Rachel Kolisi’s connection to Judaism

  • rachel22
Rachel Kolisi may be a devoted Christian, but her connection to Judaism and Jewish history means that she feels a strong link to our community.
by TALI FEINBERG | Nov 19, 2020

This became evident when she visited the Holocaust memorial in Germany before lockdown this year, and posted a photograph of herself on social media saying, “Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe. I’ve watched every movie about the Holocaust, and it’s been my dream for the longest time to be closer to the history of it all.”

It garnered a massive response. Kolisi told the SA Jewish Report that the visit was “one of my biggest dreams since I started learning about World War ll”.

She chatted to the SA Jewish Report in between supporting her husband, Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi, throwing herself into the important work of their Kolisi Foundation, raising four children, and running her own business.

Looking back on her visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, she says, “It’s a sobering experience, and overwhelming, but I have a much better understanding of what actually transpired during the Holocaust. World War II – and the extreme levels of hate and love that were demonstrated during that time – really captures me.”

Her post received 12 263 likes on Instagram, and over 1 600 people responded to it on Facebook. “Thank you for visiting, and the post. Many people deny the Holocaust ever happened,” wrote one follower.

Kolisi says that her interest in the Holocaust and World War II developed after watching the film The Pianist. “I wanted to know everything I could about that time. I’m sure I’ve watched 90% of the World War II movies and documentaries.” She hopes to one day visit the Cape Town Holocaust & Genocide Centre with her two older children.

“I was raised a Christian, and as I have grown and experienced different situations in life, I believe my relationship with the Lord has just grown stronger and stronger,” says Kolisi. “I definitely feel connected to Judaism – my brothers and sisters. Jesus was a Jew.”

She has a Hebrew tattoo on her back which translates to ‘this too shall pass’. “I got it on my back over my heart, because they are words I carry close to my heart. They remind me that bad times don’t last, and good times don’t last either, so make sure you live in the moment and have a real appreciation for the good ones,” she explains.

“It’s in Hebrew because it’s the first language I believe Jesus spoke when he was here on earth.”

As a role model for women, she says, “South African women have a hugely important role to play in building South Africa. We have been created to nurture and care for others, and I don’t believe there is a more desperate time for that than now.”

“I definitely don’t have it all balanced all the time,” she says. “I try to be open and honest about that on my social media platforms. Also, what’s the definition of ‘having it all’ actually? My advice would be: remember, you are perfectly equipped for your purpose. And you’re doing great, even on the really hard and tough days, remember that. And remember to prioritise yourself in all the craziness. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

“I know sometimes South Africa seems like it’s ‘too messed up’, it can’t be fixed, and there’s no way forward,” she says. “But the reality is that if we all just took responsibility for our nation and did something – it doesn’t need to be something huge and grand – then South Africa would be a much better place for all.”

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