Diversity? Not right now

For me, one of the many attractions of Cape Town is its diversity. Having grown up in a part of the city where there weren’t many Jewish people, and having attended a local government school – where the Jewish children were hugely outnumbered by everyone else, even by the Portuguese minority – meant that I was used to interacting with a wide range of people from different backgrounds.

And it’s been a feature of my academic and work life, too. In those realms of my life, I have been close to people of different colours, a wide range of ethnic and language backgrounds, and many distinct sexual orientations. It’s in the languages, the culture, the food, the type of humour, and so on, that I find diversity so appealing.

But, for the first time in my life, it seems like my ability to take pleasure in diversity is being thwarted. The unprecedented wave of anti-Israel sentiment, coupled with the quite unbelievable hatred of Jews we are currently experiencing, has built fear and distrust. Now I wonder if it’s safe to talk to a stranger I meet in a shop; whether it’s okay to allow a repairman into my home and engage with him like I would have done two months ago; or if I should feel comfortable to eat a falafel in pita in an open space. This is quite unthinkable: I really cannot believe that it is happening in my lifetime, especially when I think back to the fact that, in my family, just one generation ago the same thing was happening, at that point in Europe. 

During this time of crisis, we as Jews feel a greater sense of unity than ever before. The sense of community and kinship is something I don’t remember feeling quite as strongly beforehand. And this is something I treasure.

But I am sincerely concerned about the polarisation happening in our city’s wider society. It seems crazy that I no longer feel I should trust someone from outside my community – but it’s an unfortunate reality. Embracing diversity is not something I am comfortable with right now – but I most certainly hope that I will see a return to what I regard as normal in the near future. 

In this Chanukah edition, we welcome a new columnist for the voice of our youth. Erin Dodo, an astute and eloquent student of politics, takes over from Craig Nudelman. Craig has been a regular feature in our publication for many years, but with his departure from South Africa  – and his promotion into an older cohort – we felt that it’s appropriate to bring in a new view. And so we welcome Erin, while offering our sincere thanks to Craig. Wishing him every success in his new life Down Under.

You will see a number of opinion pieces in this edition relating to the current war situation in Israel and Gaza. This includes some very well thought-through pieces of writing that may well serve to guide us all.

On a lighter note, we hope that parents unsure about the options regarding Jewish day schools for 2024 will find benefit in the article we carry about our various schools.

Finally, please make sure you note the various Helplines available to our community. If you’re feeling emotionally fragile at the moment, don’t hesitate to make use of the services of the volunteer therapists offering help at no cost. You can also report incidents of antisemitism or notify CSO of any suspicious activity you may see – we are all the eyes and ears of our community, so report things that look worrying.

Oh, and, truly finally, Chanukah Sameach! 

• Published in the December 2023/January 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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