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Make 2019 a year of reconciliation and celebration

  • RabbiSchell
Last year, 2018, was an important year, because of the many historic milestones that were commemorated. The end of World War I, the 80th anniversary of the “so called” Kristallnacht – the night of the broken glass – in 1938, which marked the beginning of the Final Solution of Nazi Germany. And, on a more positive note, there was, of course, Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.
by Rabbi Adrian Schell, Bet David | Feb 07, 2019

This year will be a year filled with those kind of remembrance days too. In September, we will mark the beginning of World War II in 1939, and in June, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. But most importantly, South Africa is going to celebrate the end of apartheid, and the first democratic elections in 1994 – already 25 years ago.

This is a milestone in the younger history of South Africa, and I am looking forward to it. For me, it is an opportunity to learn more about the history of South Africa, and the different biographies of people whose lives I share. It is my hope that I will understand better how South Africa’s multi-faceted society has tackled the many obstacles on the path to reconciliation. However, I think this year is also a great opportunity for all of us, the Jewish community included, to examine our own identity within this larger context.

Where do we see ourselves five, 10, and 25 years from now? More importantly, what impact will we make as Jews in the future? How can we keep our values and ideas significant for our own community, and for the society we live in?

These questions can be answered only if we start thinking about our own identity right now. How does Judaism fit into post-apartheid South Africa? What is our role in the reconciliation process, one that perhaps only begins now? What is our history? Where did we fail, and where did we match the principles of Judaism?

When I look at the set-up of the broader Jewish community in South Africa, I see a very diverse community, with members coming from all kind of backgrounds, progressive and orthodox, Chassidim, secular, Jews by birth, by choice, and so much more. I see a people united and willing to shape the future for the best. But, do I see everything? Am I seeing the broken identities of some of our fellow Jews, the scars of the past, the open wounds that are not able to heal yet?

Do we see them?

I am not an expert on reconciliation in South Africa. My biography as a German Jew is very different to yours. But I share the dream and longing to heal our society. I see the Jewish community spearheading a process out of which healing for South Africa will grow. Let us make 2019 a year of celebration, and a milestone year in bringing South Africa closer together.

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