Think before you tweet
It was pleasing to note that reference was made by the deputy minister to the input that the Board made into the broader debate on where the boundaries lie between freedom of expression and prohibited hate speech. The Board is a founder and steering committee member of the HCWG.
While it is important that at the official, representative level, the SAJBD enables the Jewish community to be involved in the formulation of public policy in the area of combating racism (in this regard the SAJBD made written and verbal submissions to the Communications Portfolio Committee in Parliament on the issue of cyberhate, it also brought to South Africa an expert from the ADL’s Department on Countering Cyberhate to meet with various government agencies in our country to share his experience and expertise) it is just as important that Jewish individuals do their part by scrupulously avoiding hate speech themselves.
Last year, our Vice-President Zev Krengel was instrumental in the launch of a “Code of Courtesy”, the aim of which was to encourage people to respect the dignity of their fellow citizens, even (and indeed, especially) when disagreeing with them.
I strongly urge all members of our community to take this principle seriously in all their dealings with our fellow citizens, particularly in terms of what they publish in the social media. This goes to the core of our ethics and humanity.
It sometimes happens that community members are provoked by anti-Semitic or blatantly unjust comments about Israel into responding in kind. However, no matter how gross the provocation might be, it is never a licence to be bigoted, racist or hurtful.
We all have to exercise common decency and avoid being provoked into saying or writing things that denigrate entire communities, whether defined by race, ethnicity, religion or other such grounds.
The Board is currently working with Yeshiva College, the IUA-UCF and Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre in organising a tribute evening in memory of Gerald Leissner, who passed away last December.
Last week, Cape Town Jewry suffered a similar sad loss with the passing of Eliot Osrin. Of both these communal giants, it can truly be said that they were legends in their own lifetimes and that the essential soundness of Jewish communal life in their respective cities is in large part attributable to the great contributions they made over many years.
Eliot was supported in all his endeavours by his wife Myra, in her own right an outstanding Jewish communal leader. One of Myra’s finest achievements, in which Eliot was no doubt a constant source of support, was the pivotal role she played in establishing the Cape Town Holocaust Centre.
Gerald, for his own part, was crucial to the subsequent establishment of its counterpart in Johannesburg. Along with the Durban Holocaust Centre, headed by the Board’s National President Mary Kluk, these three organisations, particularly through the programmes they offer to school groups, are playing a valuable role in fostering a culture of anti-racism and tolerance in our country.
· Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00