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Survivors to youngsters – keeping the Holocaust message alive

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On 27 January last week we marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day – the first and hopefully the last to be held in pandemic conditions. The United Nations General Assembly chose this date because it marks the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945. In addition to remembering the six million Jewish and other victims of Nazism, it’s intended to foster the development of educational programmes aimed at preventing such atrocities in the future.

To commemorate the anniversary, a national campaign was arranged using the #WeRemember social media initiative that has been successfully run by the World Jewish Congress over the past several years. More than 300 school pupils from Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg contributed photos which were used in an Instagram campaign interspersing photographs of children in the Shoah with images of South African youth.

The campaign was targeted at young people, and will be extended to the upcoming Yom Hashoah ceremony, with the emphasis on future generations carrying forward messages from survivors. Discussions are already taking place between representatives of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Pretoria, together with the leadership of various Holocaust and genocide centres, to plan an inclusive national Yom Hashoah ceremony on 9 April.

The vaccination challenge

Earlier this week, South Africa received its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines. Further encouraging news was the continued drop in infections, with the daily total on Monday being the lowest recorded in South Africa since the onset of the second wave two months ago. The challenge now is for people throughout the country to be vaccinated as quickly as possible. Through involvement on the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Social & Behavioural Change, on which the SAJBD is represented by President Mary Kluk, and in meetings between President Cyril Ramaphosa and religious leadership, we have committed ourselves to assisting in the process as much as we can. I urge our community to get involved by encouraging and where necessary assisting others, including employees, in being vaccinated. People can also help by debunking wherever possible the nonsensical and potentially destructive anti-vaccine rumours that have unfortunately been doing the rounds.

Take a stand against prejudice

Following an upsurge of COVID-19-driven anti-Chinese prejudice last year the SAJBD, as a demonstration of solidarity with the Chinese community in Johannesburg, organised a #ShoppingAgainstPrejudice initiative in which a delegation from the SAJBD did its pre-Purim shopping at the Chinese Mall. Sadly, last week’s appointment of a Chinese-born woman, Xiaomei Havard, to replace the late Jackson Mthembu in the House of Assembly elicited a further flurry of racist and xenophobic attacks on Chinese South Africans on social media, including from at least two MPs. The Hate Crimes Working Group, of which the SAJBD is a founder and steering committee member, came out strongly against any targeting of people on the basis of colour, ethnicity, religion, or national origins.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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