The Jewish Report Editorial

Looking forward to a great new world

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When President Cyril Ramaphosa told the nation on Tuesday evening that South Africa was never going to be the same again, his words sent shivers down my spine.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Apr 23, 2020

The government seems to have made plans to access billions to help us through this situation, or so it seems. Meanwhile many, many people – even in our community – are struggling.

However, as the lockdown continues and the number of COVID-19 deaths and infections increase drastically around the world, I wonder what this new world will look like, and whether it will be good for us. What impact will it have on us? How will it change the way we are, how we behave and see things? Will different things become important?

In this edition, we bring you the first in a series of articles on the Kaplan Centre’s brand new research into the Jewish community of South Africa. It’s a wealth of fascinating and extraordinarily relevant information, giving us real insight into who we are and what’s important to us. Over the next few weeks, we will dig deep into the research for you. I have yet to see such a comprehensive report on any community.

However, I can’t help wondering how different the findings would be if the research was done now.

Would we still be such migratory beings? Would we feel more a part of this country than we are said to feel? Would we be more bonded than before?

I wonder. Especially when we are told that the world and this country will never be the same again.

There are some who say we will become a much kinder nation of people, helping each other more, and being gentler with one another. That sounds great, but people are stressed financially, and have frustration they wouldn’t normally have. Granted, they aren’t rushing around because they can’t do so. And yes, there is a peacefulness in being home bound and not being able to have a packed day of events and meetings.

But there is great deal of financial and other stress, fear, claustrophobia, and loneliness. The idea of not being able to feed one’s children is probably a parent’s biggest fear. And yet, it isn’t just the greater population experiencing this. There are people in our community who were living comfortably until lockdown, and are now worried about their next meal, let alone school fees.

Going back to the research, I remember that when it was first leaked that the Jewish community might number about 52 000, people were upset and worried about this information getting out.

Surprisingly, I’m not sure it will have the same impact now. Does it really matter how many of us are here, or is it more important that we punch above our weight and are an incredibly strong and close-knit community? I would say the latter is way more important. I could be wrong, but somehow, I don’t think the numbers are even that relevant at the moment. We have far bigger worries.

The research compares this community to that of the far larger United Kingdom and Australian communities, and we come out so much stronger than they do, particularly in terms of our Jewish identity. If it’s a choice between a large, disparate community or a smaller, close-knit, powerfully Jewish community, I would take the latter any day. Wouldn’t you?

I attribute this to the fact that when our community first felt the impact of the coronavirus, we acted in the best possible way. The communal leadership gathered, and made decisions that were quickly – if not automatically – followed by the community. That’s who we are. We are a real community, bonded together by so many things.

There are two things I find outstanding about our community that are being recognised now. These are how we help each other and help others.

When we are in dire straits, there is always an organisation we can go to for help within our community. I marvel at the Rambam Trust, the Chevrah Kadisha, Yad Aharon & Michael, Koleinu, Hatzolah, and I can go on and on. They are there for us now, and they remain willing to help people in need. There are even a number of lifeline-type call centres so you never have to suffer in silence, and always have someone to reach out to. That’s just within the community.

Since the coronavirus hit South Africa, it’s amazing to hear of all the Jewish people who are out there, within or without organisations, doing whatever they can to make sure hungry people are fed, and have what they need to survive. I can honestly say that there’s no end to the kindness and outreach of this community.

Am I fearful of what will happen in our new world? No, I know that with this kind of community spirit, bond, and care, we will survive and thrive.

Shabbat Shalom!

Don’t forget

This week’s SA Jewish Report will be available at retail food outlets. Check our website, sajr.co.za, in the top right-hand corner, to see which outlets stock it. You are also always able to download a digital copy from our site.

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