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Tu Bishvat – a reminder of the environment’s value

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Community

The Jewish National Fund’s (JNF’s) nationwide Tu Bishvat celebrations this week conveyed the message that protecting the environment is more important than ever.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world the consequences of not managing the interactions between humans and nature in a responsible and sustainable manner,” said JNF South Africa chairperson Michael Kransdorff.

The pandemic limited the organisation’s ability to have large crowds plant trees in South Africa and Israel, traditionally the focal point of this holiday. Instead, JNF-SA opted for more COVID-19-safe events.

The main event was a virtual tour of the south of Israel to witness how the desert is blooming thanks to the work of the JNF, including the planting of trees, deployment of water-saving technology, and support of kibbutzim. This is all the more remarkable given the constant rocket attacks that communities in the south face.

“We wanted to give our supporters a sense of what it’s like to live in and build these communities,” said Kransdorff. “Most South Africans, even those who visit Israel regularly, don’t have the chance to see the work that goes into the building of the south, an extraordinary story that more people should know about.” Following the tour, a meaningful Tu Bishvat seder and special tree planting ceremony was held in the South Africa Forest in Israel.

In South Africa, trees and food security were a central theme of this year’s celebrations. The JNF held a socially distant tree planting ceremony at the municipal reserve on Linksfield Ridge with Betar, the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), and Bnei Akiva. The tree chosen by JNF committee member Joni Kowensky was the Moringa tree, popularly known in African culture as the “tree of life” for its many nutritional and medicinal qualities. Very appropriate for current circumstances!

In Cape Town, JNF members gave a donation to the Seeds of Hope Programme, while in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, a small group of volunteers assisted with the upkeep of food gardens at the JNF-Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre. The JNF in Durban donated trees to Jewish schools in the community and held a Tu Bishvat seder with the Umhlanga Jewish Centre. It also maintains an environmental centre in Hammarsdale for the education of local school children on green issues.

Bev Schneider, the director of JNF-SA, said that normally, the organisation would have held events at schools to mark the occasion, however this year, opted to send a video message instead. She encouraged people to plant vegetable gardens on their pavements for those who are hungry, or if they aren’t able to, to contact the JNF about planting trees in Israel or supporting the organisation’s projects in South Africa.

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Community

PURIM WHAT’S ON

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See what is happening in your area for Purim.

Chevrah Kadisha: The Greatest Purim Drive-Thru! The Chevrah Kadisha is throwing open its doors at its premises in Long Avenue, Glenhazel, for the first time in a year to give you the Greatest Purim Show. On 26 February, from 11:30 to 15:00. Drive through the winding maze to see mind-blowing acts and attractions, all from the comfort and safety of your car! Lots of surprises and competitions for the whole family in this free Purim extravaganza.

Sydenham Shul: SydShul’s Spectacular Purim Carousel. Between 12:45 and 14:00 on Friday, 26 February at Sydenham Shul (enter at Main Street balloon arch). Free of charge, all welcome. Kids gifts and a raffle.

Ladies Purim Shiur (on Zoom): “Purim – a story of self-transformation” with Rebbetzin Estee Stern. Sunday, 28 February, 09:30. Meeting ID: 813 028 4050. Password: sydshul

Great Park Shul: Has an exciting COVID-19-safe carnival, with balloons, treats, and lots more. Friday, 26 February from 14:00. Book your children for the best fun ever! Go to the Facebook page, Great Park Shul, for more information or to book.

Greenside Shul: Women For Women – reading of Megillat Esther outside. At 14:30 on Friday, 26 February. RSVP shul office 011 788 5036.

Chabad of Greenstone: COVID-19 friendly Megillah readings on 25 February at 19:00 and 26 February at 17:00. Email: rabbi@chabadgreenstone.co.za for more information.

Sandton Shul: Sandton Shul presents a fun, COVID-19-friendly Purim drive-thru and car dress up on 26 February. Dress up your car to win prizes. Chip n dip and slush available. From 12:45 to 14:00. Here’s the internet link for all Megillah readings in Johannesburg: http://bit.ly/Purim5781_2021

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Benevolent to the fore

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For the past 128 years, the Jewish Women’s Benevolent Society (JWBS) has been working under the radar, assisting those in our community in need. However, since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, it has come to the forefront.

To date, the JWBS has provided more than 3 000 packs of essential winter and summer clothing. Since March 2020, it has donated funds to Africa Tikkun for sanitiser and masks; the Chevrah Kadisha for purchase of personal protective equipment; and Camp Kesher for activities and security. It also sponsored Yad Aharon’s soup kitchen for a week.

Beautiful blankets, in conjunction with nonprofit organisation Warm The World, have been knitted by our talented group of knitters; and the elderly and lonely received gifts and activity packs.

Boxes of books were given to various facilities in Johannesburg and to Jaffa Jewish Aged Home in Pretoria. Some residents have even started their own book clubs.

The men who work so tirelessly at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg received vouchers and gifts from the JWBS. Arrow, the German shepherd security dog and his handlers at Westpark were spoiled too.

All this and much more has been accomplished since the start of lockdown by the hard work and dedication of our staff and volunteers. The generosity of the community has enabled us to fulfil this vital task. We ask you to please partner with us so that we may continue to help those who need assistance during this difficult time.

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Community

Jews around the world call for Moshiach

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For 3 000 years, Jews have been praying for Moshiach (the messiah) to come, but this weekend, the Jewish world is upping its game with a communal prayer demanding that “G-d send Moshiach now”.

So says Rabbi David Masinter, who heads up Chabad House in Johannesburg, and who is behind the prayer to be said at 18:00 (South African time) on Sunday, 21 February.

“One thing COVID-19 has taught us is how vulnerable we all are,” says Masinter. “It’s been a time of introspection. It’s a time of realisation that we need Moshiach. This is how this worldwide Moshiach project was borne.”

According to Masinter, a businessman in Miami came up with the idea, and a universal prayer was formulated.

“Two powerful ways to hasten the coming of Moshiach is through unity of our nation and charity. Therefore, we are encouraging everyone to stop what they are doing, say this worldwide prayer together, and give a little charity at the same time. When Jews all around the world band together for a shared goal, the power is immeasurable.”

Masinter says belief in the coming of Moshiach is a fundamental principle of the Torah, and that we have to yearn for him to come. “This is one of the fundamental principles of our faith,” he says.

“We believe that one day, Moshiach will come, and g-dliness will be revealed on earth. There will be no more war, no more suffering. There will be peace among nations.”

The following prayer should be said at 18:00 on Sunday, 21 February:

“Master of the universe

We, your beloved children

United together around the world at this moment

Are crying out to you in prayer

Please accept this prayer with grace and kindness

We sincerely thank you for all your daily blessings,

But we implore you from the depths of our hearts

To send Moshiach immediately to redeem us with mercy,

From this long exile and suffering

And to bring peace to the world

We can’t wait anymore!

We desire your great name to be revealed

Your dominion in the entire world

And your presence returned to the Beit Hamikdash – the Holy Temple – now!”

“SHMA YISRAEL AD-ONAY EL-O-HAYNU AD-ONAY ECHAD

HEAR OH ISRAEL, THE L-RD IS OUR G-D, THE L-RD IS ONE”

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