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Voices

The waves buffeting our shores

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The year began with South Africa in the middle of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, and unfortunately, is ending with a fourth wave now well underway. Among other things, it has resulted in the cancellation for the second time of the end-of-year machanot. For many hundreds of young members of our community, it will have come as a tremendous disappointment, particularly after so many months of enforced separation from friends and classmates and the stresses and disruptions of long-distance learning. The psychological fall-out of the pandemic has affected all of us, but its impact will have been especially severe on younger people in the formative stages of their emotional development. It’s something that parents, educators, and communal leaders alike need to recognise and pay due attention to when looking ahead to a post-COVID-19 future.

The fact that the Omicron-driven fourth wave arrived at the end of another difficult year and at a time when many were hoping that the worst of the pandemic was finally behind them will have been especially disheartening. However, and while it’s of course still early days, there are hopeful signs that the impact of the latest wave of infections may be less severe than was previously the case. Infection rates have, indeed, increased sharply in the course of the past week, but thus far, they have not resulted in the multiple hospitalisations that we experienced during the first three waves.

Much of this can be attributed to vaccination. What we are seeing is that while not preventing people from contracting the Omicron variant, being vaccinated helps to reduce its harmful effects. This underscores the urgency for everyone in our community to ensure that they are fully vaccinated and to encourage everyone around them (especially in the work environment) to do likewise. At the same time, we must continue to adhere rigorously to standard safety protocols like wearing masks and observing social distancing. Much of the pandemic is out of our hands, but this is something we can influence, and the kind of year 2022 turns out to be thus, to a large extent, depends on us.

From the point of view of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), we are gratified by how much was achieved this year in terms of our core mandate of promoting the welfare and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of our community in spite of the often difficult circumstances.

This being my last column for 2021, I take this opportunity to thank my SAJBD colleagues and professional staff for all their support and good work, and wish you all a safe, healthy, and relaxing end-of-year break.

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

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