By Tzvi Brivik, Chairperson, Cape SAJBD
Three weeks ago, we celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut at the Green Point Cricket Club.
The event was extremely well organised and well attended. It featured Israeli food, Israeli dancing and various arts and crafts sourced from Israel. It was unfortunate that at the entrance to the event various detractors hurled insults and abuse at members of our community. It was an act of bravery to run that gauntlet and in the face of uncalled-for, hurtful and hateful speech, remain stoic. We commend our community for this.
It is the Board’s mandate to build bridges between our Jewish community and all the other peoples of South Africa. We do this in various ways: we host interfaith webinars, we partner with our affiliates to encourage visitors to the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre, under the palm fronds of a sukkah we host a Sukkat Shalom to which we invite senior representatives of the Western Provincial Legislature and various interfaith community leaders, we encourage dialogue between various youth groups, and so on. We do this so that our community can live peacefully, sharing the beauty of the Western Cape and our country. We hope that by doing so, we eliminate the sense of the ‘other’ and that instead of being strangers to our neighbours, we are seen as kin — so that when we next celebrate a momentous occasion or commemorate a significant loss we can do so together, free from the fear of being harassed or bullied.
The Board has had great success in pursuing the Masuku hate speech case which culminated in a formal apology from COSATU and a judgment vindicating freedom of religion, the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law*. We will in accordance with our mandate similarly investigate and pursue any infringement of our constitutional right to freedom of expression, freedom to gather and to bodily integrity.
Recently we hosted Jonathan Ancer author of Mensches in the Trenches at both Exclusive Books Waterfront and at Gardens Sukkah hall. He described how in the face of the apartheid regime and overwhelmed with negativity, there were those individuals who inspired bravery. They were ordinary people who rose above the intimidation and threats, and coalesced into a force of strength effecting change. The book highlights the previously unrecorded stories of some of the Jewish participants and the essential role they played in bringing freedom and justice to South Africa — many of whom we know and who have led our community in the past. We have much to be proud of and a history of opposition to injustice which should be celebrated.
Looking globally, an $11 million project is underway to restore a number of decaying synagogues and preserve Venice’s Jewish ghetto. In just one suburb, five synagogues are hidden, and date back to the 16th century. As part of our mandate we too are tasked with preserving our provincial heritage. There are many institutions dotted around the country community map which require our attention. These include shuls — often preserved as museums or used by the municipalities for clubhouses and to house administration — as well as cemeteries. We must honour our history. Just as being Jewish is fundamental to our lives, so too is the preservation of our heritage. Whilst we may not have the funds which the city of Venice has, it is important for us not to lose the sense of where we were, how we contributed to the development of the province, and the history of how we overcame numerous obstacles.
• Published in the PDF edition of the June 2022 issue – Click here to read it.
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