The Jewish Report Editorial

Reframing our vision

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Oh boy, people in the community seem to be so miserable! I keep hearing moaning and grumbling about our status quo. Loadshedding! The Economic Freedom Fighters hijacking the State of the Nation Address! President Cyril Ramaphosa not being strong enough! How tough things are financially! How our money goes nowhere! Yes, the list goes on…
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Feb 20, 2020

Looking at all the negatives is depressing, and hard to bear. I can’t deny them – they are all true. However, isn’t it time we looked at what we actually have in the community and in this country?

For the most part, most of our community leads amazing lives. What’s more, the community has created a supportive environment so we don’t have to stress too much.

Close-knit community members support each other through thick and thin. We have organisations like the Community Security Organisation and CAP (Community Active Protection) that ensure we are physically secure and protected. We have the Chevrah Kadisha that helps when times are tough. We have Hatzolah for any physical emergency.

Our communal organisations are outstanding, among the best in the Jewish world, and the envy of other communities in South Africa.

Our schools are among the best in the world. Jewish schools invariably come out trumps in the academic ratings every single year in South Africa. We have scores of shuls scattered across the community in Johannesburg and Cape Town. You would obviously be able to find one that suits your needs perfectly.

Come the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards every year, and we are all inspired by the outstanding calibre of people we have in the community. Be they lawyers, entrepreneurs, media folk, communal leaders, big business leaders, philanthropists, we have them all. It’s truly astonishing how many inspiring people exist in our small community.

At this point in time, the actual number of Jews in South Africa is in question. While I accept that we want to know how many of us live here compared to how many there were over the past 10 or 50 years, how important is it?

Other than being of interest, it doesn’t really have too much impact on us, or does it?

If the numbers of Jews in the country is greater than we expected, does that make us better? If there are fewer than we thought, are we worse off? Hardly! Numbers are just numbers. Surely it’s far more important to know how we can fend for ourselves, what we have created, and how high we punch above our weight? The day after we find out the numbers, we will still be in the same position we were the day before we knew them. We will still be part of an incredible community that’s genuinely admired the world over.

When you speak to ex-pats in the United States, England, and even Australia, they may be happy in their new homes, but most of them long for the inclusive, caring community we have here.

Something I marvel at is that in South Africa, you can be Jewish, secular, Orthodox, and traditional all in one. Now, in most parts of the world, you are either secular, Orthodox, or traditional, you can’t be all of it, according to seemingly strict and unbending communities.

And, although sometimes it might seem as if our community is terribly conservative and unforgiving, we actually aren’t. We mostly allow people to be who they are, and still be a part of the greater Jewish community. There are very few areas where the community is unaccepting of its own.

Why am I saying all of this?

It’s simple, it’s time we reframed how we look at our situation. It’s time we stopped looking at how awful things are. The truth is that you can always find the bad in any situation if you are looking for it. In the same way, you can find the good.

Recently, a friend of mine was in tears because the Chev had helped her cousin who had fallen on hard times. She was overcome with gratitude, and was quite frankly astonished at what this organisation does for people. Most people outside our community don’t have such organisations.

Over the years, the South African Jewish community has made sure that it looks after its own. I’m not sure we realise just how incredible this is.

When shuls in the US were being attacked, we looked around and recognised that we have been protecting our shuls for a number of years. We already had some incredibly brave folk ensuring that you and I can safely attend shul.

The same goes for our schools. Astonishing!

We also have a magnificent home for Jewish orphans. In all Jewish areas, even in some places where Jews are a minority, we have CAP, which is a community-based, pro-active, anti-crime initiative that was conceived of by our own chief rabbi in 2006. We take it for granted, but CAP has brought down crime substantially in those areas.

I could go on, but suffice to say that we have a thriving, high-quality community that’s the envy of the world. Yet, we still manage to dwell on the negative.

The vibrance and energy of the Jewish life we live is unmatched around the world. We are also a tough and resilient community which fends for itself, and reaches out to help others along the way.

I truly believe that our thoughts shape our reality. So, if you are constantly looking for the bad, you will find it, and it will become your reality. How about reframing our vision and considering what an incredible community and life we have here on the southern tip of Africa?

Yes, things aren’t easy, but they are so much better than in most parts of the world, and we live within a community that cares.

Shabbat Shalom!

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