This past month we marked ten years since the 2008 Xenophobia attacks which shocked our country.
These assaults did not stop in 2008, seven years later a second mass wave carried through the country. Beyond the large waves, acts of xenophobia and Afro-phobia occur daily in our country. Government inaction or willful blindness often support these acts.
These daily attacks deny the hope that the pogroms of 2008 were a unique moment – an aberration, both shameful and easily defeated. Instead, we are forced to pause and once more search intensely for the systemic problems still at play.
Ten years later and we need to be obsessed with justice, with history, with the many borders that divide our planet and the numerous more connections which break those boundaries.
Ten years later and we are forced to acknowledge that there are countless stories of suffering which have not yet been told.
Xenophobia is not the only societal hatred which we confront. The early hours of 1 January 2018 opened with the murder of Noxolo Mabona in the Strand. She was killed because she was a proud lesbian and nothing else.
In these pages, you will read about the SAJBD’s event “Coming Out: the Jewish Experience”, where we had the chance to listen with humility to those willing to share their lived experiences with us. We heard first-hand accounts of powerful and uplifting journeys. And we were reminded that beyond Xenophobia hatred of LGBTQI individuals continues to threaten lives up to this very day.
Some of the work which I am most proud of is the Board’s role as a founding member of the Hate Crimes Working Group (HCWG) – a coalition of civic organisations formed to protect the most vulnerable members of society. The HCWG promotes education and legislation to stand against racism, gender violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia and prejudices towards refugees, LGBTI groups and religious minorities.
This work matters so much because Jewish experience and history taught us what it means to be weak in a world of power. We know the dangers of radical hatred. Today we find ourselves in a country with constitutional ideals which echo our commitments to shared humanity, dignity, freedom and life.
But we understand that the rule of law is only valuable when it guarantees protection for all without exception.
The great Irish American playwright Eugene O’Neill wrote: “There is no present or future-only the past, happening over and over again now.”
This is a pattern from which we must escape. The past has not been good enough, and if justice is to have a place in a world which at times seems uninterested, then we are the ones who have to fight for it.