In face of anti-Semitism, be vigilant
On the same day, two Jewish community members in Paris were assaulted and injured, in one case seriously, when leaving the synagogue.
The Board has since conveyed its concerns to the Belgian and French embassies, as well as its condolences to the Jewish leadership of the two countries. In times like this, world Jewry can only express their solidarity with one another and pledge to assist in any way they can.
At the recent American Jewish Committee conference, one of the main focuses of discussion was the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe. These attacks have sadly demonstrated how well-founded these fears are. Certainly, the governments of the respective countries involved have a responsibility to take appropriate steps to combat such dangerous trends, but Jews themselves must obviously do whatever they can to protect themselves.
Here, it is necessary to adopt both a short-term and a long-term strategy, the first dealing essentially with the symptoms and the second with the underlying causes of anti-Semitism. Thus, all Jewish communities need as a matter of course to adopt whatever measures they can to ensure the immediate security of their installations and the safety of their members.
This entails constant vigilance combined, wherever possible, with bringing to book those responsible for ant-Semitic acts. At the same time, we have to recognise that the underlying cause of anti-Semitism is irrational prejudice based on ignorance.
Here, we must make a difference through promoting human rights education, something I am fortunate enough to be involved in on a daily basis through my work with the SA Holocaust and Genocide Foundation.
The fundamental aim of the Foundation’s educational programmes is, in the context of teaching about the Holocaust, to make visitors aware of the horrific consequences that unchecked racial discrimination and xenophobia can have.
Because the Holocaust forms part of the curriculum for grade nine learners, a substantial proportion of those who are exposed to these programmes are younger people shortly about to enter adult society.
They are taught the fundamental lesson that while the Nazi genocide ended in acts of murder, it began with hateful words, unfounded slanders against an entire people that were allowed to gradually seep into and poison the collective consciousness.
Every individual is confronted with choices every day about how he or she treats other people; through the SA Holocaust Foundation, we stress the responsibility they have to choose correctly.
It makes me very proud that in South Africa, there is a great deal of political will to deal with all forms of prejudice, through the political and law enforcement structures as well as in the civil society arena.
As Jews, we are both beneficiaries of and participants in that culture. It can never be something we can take for granted, but instead has to be constantly guarded and strengthened to ensure that the iniquities of the past are not revisited on future generations.
- Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00 – 13:00. This week, Charisse will be talking to the Gauteng chair of the SAJBD on Jews and football, and Magnus Gertten, Swedish filmmaker on his movie, Harbour of Hope, which tells the story of Jews arriving in Sweden from 1945.