Remembering who we are — connecting with our past!

By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD

Our memory helps make us who we are.

From fondly recollecting childhood events to remembering where we left our keys, memory plays a vital role in every aspect of our lives. It provides us with a sense of self and makes up our continual experience of life.

I remember my bar mitzvah in Israel, my first 50 in club cricket (I think my only 50 as well), the first date with my wife, the song I sang at our wedding, my son’s first words (dada — however my wife may disagree) and many more incredible memories that have shaped the person I am today. I also remember and have lived through some truly historic and tragic moments such as Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remembering key moments in our history helps define us as Jews and as South Africans. In April we celebrate and commemorate, Pesach, Freedom Day and Yom HaShoah — three contrasting moments in time. Four cups of wine and a bit of matzah will help us recall the Exodus from Egypt and the miracle of the Red Sea. Never again will we be slaves, that is the story of Pesach. Fast forward 12 days and we find ourselves celebrating Freedom Day, with South Africa’s first non-racial democratic elections taking place on that day in 1994. Peace, unity, the preservation and the restoration of human dignity hallmark this day. This was the birth of our democracy and the end of Apartheid, with people of all colour flocking to the polling stations to cast their vote for a free South Africa.

The next day, on 28 April, we commemorate the most tragic and catastrophic time in Jewish history — the Holocaust. Yom HaShoah is the one day in the year where Jewish communities from all over the world, come together to remember the six million Jews who had their lives stolen. The Cape SAJBD together with our partner organisations will be hosting a Yom HaShoah ceremony at the Pinelands Jewish Cemetery where members of our community, together with first, second and third generation Holocaust survivors, will come together in song, prayer and poem.

In early March, the Board hosted 40 Ward Councillors from the City of Cape Town taking them on a tour of the SA Jewish Museum and Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre. The councillors could not believe such atrocities could have happened and were shocked by what they saw. They were extremely grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust and the history of our Jewish community. It is our duty as Jews, not only to remember but to educate those around us. Never again and never forget!

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

Published in the PDF edition of the Pesach/April 2022 issue – Click here to get it.

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