The Jewish Report Editorial

Keep our children safe, but don’t curtail their freedom

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Sometimes an event that touches the very core of the Jewish community has no real connection to us. This week, most parents in this country – our community included – were horrified that a 13-year-old Grade 8 boy went off on the first day of high-school orientation camp, and didn’t come back. The camp councillors challenged the children to make their own rafts and climb mountains. It all sounded so much like school-orientation camps as we know them, but this boy drowned, and nobody in authority sounded the alarm until a day later.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jan 23, 2020

Now, I don’t know the devastated family of Enoch Mpianzi, but my heart goes out to them. As a parent, this tragedy strikes fear in our hearts. Our children are everything to us. And they must go out and challenge themselves. They most certainly must participate in school camps, as well as Jewish youth camps. It’s important for them, and develops their independence.

However, I know every time I’m faced with one of those “indemnity forms”, I can’t help but wonder why I’m signing something that feels to me like a reduction in the responsibility of those standing in for me as parent. I sign them only because I don’t want my children to miss out. We all do.

We certainly don’t want our children to be the ones who get sidelined because of our fears. And so, we hand our children over, and pray that the people we send them with will take care of them like we would.

And, our children generally come home after having had an amazing time, and we move on.

But it takes what happened to Enoch Mpianzi to shake every one of us to the core, and make us rethink how we do things.

In our story on page 3, we ask the schools what they have learnt from this horrific incident, and what our rights as parents are.

The question is whether this is going to change how we deal with sending our children off to camp. Are we going to curtail their movements even more? I say “even more” because our children have far less freedom than we had when we were young.

Physical freedom for our children and teenagers has been curtailed more and more over the years. Today, our children are almost prisoners behind the high walls of our homes. They have so much freedom online, and have contact with the cyber world, but not genuine physical freedom.

And now, after this tragedy, I bet so many of us are wondering if we should allow our children to go to these camps where we have no control. I have had those thoughts too.

Only, we can’t stop our children from being children. They need to grow, develop, challenge themselves, and others. They sometimes need to take risks – or so my husband tells me. We certainly did.

We need to be strong, and make sure that we know that the schools concerned have thoroughly checked out the camps and have taken every single precaution to protect our children. We need to know they don’t take this lightly. Mostly, I think, our community errs on the side of over-protection rather than under-protection, but I’m relieved about that.

I do hope that we all learn from our shock so that Enoch Mpianzi has not died in vain. But, let’s not make this a lesson that cuts the wings off our children. Let it make us better parents and educators.

Considering the issue of curtailing freedom, this Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

For this reason, we led this edition of the SA Jewish Report with a story that brings the Holocaust home to us. The story of Hitler’s typewriter finding a home in the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre does just that. The fact that this typewriter was brought to South Africa, has been here for all these years, and is eventually going to be put to good use, says it all. It will help to teach people about horrors of the Holocaust. It will help to keep the flame alive of the six million Jewish people who perished.

In this same week, we lost Mordechai Perlov, who was a valiant survivor, and spent the latter part of his life pursuing the mission of telling the world of his and other Jews’ horrific experiences.

I’m so grateful that in the past year, we were able to write about Perlov’s story, and about the book which documents his life. Just last week, we ran a story about the fact that a documentary film about his life had just been released.

He succeeded in his mission, and now the book and documentary will continue his work.

A few people have asked why we keep telling Holocaust survivors’ stories and other stories that date back more than 75 years. Our answer is quite simple: lest we forget!

In the case of the survivors, they aren’t young anymore, and we need to make sure that we hear and document their stories. It’s important for us to know what happened and, even more important for our children to know.

We need to do what we can to make sure young Jews understand what the Holocaust really meant, and what really happened to our people.

This week, I heard about a group in Israel who are encouraging youngsters to have their family members’ numbers tattooed on their own arms to keep their memory alive.

I find this distasteful at best. There have to be better ways to do this, but I understand the sentiment. We need to ensure that we never forget!

Shabbat Shalom!

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