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This year wasn’t for sissies



I genuinely have no idea how the year 5781 has been. I know that I’m still here, and that’s good. I know that my father isn’t, and that’s bad. And that it has been a year of medical gains, of community losses, and more Zoom calls than I can possibly count. I have been on mute more than I would have liked, and muted less people than I have imagined doing.

It has been a year dominated by vaccine discussion and steamed up eye glasses. A year dominated by nervousness and worry about the future of the world, of family and friends, and of the country.

This was a year that wasn’t for sissies.

In spite of this, and as we head towards Rosh Hashanah, I’m filled with optimism and gratitude. Not only because we have made it this far, but also because of encouraging signs along the way. Many in our community have been vaccinated, shuls are open as are schools, and although things are far from “normal”, much like spring, there are buds of hope wherever we look. We will see them if we choose to.

As critical as I was earlier in the process, I’m proud of what we have achieved in the country. Vaccines aren’t in short supply, our medical facilities and workers have done us proud, as have our community organisations that cared for the sick, protected the elderly and vulnerable, and provided much needed charity to those who needed it. More so, when the politically inspired unrest hit the country, it was “normal” South Africans who stood up to the criminality and sent a message to the government that this behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated, and then, if that wasn’t enough, still rolled up their sleeves and helped to clean up the mess that they hadn’t created. It was impressive!

Really impressive.

There were many who chose to leave the country in the past year, and although I wish them great success, I challenge them to find a community anywhere in the world that displays half the heart, a small measure of the grit, as well as the care of the one they left behind. As unnerving as it is when people decide that our home is no longer right for them, it still doesn’t mean that their decision should be ours. And if there is something that I intend to give myself this coming year, it’s the permission to be happy in South Africa, a country that’s imperfect and troubled, but which is as unique as her people are.

I bless us all with the gift of being able to see what’s in front of us, and not what’s not.

My blessing to us all is that in the next year, we’ll be able to appreciate the nuance in our lives, the positives that are all around. And that we can continue to add texture and value to whoever we encounter. I wish for us a year that will take place in the real and not virtual world, that we will mute ourselves only when we choose to, and that there will soon be a time when we will see the radiance of a smile without it being obscured by a mask.

Shana tova and G-d bless.

  • Howard Feldman writes a regular column for the SA Jewish Report and hosts the Morning Mayhem show on Chai FM.

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  1. Bev Goldman

    Sep 3, 2021 at 9:13 am

    Love this article, Howard – thank you!!! And Shabbat shalom and Shana Tova Umetukah to you all – thanks for the positive optimism, so needed. I’ll remember everything you have said (for a few moments – after which I’ll forget them because my memory ….. what’s a memory? … isn’t what it should be, but for the moments I appreciate feeling better. I just want to see and HOLD all my overseas grandchildren (8) and great grandchildren (2) – is that too much to ask? Obviously yes. *Sigh* Okay, I’ll wait………

  2. Shana

    Sep 3, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Amen .

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