Encountering antisemitism in the 21st Century

By Tyla Dallas

In the final year of my LLB at Stellenbosch University, rushing to the local Spar to cure my hunger, I see a middle-aged man holding a full-length banner, with the words “Heil Hitler!” and a swastika on the front.

My first thought is “I hope he can’t tell.” At 24, with a full understanding of my fundamental human rights —after 2 years of studying our Constitution— my response to this blatant act of antisemitism was to hope that this man couldn’t tell I was a Jew. Not to tell him to stop, or that he was infringing on my right to equality, or that his belief was wrong. Worse yet, I’m unsure of who to report it to.

The local authorities who had driven past and said nothing 15 minutes prior proved apathetic, and the manager of the Spar was unwilling to deal with a matter occurring in a public area. I left it alone. I moved on. I did nothing.

UCT Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research conducted a survey in 2019 on the Cape Town Jewish community, recording nearly 60% of respondents saying they believed antisemitism had increased over the last five years. Nearly 30% of respondents avoid wearing Jewish apparel in public for fear of their safety, and around 40% avoid wearing Zionist apparel for the same reason.

So many of us —whether it be in a classroom, the workplace or a local shopping mall — feel compelled to hide or minimise our Jewish identity and pride, as evidenced by the Kaplan Centre report, for fear of being victimised.

I am telling you my story because I want you to know that when you experience an act of antisemitism, or another form of discrimination, or witness such an act — you are not alone, and the Cape SAJBD is here for you!

The Cape SAJBD will step in to address the incident with the perpetrator, with the help of the Community Security Organisation (CSO), relevant authorities and our legal team. All you need to do is report the incident to us on capesajbd.org/focus-areas/anti, by completing our form at https://cutt.ly/antisemitism and remember to always take photos and record notes of what occurred.

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website: www.capesajbd.org, Instagram, and Facebook page.

Published in the print edition of the December 2020/January 2021 issue.
Download the Dec/Jan issue PDF here.

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