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Freedom to right wrongs




So many of us right now are worried about the future of this country, with good reason. We have a president who has gone so far off the rails, he seems to be free falling…  As he chuckles at the people gathering around the country to protest his ongoing rule, his kneejerk reaction is to blame it on white racists and outside government interference.

The truth is we have many freedoms in this country, most of which we are oblivious to. 

For example, in this newspaper this week we contemplate the cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro’s (aka Zapiro) disturbing cartoon in which he depicts President Jacob Zuma and his Gupta crony gang-raping South Africa. 

In another time, even purely factual news was censored before going to print and many a journalist found herself behind bars for being critical of the government. We now have such freedom of speech that we regularly challenge the government in our media with alacrity.

Before Friday April 7, many South African Jews had never been involved in a protest march. Those of us who had, have chilling memories of aggressive policemen with quirts and guns with rubber bullets just chomping at the bit to use them. Those were scary days, indeed!

On April 7, we all cheerfully marched to the Union Buildings, with a huge police presence, but they were cheerful and smiling, looking far more like they had the day off than waiting for the enemy to strike.

Then our Chief Rabbi stood up and led the diverse crowd in chanting for freedom from corruption and state capture. However, the fact that he was there and had marched in the frontline with other South African leaders, is freedom.

I recall back in the 1980s, Jewish communal organisations did not publicly voice their protest – even if they believed in it. I had a sense back then that it was out of fear of what might happen if they did. Now, we all feel quite free to say what we believe. That is freedom!

In this edition, we write about all the rabbis who are stepping out in protest against the Zuma administration. It is so encouraging that our spiritual leaders are taking the lead in doing what they can to help us attain the freedoms that have been taken from us, as in freedom from corruption and state capture.

I find it fascinating that it isn’t our communal leaders or politicians among us, but the rabbis who are making a stand. I say Kol Hakavod to them!

I know there are people, rabbis as well, who are fearful of being so outspoken as they see Jews as being “visitors” in any country outside of Israel. In this week’s poignant commemorations all over the country, we are reminded of how real that was in Germany all those years ago.

However, in any instance, it is incumbent on those who witness wrongdoing to stand up against it. Had people stood up against the Nazis on behalf of the Jews, would the Holocaust have happened or could they have stopped so many Jews from being killed?

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu cited a UN document that showed the Allies were aware of the scale of the Holocaust in 1942. He says, if they had acted against the death camps then, they could have saved four million Jews and millions of other people.

On that note, I am grateful for our freedoms and ask that we all exercise our rights against wrong.




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