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Increased antisemitism strengthens Jewish identity

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South African Jews aren’t cowering from the increased antisemitism following the war between Israel and Hamas, but displaying their Judaism in any way possible. The SA Jewish Report spoke to a random selection of people to find out how they are showing their identity.

“I come from a fiercely proud Jewish family, a pride instilled in me since I was a child. I moved to Cape Town this year, and my dad gave me a mezuzah for my front door, which eventually fell and was no longer kosher. I knew I needed to get a new one, but after 7 October and everything else that followed, I was compelled to put it up and mark my home as a Jewish one. I feel obliged to showcase my Judaism in spite of all this antisemitism. The best combatant of antisemitism is a proud Jew.” – Rachel Segel, a university student

“I have a transgender child. For the past four years, my child was an ardent atheist. But, he has started wearing a kippah all the time and has been doing teaching sessions with our rabbi. It has been the most magical experience for me as a mom to see my child reconnect with his Judaism in a way that I never thought was possible before.” – Anonymous

“I made bracelets that say, ‘I stand with Israel’, and wear them proudly together with my brothers for life bracelet.” – Anonymous

“I wear my yarmulke everywhere. I don’t care for negative comments, and I get respect.” – Allan Jacobson

“I see some people talking about taking down their mezuzahs. Our chairperson, who lives down the passage from me, is racist and aggressive, and I discovered after a run-in with him that he’s a Shi’ite Muslim. I’m not taking down my mezuzah for anyone.” – Lesley Jellin

“I wear my Magen David and chai necklaces daily as a declaration of my Jewish heritage, a symbol of Jewish pride, and a symbol of unwavering love and support of the state of Israel. Wearing these Jewish symbols connects me to am Yisrael, it’s part of my identity, and a constant reminder of who we are as a Jewish nation. By wearing Jewish symbols and acting with love and friendliness, we’re showing the world the beauty of the Jewish nation. Wear it loud and proud. Am Yisrael Chai.” – Ari Tucker

“It’s not just about wearing Magen Davids. I’m the deputy head of King David Sandton. We have boys who are wearing tzitzit now. It’s the most beautiful thing to see.” – Hayley Schiffman

“This fight is a necessary evil that has been forced upon Jews and everyone else on earth. We must do whatever we can as individuals to advocate that every chance we get in spite of being held hostage. And I fear we aren’t.” – Delon Palm

“Ever since the war broke out, my identity as a Jew changed. I saw the value of what it means to be Jewish and how we need to be proud of who we are and what we represent. This shocking attack on my brothers and sisters showed me that I need to be proud to be Jewish. It led me to wear a kippah every day and I started keeping Shabbos as I believe it’s an imperative for every Jew. I’m now keeping my sixth Shabbos in a row due to the war.” – Daron Riback

“With the increasing antisemitism raging throughout my university, the massive gatherings of anti-Israel protests, and the surge of hate, I strangely feel so much closer to Judaism than before. The lack of peace and the love for hate made me look for the light, and that’s what I found. I put a mezuzah on my door so that I can be a part of that light and remove myself from all the darkness and negativity around me. I’m proud to be Jewish and proud of my identity. Whether in my residence or at home, I’m Jewish and that’s what the mezuzah signifies.” – Anonymous

“I have a friend who wears an Israeli flag on his motorbike riding jacket. He was at Mr Price in Norwood Mall, and the cashier made a negative comment saying, ‘That’s a bad flag you have on your jacket.’ The hate is out there, but he’ll wear this flag sewn on his jacket with pride.” – Garron David Zlotnick

“Putting up a mezuzah is something my family has always placed importance on. We’ve never stayed in a home without one. It’s always the first thing we do as soon as we move in. Every room I’ve ever stayed in had a mezuzah on the wall as well as on the front door. Our mezuzah recently fell down while we were away and it was my priority to get it replaced. My reason wasn’t antisemitism, but because it’s something I’ve always known to do to feel safe and protected in my home.” – Talia Zalkiner, a university student in Cape Town

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