Thrown into the deep end — navigating my first month!

By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD

By the time you read this article, I will have been Executive Director for two months. However, we can all appreciate that the Chronicle itself is not put together in five minutes.

It takes weeks of collating content, proofing articles and ultimately ensuring that everything you read and see is accurate and truthful. Hence this article will only provide insight into my first month at the Cape SAJBD.

My first week started off like any new job — Is my temperature below 37.5 degrees? Where is the coffee machine? Who do you go to for an IT emergency? What’s the WiFi password? All important questions which must be answered. In between, I managed to attend a few meetings, introduce myself to my neighbours and I was able to get my teeth stuck into Board matters.

Then came week two, marked by the escalation of the conflict in the Middle-East. They say the best way to learn at a new job is to hit the ground running. For the rest of this week and the two weeks thereafter, my time was consumed with meetings, briefings, phone calls and email responses all related to the impact of this conflict on our local community. Many people have referred to my first month as a ‘baptism of fire’.

Everyone has a different view of things — whilst some people see the glass as half-full, others may see the glass as half-empty. I am a glass-half-full kind of guy and I try to find the positives in every situation. So, despite the barrage of antisemitic comments online, the relatively imbalanced media commentary and the various protests, I was able to experience something truly amazing. The Jewish community came together in unison, as we usually do during challenging times. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies as one organisation (not individual provincial offices), representing the interests of Jewish South Africans, responded in one voice to the President of South Africa, members of government, the public and the media, calling for peace, an end to the conflict and a stop to the senseless online antisemitic abuse.

We are not alone in the fight against antisemitism. We have friends in the community with whom we have collaborated, fighting towards a common goal — protecting our rights as Jews to express our religious beliefs and to live in a safe and secure environment. We thank all those who have raised their voices and spoken out in defense of the Jewish community.

Life however must go on, even through troubled times. We seem to forget that COVID-19 is still very much with us, and the third wave has hit the Western Cape. We need to look after our family — especially those older than us. For this reason, the Cape SAJBD has partnered with the UJC, CSO Cape Town and the Cape Jewish Seniors Association (CJSA) to assist senior Jewish citizens with information related to the vaccine. Our dedicated vaccine phone-line allows members of the community to speak to someone who can guide them through the registration process and provide them with valuable information.

Looking ahead to the months of June and July, plans are underway to celebrate Youth Day, Pride Month and Mandela Day. I am excited at the prospect of collaborating with our partners in order to recognise and appreciate the contributions within our diverse community, connect with our youth and engage in open debate around issues affecting them and providing necessary support to those less fortunate.

My first month with the Cape SAJBD was truly interesting and marked with a steep and exciting learning curve. I look forward to connecting and collaborating even more with our incredible community in the coming months.

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

• Published in the PDF edition of the July 2021 issue – Download here.

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