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Youth calls for honest conversation and a greater voice




“The time has come for the Jewish community to listen to the youth,” said panellist Tali Scher, a matric student at Herzlia. “We don’t feel valued, and we don’t feel that we have a voice. We feel marginalised and distanced from the community.”

It is vital that the older generation listen to the needs of the younger generation, and create space for change. “Are we, in all honesty, creating that safe space and empowering our youth?” asked Lee Lobel, the co-ordinator of the Diller Teen Fellows programme, (for young Jewish leaders) who chaired the session.

Johannesburg-born panellist Nathan Esra, a University of Cape Town student and the incoming Chair of the South African Union of Jewish Students, said the community was “not really set up in a way that was nurturing to young Jewish people trying to connect with their Zionism”.

As for the future of Jewish and Zionist youth in South Africa, he felt that people were “very apathetic”, a fact demonstrated by the lack of youth in attendance at the conference.

“During Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), it is really hard to get people involved on campus and to voice their opinions,” he said. He recalled 400 screaming protestors ranked against “three of us holding Israeli flags”.

Esra, who has witnessed six IAWs, believed it is “not about apathy, but mostly about the fear of being socially outed as a right-wing extremist.”

In addition to calling for greater interaction between the leadership and the youth, Scher suggested activities to draw youngsters in, as well as the inclusion of youth council representatives in decision-making. “Show us how we can contribute,” she said.

UCT student and panellist Aaron Sher said he was “very concerned” about the future of the country’s Jewish youth. The numbers in youth movements over the past few years had been “incredibly low”, and there was “growing apathy” towards Jewish and Zionist education.

He said that the youth movements were the future of this Jewish community, and when he was out of the “Habo space”, he felt concerned as a Zionist. “When I disagree with the Israeli government, I hear the phrase ‘self-hating Jew’.

“If the Jewish community continues to disallow deviance, we’ll not grow as a community. It’s up to Jewish youth to realise that we need to be free to criticise.”

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