Inside and Out July 2017

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By Josh Hovsha, Executive Director
of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies

The Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin once said “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

It feels as though we have had a great many of those weeks as of late. 24-hour news cycles contribute to this sensation, but it is more than that now isn’t it? Trump, Zuma, Julius, Europe, Pravin, water crisis, #FeesMustFall, #MenAreTrash, Junk Status, Trump again. It can feel like nothing is certain. As though the ground under our feet is disappearing.

It is relevant that at this time we are reading the Book of Bamidbar (Numbers) which tells of the evolution of our people over the forty years in which they wander in the desert on the way to their Promised Land. This difficult journey serves as a valuable lesson. Not all paths to our promised destinies come smoothly. In a fascinating work on Biblical leadership Moses as Political Leader the Political Scientist Aaron Wildavsky makes this point. “Moses first experiences wilderness as an escape from history…he is about to learn that for him, as for most of mankind, wilderness is history.” (Moses as Political Leader, pg. 143)

At the moment we can truly relate to the image of wandering. As we begin to ask: What happens when all the promise of the first elections in 1994 remains unrealised two decades later? Where are we heading?
How do we deal with the flood of information we are receiving? It is time to start unpacking these weeks and months. It is time to speak about South Africa its future and its setbacks. Let’s talk about where we have come from and how we can move towards the future we deserve.

With this perspective we are proud to unveil our 2017 conference theme. ‘State of Mind; State of Nation.’
We are excited to invite our community to engage with us in debates of national importance. On Education, on Politics, on the law and what we owe to one another. Together we wish to uncover how we as Jewish South Africans best contribute to this debate. Our perspective is worth celebrating in light of both our collective experiences of discrimination, as well as our unique ability to build and create.

Living at this moment as we try to guarantee the promise of South Africa’s democracy for all is worth reflecting upon. The task in which we are engaged is marked by grand moments of optimism and many days of frustration. It is a task that can only be achieved through honesty, humility and mutual acceptance of one another. It is frightening to see how much those around us need help and empowering to know that in community we can bring respite to those who need it.

The Book of Numbers closes leaving behind the turmoil of desert for the hope of a future that lies ahead. This chapter in our country’s future is still not decided, but we will do all that we can to ensure that it ends with us closer to true freedom, dignity and equality for all.

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