Jewish Wedding leads to Jewish education in Stellenbosch

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Eli Rabinowitz with Daniella van Niekerk in Stellenbosch

When ex-South African educator Eli Rabinowitz uploaded a video of a Jewish wedding onto his YouTube website in 2014, he had no idea that it would impact so many people around the world.

Rabinowitz explains “In March 2018, an Afrikaans education student at Stellenbosch University named Daniella van Niekerk found my YouTube post with a Jewish wedding ceremony on it. She had to present to her class something of a religious studies interest, and thought she would use a Jewish wedding ceremony.”

Van Niekerk contacted Rabinowitz for more resources, and he provided her with extra videos and an explanation of the different parts and customs that make up a Jewish wedding ceremony. “Her presentation was so successful that her lecturer asked her to repeat it to other classes!” recalls Rabinowitz, who lives in Perth.

“[The students] enjoyed the ceremonies — they found them beautiful, interesting and informative. Combined with the handout, students were able to experience and learn about the orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony, and see how the ceremony works and develops. The subtitles that were provided on the videos helped them understand its  flow and significance,” he adds.

Earlier this year, Rabinowitz and van Niekerk met up in Stellenbosch, and she showed him around the campus. As a genealogist, Rabinowitz says that “there were strong Jewish roots in Stellenbosch, and in other Afrikaner towns. The shul and adjoining building give an indication of the significance and presence that the Jewish community once had.”

He says that “Daniella is not Jewish, and comes from a traditional and religious Afrikaner family. As many Afrikaners identify with Jews, the Old Testament, our history, and the Holy Land, there is considerable empathy towards us Jews, and the issues that we face today.”

He said that as an educator, van Niekerk’s approach resonates with his WE ARE HERE! project. “Using the stories of the Jewish Partisans, WE ARE HERE! seeks to inspire in young people the confidence and ability to stand up in the face of prejudice and oppression,” he says. The project has received funding from the US government, and was run in Australia in August this year. 

Rabinowitz’s work in education certainly reaches a global audience, as he has taught classes on his WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders Project across the Former Soviet Union, South Africa, the US, UK, Australia and Europe. In fact, it is “interesting to note that a similar thing happened with a high school teacher in Kedainiai, Lithuania in 2014, who came across the same wedding on YouTube. I have visited the Lithuanian school each year since, and we have run Skype and Hangouts classes with her students, and as a result, have had simultaneous online collaborative classes with Herzlia School and with other schools in the FSU”, he says. 

To view the wedding video and Daniella’s project, visit https://elirab.me/stellenbosch-2019/

After the success of the US government funded project this year, WE ARE HERE! Is being expanded globally. To learn more about the global initiative, visit https://wah.foundation

To download the November issue of the Chronicle, click  here

To read the editor’s column for this month click here

To read the most read story in the October issue, click here

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