Be kind, but be fierce

“Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.” — Winston Churchill

Thursday 12 March feels like many moons ago but in truth, it was just a few short months ago that the first case of COVID-19 broke in the Cape Town Jewish community.

It was at that moment that the Cape SAJBD — with our partners at the CSO — started our coordinated approach. Over the last few months, we have worked tirelessly, starting workstreams, offering our experience to communal bodies and disseminating information, at all times trying to act with kindness in the face of this threat.

The world of communal life is changing and will continue to change in the months and years ahead. I am often asked what it is that I am most concerned about for the future, and my response is that, while there is too much requiring our focus and thoughts at that particular time, we can rather ask ourselves in the moment, right now — what work we can do today that will effect change?

As an ex-Herzlian, I along with many alumni of my generation participated in a programme called ‘Gemilut Chasadim’. Gemilut chasadim means to pay back kindness. But chesed, like many Hebrew words, does not translate precisely into English. The word means more than simply ‘kindness’. Often translated as ‘loving-kindness’, chesed means giving oneself fully, with love and compassion.

What COVID-19 demands of us is that our actions be based in chesed.

The fact that this concept of chesed appears in the Torah more than 190 times indicates its importance in the lives of Jews.

We need fierceness to action our commitments — and we need chesed.

The continuation of communal Jewish life in Cape Town requires us to be kind and committed. It needs us to serve in whatever way that we can. As we chart a new chapter in our Cape Town Jewish community, how will you be committed to kindness?

By Stuart Diamond, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD

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