The Jewish Report Editorial

Facing growing anti-Semitism together

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When I received the sinister anti-Semitic voice note that had been sent by a KwaZulu-Natal private school boy to a Jewish girl in Johannesburg, my blood went cold.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Nov 08, 2018

Just listening to the menacing tone of this boy’s voice and his friends laughing at the joke he makes about Jews and the gas chambers made me angry.

This, in light of the recent Pittsburgh shul massacre, was totally unacceptable.

I believe the school’s headmaster and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies did what was right, and that these boys are going to find out why their words and bullying were totally unacceptable. Hopefully, they will never do such a thing again. Who can tell?

I agree with the attitude of the board that 15-year-olds may not understand the significance of what they do and say. I agree that learning about the Holocaust will be hugely positive.

But there is just too much of this anti-Semitism going on.

Since the Pittsburgh massacre, I, for one, have had this disturbing feeling in the pit of my stomach that hasn’t subsided.

It has to do with the horror of someone walking into a shul where people were praying and mowing them down like skittles. But it is more than that.

Around the world, we have always seen the United States as a place where Jews were immensely powerful and respected. We believed that if there was one place in the world that Jews were safe, it was in the US. Also, while we are just a small community of at best 70 000 people, there are about six million Jews in America. I guess, we have always counted on them to hold the Jewish world afloat.

One only has to consider who Israel’s biggest ally is, and it makes it quite obvious. Nobody questions that the US will always support Israel and the Jewish people.

It is for this reason that we are shaken to our core. Our very sense of security as Jews has been threatened by this event.

Then, you look at the United Kingdom, where the leaders of the Labour Party deny their blatant anti-Semitism. There again, we are looking at the free world, where Jews have for so long been able to live lives of total liberty.

As a people, we are feeling threatened in places that we least expected to be vulnerable.

It is true, there have always been spots of anti-Semitism. They aren’t going away. They are generally based on ignorance and sheer bigotry – these diseases occur worldwide. However, the mass wisdom has for more than 70 years protected us against ignorance and bigotry.

Has this changed? Marginally.

What has changed is that our blinkers are off, and we are joining the spots, and becoming more aware of the freedom anti-Semites and bigots have in the world.

It has woken us up to the fact that we cannot rely on others to protect us, we need to do it ourselves to be genuinely effective. It has woken us up to the fact that we need to join forces.

Earlier this year, the editors of the three main Jewish newspapers in the UK wrote a combined editorial, standing together against the rising anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party. It was a first.

Last week, the many editors of Jewish newspapers in the United States followed in their colleagues’ footsteps. “We can’t help but be shaken and concerned for the America we have come to know and love,” they wrote in their editorial.

“We therefore join together to unequivocally condemn this brutal act of anti-Semitism, and all deadly acts of hate. We also condemn the climate of hate that has been building for some time now, especially on college campuses and on social media, where the veneer of anonymity has allowed anti-Semitic cesspools to flourish, and from irresponsible political leaders who engage in hateful speech and are abetted by the silence of others.”

They continued: “As journalists, we hold a variety of opinions about politics in this country, and in Israel. The American Jewish community is diverse, and those differences are reflected on the pages of its media.

“In coming together now, we are not erasing those differences, but rising above them to issue a call for solidarity and respect, and asking our political and communal leaders to do the same.”

When I read this, I thought about their power, and how the SA Jewish Report is a lone newspaper serving a comparatively small community.

But, unlike the days of old when anti-Semitism struck, and the people who felt it were alone and isolated, we are not alone, nor are we isolated. We are a part of a huge and diverse Jewish world.

And, while the internet and social media has its pitfalls in allowing hate speech and anti-Semitism to fester, it also allows us to be a part of a much larger and more powerful community.

Nothing happens in isolation anymore. While anti-Semitism may be on the rise, like my colleagues in the UK and US and the people they serve, we will work together.

We will not let anti-Semitism get the better of us. We will keep fighting it. We don’t need to fight it with might, but with our brains and pens.

I agree with the SA Jewish Board of Deputies: we must try as hard as we can to deal with things amicably and educate people. If that doesn’t work, revert to the law courts.

But, we don’t have to fear. We don’t have to accept or deny anti-Semitism when it rears its head. We will face it head on, without fear or favour.

Shabbat Shalom!


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