The Jewish Report Editorial

Let’s use our power for change

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There is something outrageously inspiring about sitting in a magnificent ballroom at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards surrounded by about 900 of the best minds in the community. Also, having put together a magazine in which we profile all those who were shortlisted for awards, I know the calibre of those in the room waiting to hear the results.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Sep 12, 2019

So many of those people deserved to win. While putting together the Achiever magazine, I kept fact-checking the profiles written by Jordan Moshe and Gillian Klawansky because I could hardly believe that people could be so impressive. Each time, I found the profiles to be correct.

So, while it might not have felt wonderful to hear someone else’s name being called when you were definitely deserving of the accolade, it certainly isn’t a slight on anyone on the shortlist.

The power in that room on Sunday night was awesome and palpable. It was such an honour to be there. As a community, we punch so far above our weight, there is very little we can’t achieve.

This brings me to the terrible situation in South Africa at the moment. Even the government has called it a crisis, in spite of taking way too long to recognise this.

While we mostly sit in our suburban homes, people in poor areas and townships are experiencing immense trauma.

There are criminals going from house to house in search of foreigners, and even if your skin is just a little darker than normal and you are 100% South African, you’re at risk. Those involved aren’t rational, they are angry and desperate. To those around them, they say government and business isn’t listening to them, so they will get rid of foreigners.

On the other side, those affected are just as desperate, and in some cases are also believed to be taking the law into their own hands. The result is total upheaval, and a national crisis.

All the while, most of us are fairly oblivious to the situation because we are fortunate enough not to live in that part of our city. In fact, unless you keep an eye on the news, you could very easily forget that this is happening.

It reminds me of covering township violence back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. White South Africa lived the good life while the townships were burning, and the most horrific things were happening.

I recall covering devastation in East Rand townships where homes were being burnt and people necklaced, and I would come home at the end of the day feeling shattered. I found it very hard to reconcile my life outside of work with what was happening. But most white people continued their lives as usual. Thanks to government censorship, they were fairly unaware of what was happening.

Today, however, we have no excuse for not knowing what’s going on. We have a free press and media, and the stories and videos are coming through thick and fast. However, many of us choose not to see it. Admittedly, it’s frightening, and not something one wants to know or see.

You might be wondering where I’m going by celebrating our power as a community and referring to this national crisis. Quite simply, as a community, we have to do something.

We have the power to make change. We can do this in whatever area we work in, perhaps in the legal fraternity, business, medical fields – I could go on. Each of us has the power to help bring about change. Politicians have a massive role to play, but I’m not going to count on them to make this change. We need to get cracking, and make a difference.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has put out an appeal for financial contributions as it has been approached for relief funds for families affected by the xenophobic hatred. You would certainly help by contributing.

Another thing we are particularly good at is negotiations. When I listen to people talking about this crisis, I battle to work out what the problems are that have caused this chaos. Therein lies the problem.

Somehow, we need to get both sides across a table to figure out what the problems are, and how they can be ironed out.

I believe that the high rate of unemployment and ridiculous cost of living is at the bottom of this, not evil people. Rather, these people are desperate, and they have found scapegoats.

In all honesty, even if every foreigner left the country, crime wouldn’t disappear, nor would everyone get great jobs and have a better life. Not happening!

As we are accustomed to being the world’s scapegoats, Jewish people understand the importance of putting our hands up to help in whatever way we can.

Come up with ideas, and send them to this newspaper. Let’s see what we can do together.

There’s no time to waste as every day, more lives and homes are destroyed. The time to act is right now. We have the power. Let’s use it.

Finally, I would like to say a massive thank you to all the incredible people who participated in and attended the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards.

On behalf of the SA Jewish Report board and team, we are hugely grateful. Because of you, this newspaper we love will continue to thrive. Kol hakavod!

Shabbat Shalom!


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