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The Jewish Report Editorial

Finding the way to move forward

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I remember being asked to speak to the “youngsters” at Our Parents Home many years ago, and I giggled at the imagery until I got there. I spoke to a crowded room of elderly people who were so energetic and animated, asking brilliant questions. They were ageless.

That’s my overriding memory of Our Parents Home, which will close its doors for the last time at the end of the year (see page 1). Yes, it’s a sad thing to happen, but realistic.

I totally understand that with 16% occupancy, Our Parents Home doesn’t have a future and is potentially a drain on the already stressed pockets of our community. And yes, there’s space in the Chev’s other facilities in Gauteng and nobody will be homeless.

I do understand that when we get older, moving home isn’t quite as much of an adventure as it used to be. So, it’s not necessarily going to be fun to relocate those precious souls living at Our Parents Home. But the Chev has promised to help everyone needing assistance, and I have no doubt that it will.

I also understand that there are black-and-white opinions about downscaling in our community. Some see it as inevitable, and others see it as the road to our demise as a community. I look about me and see what seems to be way too many Jewish schools and shuls to be sustained. And sustainability is the operative word.

Did you know there are dozens of shuls in the greater Glenhazel?

And though the numbers in some Jewish schools are dropping, nobody particularly wants to see a school close. But how do we sustain schools with too few pupils to maintain top teachers and the best resources? Shouldn’t we pool resources and facilities? Shouldn’t we combine schools?

Perhaps one of the answers is to close down the grounds of one school and join two schools on one campus, thereby enabling the pupils to share the best of their teachers. And when it comes to kodesh, you separate the kids from the different schools to be taught in the way that fits the Jewish education that you want your children to get.

If kodesh isn’t the only difference between schools, then this can also happen in other subjects. But you understand where I’m going with this.

An alternative is to keep all the schools going, but pool the top secular teachers. That way, the best matric English teacher is giving the finest possible education to many pupils, and the same with maths, accountancy, and other subjects. This creates greater sustainability in the schools.

It’s hard to see esteemed institutions like schools, elderly facilities, and shuls closing.

I do understand the thinking that when we start closing down shuls, we’re giving up something special. I understand and I agree that every shul has its own personality and community. I know my shul certainly has. I can meet someone and be so sure that they would fit right into the ethos, values, and community at my shul.

I see this at so many shuls – a real personality emerges that’s particular and unique. So, I understand the reason to hold onto that precious home, community, and feeling of belonging.

It’s the same with a school and a home. It’s a sense of being a part of something special and emotionally enveloping. It’s also about a sense of pride in what the school or shul stands for. I get it.

However, we need to be conscious of being able to sustain what we have. I do think it’s time to think about how we do this, and what the smartest and most cost-effective way of doing it is.

I know I’m touching on a very sensitive area in our community, but it’s time to consider these issues without dishonouring what we have and its importance in our lives.

And really, the bottom line is, as a people and a community, we are what’s most important. Our community is once again proving just how outstanding it is in caring and supporting people in tough times.

Last week, I spoke about wanting a miracle to help someone in need of one.

Well, the community has come together in such an incredible way to support precious Gavi Waksman, 17, who is fighting to heal in hospital after a fall, and his loving parents and family (see page 3).

I’m blown away by the love, tehillim, and all round mitzvot that have been done in Gavi’s name.

When I spoke to his mother, Lauren, this week, I was thrilled to hear her positivity, and how touched she has felt by this overarching groundswell of love from our community that has honoured the Waksmans with their mitzvot.

Can I say that if there’s any chance that mitzvot and prayer make a difference to someone’s healing, then Gavi is on his journey back to where he left off? It may take time, but with all this love and mitzvot, not only are the Waksmans strengthened and supported, so too are those on the receiving end of the mitzvot in Gavi’s name.

I love the fact that Gavi being in hospital has brought together sometime rival schools Yeshiva College and King David Linksfield in mitzvot. You see, although Gavi moved to King David this year, he spent most of his formative years at Yeshiva and Yeshiva kids still see him as one of them.

So, instead of arguing whose kid he is, the two schools joined in honouring him and doing good in his name.

Finally, I was inspired this week by the incredible story of Erin Lazarus, who refused to let the awful disease of lupus and losing a leg get in her way of achieving and living life to the full. So many of us are experiencing hardships, some more than others, but our attitude and the way we tackle it makes a great deal of difference.

It’s so easy to get totally absorbed in our sadness, pain, and anguish and the unfairness of it all, or we can say, ‘I will survive and tackle this head on, and nobody will stop me’.

Such is the incredible story of Erin (see page 5.) Kol hakavod to Erin and all those incredible mitzvah doers in our community!

Shabbat Shalom and I hope your Lag B’Omer has been festive!

Peta Krost


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