Making new friends

By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD

At the beginning of July, I spent a week in Berlin, Germany, at the invitation of the German government. 

Thirteen others from around the world and I joined a tour of Jewish life in Germany where we were able to learn about this vibrant and growing Jewish community. You can learn more about this community, whom we met with, and the places we visited by reading my article on page 8 of this edition entitled: Experiencing the Jewish Community of Berlin.

Our group was made up of participants from thirteen countries: South Africa, Indonesia, Australia, United States, Latvia, Poland, Belarus, Romania, Israel, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Czech Republic and Spain. During the week in Berlin, I spent almost every minute, day and night, eating, drinking, talking and learning with my new friends. It is quite fascinating to see how much one can learn from someone, based on the environment you find yourself in. For example, when we were in a more formal setting comparing the Berlin Jewish community with other diaspora communities, I learned that the community in the Dominican Republic requires more support teaching young non-Jewish people about the Holocaust. Fast forward a few hours and, when it was only our group having dinner, my new friend from the Dominican Republic told me about her life back home and her three children. Fast forward a few hours later, whilst sharing a glass of wine, we also shared some funny stories and told a few jokes. 

This seemed to be the theme throughout the week. The more time we spent together, the more comfortable we were to share a variety of pieces of information. Did you know that, in Indonesia, a community of approximately sixty Jews lives amongst a population of two hundred and twenty million Muslims – they seem to get along. I also found out that my colleague from Indonesia suffers from insomnia which explains why he was always so tired during the day (he did fall asleep a few times). My friend from New York supports Manchester United so we got along famously; however, being a Rabbi, I don’t think he gets to watch as many games as I do over Shabbat. I did meet someone who speaks more than I do – no shock that he is from Israel – a real mensch and someone whom I got to know really well. 

Incredibly, I met a young Polish man named Jakub who will be coming to Cape Town in September 2023 to run the Holocaust & Genocide Centre. I was extremely surprised to learn of this revelation and realised that, for the rest of the trip, I had to be on my best behaviour! Our meeting in Berlin was fortuitous and we were able to share stories and get to know each other. Hopefully, this will make his and his family’s transition into Cape Town community life a little easier. We also seem to share the same dry humour – not sure if that is a good thing though? 

I went to Berlin to learn about the community there, represent the South African Jewish community and try to see what lessons we can learn and what can be shared. I didn’t expect to make new friends, however, but we are already continuing the discussions via WhatsApp. You may find me appearing on a Jewish television show in Buenos Aires, or mentioned in an article in Israel, or even attending the next Jewish film festival in Barcelona. With so many friends based all over the world, the question is – where to next? 

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

• Published in the August 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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