A mindset of giving builds community 

By Adrienne Jacobson, Chairperson, Cape SAJBD

I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of Alison Katzeff z”l. 

We at Cape SAJBD again wish Howard, Yael, and Oren a long life. May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion. May we all continue to feel the legacy of Alison’s work and may her memory be for a blessing.

A magnificent soul and exemplary leader has left our world and we as a community are mourning her loss deeply. Alison inspired me personally through her leadership, friendship and mentorship. Never too busy to take a call or a meeting, to listen, provide counsel or perspective, she prioritised the best interests of the community in all that she did .

I would like to share one of Alison’s best lessons to me over countless cups of tea around her table. She had a deep understanding of what builds and sustains community. She said, “At a simple level, in order for a community to thrive we have to look after one another. And to do that, we need a mindset of giving and a generosity of spirit. We need to give of ourselves and our resources, whether financial, intellectual, emotional, or our time. We should inculcate this in our families by setting an example for our children to emulate, thus ensuring our sustainability.”

We can apply Alison’s example of an abundant mindset of giving throughout our community and especially in our work at the Cape SAJBD.

At the end of January we held an induction and strategic alignment workshop for the Cape Council, where we explored how our organisation can build a strong culture of community service in line with our external and internal mandates. They are: protecting the civil rights of the Jewish community; enhancing the quality of Jewish life in our community; and serving our affiliate organisations. This strong culture of community service speaks deeply to how we engage with stakeholders in the socio-political landscape that we occupy, as well as how we engage with each other as a council and in our diverse community. 

Ian Fuhr, a doyen of strategic leadership in business, took us through his four-stage model of community building. Starting with ‘Pseudo Community’ (seemingly peaceful but hidden concerns and conflict avoidance), through to ‘Glorious Chaos’ (where there is confrontation and/or anxiety), followed by ‘Letting Go’ (acceptance, tolerance, introspection) and then to ‘True Community’ (respect, trust and tolerance — differences are valued, as are learning and knowledge).

The challenge of attaining ‘True Community’ needs what Fuhr calls paradigm flexibility and not paradigm paralysis or polarised minds. This is characterised by empathy and kindness; we engage with each other, rather than with polarisation or conflict. Dialogue, exploration, and collaboration in a spirit of genuine empathic curiosity and open-mindedness is always preferable to statements, petitions, or letters of demand.

To carry such a paradigm through to working in the broader political landscape of discrimination and prejudice, fighting hate speech and antisemitism effects real, meaningful, and significant change, as played out in the work of our four subcommittees: Interfaith and Inter-community; Generation Next; Antisemitism and Legal; and Advocacy.

An example of this paradigm can be seen in our Generation Next subcommittee with Israel Apartheid Week on university campuses throughout South Africa. Our SAUJS students are bravely navigating the complexity of narrative and opinion by using mindful and empathic engagement in a very difficult space. To endeavour to break old polarised patterns of conflict takes courage, and we support their work with pride in shifting the engagement to peaceful change and respectful relationships.

May this mindset of giving, kindness, and empathy, as embodied by Alison, continue to thrive throughout our community and inform our engagement, with each other and with all our stakeholders and those we liaise with. May we continue to create respect, tolerance, and trust in all our relationships, especially when we face challenges.

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

• Published in the March 2023 Digital Edition – Click here to start reading.

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