Opting in — consistently

Khoisan Chief Autshumao Mackie speaks to Cape SAJBD chairperson Rael Kaimowitz at the Great Debate in 2019.

By Rael Kaimowitz

As I come to the end of my term as chairperson of the Cape Board, I reflect on the community and the organisation I have had the privilege of leading. I am grateful and indebted to my executive, the board and the professional team for all they have done over the last three years.

It has been fascinating to observe and lead the community through some of the unforeseen challenges and crises it has faced. Abundantly apparent is that despite the significant talent drain our community has experienced over many decades, there remains a tremendous skill-set in so many fields. One example is the specific depth we uncovered in the area of infectious diseases, which has been so useful to our community and the country during the COVID-19 crisis.

Our community has changed. Some changes were inevitable. Some changes were sped up and arrived so fast that there has been little time to adjust, with unfortunate catastrophic effects. Changes also come with an opportunity to reflect.

I have observed that our community reacts and opts in when negative things happen, or when it threatens the status quo in some way. However, where do we find ourselves when things are just ‘normal’?

I will use the unfortunate — but inevitable — decision to close the Herzlia Constantia campus as one example. The school leadership faced understandable and passionate, yet at-times-aggressive-and-personal backlash in response. There is significant attendance at Zoom sessions, emergency meetings and special task team meetings. I applaud it all; it shows interest, passion, ownership and a desire to make a difference. I would take that response over apathy and disinterest any day.

However, where were we when our community called us? Were we at the annual AGM? Did we stand up and join the school PTA or nominate someone to serve on the United Herzlia Schools board? Did we sign up when CSO asked us to take a shift or join the eyes-and-ears programme? Did we react when SAUJS asked us to be a member of the Jewish representative body on campus? Where were we when the UJW asked us to join them in nation-building, or when Mensch asked for volunteers for Mitzvah Day? Did we choose to be a part of our shul minyan or join our rebbetzin’s shiur? Did we choose to vote in the board’s public ballot?

Where were we?

The strength of our community cannot be measured only by how quickly the CSO medical team arrives on the scene, or how we react in a crisis.

While all those measures are important, our strength surely must rather be measured by the way we opt-in daily, and how we assess where our skills could best benefit an organisation, subcommittee or project. Whether we ask in advance if there is a challenge we may lend our skillset to in solving, or whether we simply rock up and join in at Yom HaShoah, Yom Ha’atzmaut, a Melton course, the Sinai Indaba, Limmud or visiting someone’s grandparent at Highlands House.

Joining and associating is sometimes the best leadership we can show.

Let’s not only be the response team. Let’s be the everyday Jew. Opt in — it’s your choice how.

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