Words Matter – especially this Yom Tov!

By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD

We at the Cape SAJBD put forward the idea that our Cape Jewish community take up the challenge of becoming practitioners of careful, thoughtful and deliberate positive communication. That we don’t fall for the ease of speaking without thinking. That we practise engaged listening and connect with one another meaningfully despite our differences. We believe there is No Place for Hate, and Words Matter. These pledges are displayed on the Cape SAJBD website and it is a campaign that I encourage the entire community not only to take to heart, but also to implement in your daily lives – especially with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur around the corner.

Whilst our community has been lauded for the manner in which we come together in times of need and the way we in which we support our fellow Jew, I have seen several instances where we can be cruel, disrespectful and judgmental. Most often people comment on incidents without any understanding or full knowledge of the entire situation. Even then, to berate, belittle and condemn another human being will not resolve the current problem and will certainly not appease anyone. “Sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never harm me.” A catchy tune from my youth – oh how times have changed. Words definitely matter and they can most certainly harm an individual – you don’t have to be a mental wellness expert to know that.

Social media in particular has become such a vile place for “keyboard warriors” to vent their frustrations. Many of these individuals feel it is their right to say whatever they feel without even thinking of the ramifications for others. By all means, stand up for those who are put down and voice your opinion. However, as the saying goes, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. Don’t use hateful and hurtful words to attack one individual in order to defend another’s honour. Remember – the minute you post something on social media, it will be there forever and you cannot take it back. I am sure there are many people out there who have posted the most abhorrent statements thinking they were on the right side of the fight, only to learn the ugly truth and realise that they cannot take back what was said. 

I implore members of our community to really think long and hard before posting a response to anything on social media. Think about whether or not your message will benefit the person whose rights you think you are defending. How will your message be interpreted by others? What is the intention of your message? Is it to come to the aid of someone, is it to verbally harm another or do you simply want to be heard? Finally, will your message provide a viable solution to the problem at hand? 

I know that we all like to be heard and we all have an insatiable need to voice our thoughts. However, sometimes it is better to say nothing, especially on social media. Pick up the phone and call the person. Have a conversation and try to understand what the issues are and how these can be resolved. You may find this to be a more constructive and effective solution – as opposed to simply insulting people online. 

Words Matter and they can most certainly hurt someone in so many ways. However, words can also heal, inspire and generate positivity. You can make someone’s day by being kind and offering a compliment or vote of gratitude. There is no place for hate – however, there is definitely place for kind words! Wishing everyone a Shana Tova Umetuka and well over the Fast!

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

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

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