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Want certainty? Remember to wear sunscreen



In the discourse about the future of South Africa’s Jewish community, there’s a pressing need for dialogue that goes beyond the binary choice of staying or leaving. This debate, often ignited by socio-political and economic shifts, tends to oversimplify the complex issues shaping our community’s future. Addressing these in a single article is challenging, but it’s essential to consider our constitutional resilience, religious freedom, and the diverse individual journeys we undertake in seeking meaning and purpose.

My view on life in South Africa is nuanced and complex. In spite of my deep criticism of the government’s foreign policy, corruption, and inefficiency, I find that my sense of purpose and happiness isn’t solely dependent on these factors. My view of opportunities, both communal and commercial, are rooted in experiences more profound than constantly reacting to every shift in the country’s climate.

Like most parents, my wife and I think deeply about our children’s future, hopefully a common practise irrespective of the country. Our experience shows that each child is unique, requiring different environments to thrive. We strive to instil a love of Hashem, resilience, and adaptability, encouraging them to choose paths that resonate with them, wherever that may be. This pursuit of certainty, especially for our children’s futures, resonates with Baz Luhrmann’s song, Wear Sunscreen, which humorously states that the only scientifically proven advice is to wear sunscreen, underscoring life’s unpredictability. “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday,” go the words to the song. They remind us that life’s most significant events often stem from personal or unforeseen circumstances, not from the fluctuating political or economic landscape.

I’m acutely aware of the significant systemic challenges facing South Africa, however, my focus is to shift the narrative, emphasising that joy, happiness, opportunities, and a sense of stability are deeply personal and often found within individual experiences. Engaging in our vibrant Jewish community, pursuing commercial and communal initiatives, and enjoying simple pleasures with friends and family contribute significantly to my fulfilment, enhancing my sense of stability, happiness, and strengthening my connection to Hashem.

Each individual must decide whether South Africa is the right place for them. The decision to stay or leave is “yes” – yes to staying if our complicated society inspires and motivates you – and it really can. If the support of family and friends, coupled with the richness of Jewish practice, gives you purpose; and if you see potential in the challenges. Conversely, it’s “yes” to leaving if another country might better suit your aspirations. Recognising that different events might shift this answer, it’s important to note that the decision isn’t fixed. Recent years have shown that certainty is elusive, and our decisions should be grounded in a realistic understanding of life’s inherent unpredictability.

Our life journey is as unique as each member of our community. Everyone navigates their path amidst the complexities of our shared existence, hopefully striving to align with the teachings and wisdom of our Jewish heritage. As we make these decisions, let’s draw inspiration for purpose and happiness from various sources, and hope and pray that Hashem continues to bless our personal and community endeavours, guiding us with wisdom and fortitude. And in embracing life’s unpredictability, it’s probably true that the only universally certain advice is to wear sunscreen.

  • Benjy Porter is an entrepreneur, community, and family man. The opinions in this piece are those of the author.

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