The Jewish Report Editorial

We have nothing to hide

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“Why would you run a story about a Jewish person who abused people in the SA Jewish Report? Surely it feeds anti-Semitism?”
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Aug 23, 2018

This was a question asked of me this week.

It fits in with the age-old philosophy of avoiding saying anything wrong about Jewish people, just in case the newspaper is picked up by someone who isn’t Jewish, and they discover we aren’t perfect.

When I started out as a journalist 30 years ago, that was the predominant way of thinking in the mainstream Jewish community.

Well, here’s a news flash: we aren’t perfect, and we are human, warts and all. And that’s okay. Believe it or not, there are some of us who are true tzaddikim, and some of us who are not so fabulous.

In our community, we have people who are addicted to drugs, and we have people who abuse women or children. We even have crooks, and we have living angels. We have them all, but hopefully far less bad guys than good guys.

We are a multifaceted community, much like all the others. In that, we are a microcosm of the macrocosm that makes up South Africa and the Jewish world.

I agree that we do need to do our best to become “a light unto the nations”, but we need to do it genuinely. Keeping the unpleasant actions of people in our community out of public view does not eliminate them. It does not make them go away. All it does is keep them wrapped up and shoved far under the carpet.

Consider this: someone injures himself and needs medical attention. The injury is, for some reason, a bit embarrassing. There are two options. Either, he can go to a doctor who might send him to another specialist, and eventually the injury will heal through medical intervention. Or, he can grin and bear it, and not tell a soul because he doesn’t want to deal with the embarrassment of people knowing and the impact it will have on his life.

As far as I can see, it is a no-brainer. You get help, and if it means the whole world knows, it is better than having to live with the injury. Obviously, it would be likely to fester, and could even kill him.

A book, The Lost Boys of Bird Island, was recently released. Three decades after the mass abuse of young boys by powerful politicians, the truth is coming out.

How many of those boys took their own lives before this, or continue to live a life of shame? Why? Simple, the horrendous “injury” was swept under the carpet and hushed up. Until now, there was no catharsis. There was no healing. There was no justice done, or even seen to be done. It was just a festering wound that ate away at people’s lives and – by extension – those of their loved ones.

Nobody wants our community to look bad. I certainly don’t. I want us to be doing the right thing, and to be proud of what we do. I am a mother, after all.

There are few more exciting moments than seeing members of our community being honoured for their talents, achievements, and for doing good. We want to be proud of those we love and care about.

But that isn’t always possible. So, we encourage people to do the right thing by being open and honest about both the good and bad that happens in our community.

As a newspaper and a community, we cannot turn the other cheek. We cannot turn a blind eye, and all those other euphemisms that mean ignoring or hiding the bad that lurks among us. It is incumbent on us to face our demons, and tackle them openly, so that there are no festering sores in our community.

We owe that to each and every one of us who do not deserve to be abused. In fact, we even owe it to those who abuse others. The only way we can help them is by getting help for them. If we sweep it under the carpet, we are telling them they don’t have a problem, and they can carry on. If we know someone is doing something wrong, we cannot let them continue.

As for the publication of these stories leading to anti-Semitism, well that cannot be the case.

Those people out there looking for reasons to hate us do not need our newspaper to help find them. If they hate us, they are going to hate us, whether we tackle issues that we aren’t proud of or not.

The only way that we can be that light unto the nation is to do things we are proud of and not hide away from those we aren’t proud of.

Having said that, the SA Jewish Report is not about to start writing about every single battle between Jewish people. We are not going to feature commercial arguments between folk unless there is a genuine reason to be telling the community. And when people call the newspaper, insisting that their story needs to be written, we will consider it. However, we will tackle it only if it really is in the interests of the community. That is our mandate.

Shabbat Shalom!


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