas spokesman declared during an interview that there were no child hostages in Gaza. Since my last column, we’ve organised a well-attended and widely publicised demonstration outside the offices of Cricket South Africa (CSA) to protest against its disgraceful removal of David Teeger as captain of the South African Under 19 cricket team, supposedly due to “security concerns”, but in reality for blatantly political reasons. The many South Africans outside our community who joined us, along with those from all backgrounds who have likewise condemned CSA’s morally bankrupt and discriminatory conduct, have at least assured us that we’re not alone in this fight.

Further reason for cautious optimism is that after reaching record levels in the two months following 7 October, antisemitic attacks have dropped off considerably. Since the beginning of December, the number of incidents recorded has been only a quarter of the totals logged in October and November. This is still higher than in previous years for the same period, but it’s a welcome indication that things are hopefully returning to something approaching normality. As ever, it’s important to stress that antisemitism levels in South Africa continue to be markedly lower than in other diaspora countries, both in terms of the number and the gravity of many of the attacks experienced, including multiple cases of violence and vandalism.

The Board was able to address a number of the incidents reported to it, such as ensuring the removal of graffiti and offensive social media posts, and is in the process of following through on some of the more serious cases, including those in which criminal charges have been laid. To ensure the accuracy of our statistics, it’s important for people who experience any form of hate or threat to contact our offices so that we can support them and respond if required. If you feel there’s imminent danger, please report the incident immediately to the Community Security Organisation’s 24-hour helpline 086 18 000 18.

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

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