By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD
What makes you proud to be Jewish? Is it the Kippah you wear every day? Do you feel most proud when lighting Shabbat candles with your daughter? When you’re sitting in shul listening to the chazan, does the melody fill you with pride?
Whether it’s an action or a moment that inspires you to feel more connected to your Yiddishkeit, each of us has a connection to something unique that makes us feel proud to be Jewish.
This past week, I had the honour of representing the South African Jewish community in New York, at the 2022 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) summit on antisemitism and hate — Never is Now. This annual summit is the world’s largest conference-type event focused on creating greater understanding around — and ultimately the obliteration of — antisemitism and all forms of hate. The event took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Centre in Manhattan, and was attended by more than two thousand Jewish people from more than 60 countries. Until this event, I’d never been in a room with so many Jews, so much Kosher food, and so many passionate discussions on antisemitism. I was extremely proud to be a Jew standing together with so many other Jews — all unafraid to stand up for what we believe in; to fight for our right to express our Jewishness.
The conference programme was packed with a stellar line-up of speakers including Mayor of New York Eric L. Adams (who quoted Nelson Mandela in his speech), Director for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Christopher Wray, Actor David Schwimmer (remember him as Ross Geller in Friends?), academic and best-selling author Michael Eric Dyson, US Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, who presented via video recording as she was in South Africa (read on page 7), and US President Joe Biden, who shared words of solidarity with the global Jewish community, also via video recording. There were also several emotional and inspiring speeches from the President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine Boris Lozhkin, and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla — an incredible human being who exudes Yiddishkeit and clearly inspires people to do better, and to do more.
One day included a variety of sessions focused on antisemitism on social media, stopping extremists, preparing the community for antisemitic threats, anti-Israel and anti-Zionism rhetoric, and much more. While many of the sessions focused on the American Jewish community, we also heard from, and about other Jewish communities including the United Kingdom and France. The reality is that almost every Jewish community around the world is experiencing antisemitism in some form. But, that said, places like Panama, Bulgaria and yes, South Africa (!), are amongst the safest place for Jews to live — and that’s a fact!
I attended a series of roundtable discussions with approximately 50 Jewish leaders from communities in Chile, Argentina, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Brazil, Panama, Finland, Australia, Italy, Colombia, and of course South Africa. We shared our experiences of Israel Apartheid Week, legal cases of hate speech, antisemitism, and more. This for me was the highlight of the conference as friendships were forged based on common beliefs and interests. One particularly memorable occasion was a meal shared with community leaders from the UK, Italy, Colombia, Chile and France, discussing the diverse nature of our communities and the challenges we experience. Diverse as our backgrounds were, there was one strong commonality between us — that we are all proud to be Jewish and will do whatever it takes to protect our way of life.
What makes me proud to be Jewish? My family, my shul, the organisation I represent and am a part of, the community I serve, and the connection I feel to other Jews around the world. So again I ask, what makes you proud to be Jewish?
*Read a full report-back from the ADL Never is Now summit in our Cape SAJBD newsletter.
• Published in the December 2022/January 2023 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.
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