The Jewish Report Editorial

May your choices reflect your hopes…

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“Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward.” It seems so fitting to start my editorial with a quote from South Africa’s late president and icon, Nelson Mandela, who would have been 100 this week.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jul 19, 2018

I start with this because I am concerned about the negativity in our community. I believe that negativity breads negativity and it is not helpful to us – in fact, quite the contrary. Also, while there are real issues at stake, we are in a far better situation than we have been in the past. There are so many wonderful things happening in this country and community.

What I find astonishing is that there are some people who almost feed on our negativity and fear for our future.

An ex-South African man contacted me recently in the hope that I would publish his letter lambasting the Chief Rabbi for not insisting South African Jews make aliya. This man – who I will not name – said he made aliya 41 years ago and now wants all South African Jews to follow him.

He insists we are in such dire straits that we are on the verge of a holocaust. He exaggerates the situation in South Africa to such an extent that I don’t recognise the country he is talking about.

What’s more, he accuses the Chief Rabbi of not scaring us into leaving because it would render him jobless. Seriously!

I politely told him that the SA Jewish Report prides itself on keeping our readers abreast of what is really happening in this country and that, compared to Jewish people in Europe and even the US, we have very little anti-Semitism, etcetera.

He responded by telling me that “it is obvious I know very little about the real situation”, citing fearful letters he received from his South African friends. They were so despondently negative, finding any little negative factual morsel and blowing it out of all proportion. This is what negativity can do to a person and a community.

I couldn’t help thinking about the scenario of many ex-South Africans who have emigrated to Australia and their favourite Shabbos table conversation piece being how terrible South Africa has become. Some ex-South Africans love to run South Africa down because they have left and life is not greener on the other side. It is tough.

So, to make themselves feel better about their decision, they feed on and pick up every unfortunate incident in South Africa and make a meal of it. That way, they can believe moving to Australia wasn’t such a bad idea.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Not all emigrants do that and not all ex-South Africans are bitter about South Africa, but there are a number who are.

I know how easy it is to get negative and believe things are bad, bad and even worse than that.

But they are not.

Yes, the economy is not as it could be. Yes, we have a serious crime problem.

But we got rid of a corrupt president and now have a true leader at the helm. We live in a democracy. As for anti-Semitism, compared to most countries, we have very little. And what we do have, the Board of Deputies goes hell for leather to ensure that those at fault know they can’t mess with us. (See page 1.)

We do have an anti-Israel problem that stretches deep into the ruling party, but we also have massive support from South African Christians.

We live in a beautiful country, where there is freedom of expression, freedom of religion and a free press. The media in this country tells it like they see it, and whether it is showing a president up for who he his or exposing another corrupt official, it is allowed. It is difficult to openly destroy a country if there is a free press.

I am concerned that South African Jews are worried and negative about being here. I am concerned that as a newspaper, we may have added to that by telling things as they are. But it is our job to highlight the problem areas, and we perhaps we don’t always highlight the good that is happening around us quite as much. Mea culpa!

I would never try to dissuade people from making aliya or emigrating, but if you plan to do it, do it because you have a genuine reason to be somewhere else. Don’t run from here because the truth is, you take your problems with you.

I recently bumped into someone I was at school with and I wondered why I hadn’t seen her in years. She said she and her husband had emigrated to England and had spent 15 years there before coming home. “Our life there was decent. We made a few friends and we eventually both had good jobs. We hardly saw our children and when we did, we were so busy trying to clean the place and get ready for the next day that we didn’t have any quality time with them.”

But that wasn’t why they returned. It was about coming home to people who they had a real history with, to people who knew you when you were a child, to their people. “We came home to family and friends who enveloped us as we stepped off the plane.”

Of course, we need to deal with our problems and not hide our heads in the sand. We need to be a part of South Africa’s solution, and there are so many people in our community who are. I so often find those people are not fearful because they are working towards the betterment of this country. They are the solution and are not looking for reasons to leave, they are looking for reasons to stay.

As Madiba so aptly put it: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

Shabbat Shalom!


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