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The Jewish Report Editorial

The importance of laughing at ourselves

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I believe we are all feeling stressed and traumatised. We live in a country where there is a high rate of crime, our economy is battling, and we are facing the threat of a coronavirus pandemic.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Mar 12, 2020

All the more reason to be able to laugh at ourselves. We are a quirky, phenomenal, and unusual community. None of us is perfect, but most of us have big hearts, and care deeply for what’s important to us. We need to take a chill pill every now and again, letting out a good giggle or a warm belly laugh at ourselves. It’s healthy for us, and makes life just that bit easier. For this reason, every year, the SA Jewish Report publishes a Purim Shpiel.

This year, we got some good giggles and some belly laughs, but we also got a lot of abuse from people who were angry at us for daring to focus our spoof on a King David school.

As you know, I’m a proud alumnus of King David Linksfield. I was there from my first day of nursery school, and lived across the road from the school for my entire childhood.

My beloved mother, who has just passed away, was the secretary of the primary school principal during that time.

They say that our experiences make us what we are, and the many years at King David are embedded in my personality.

As, I’m sure, they are for the person who wrote the Purim Shpiel last week – Professor Shpiel Pu Rim (otherwise known as Howard Sackstein), who like me, is a proud alumnus of King David Linksfield.

So, to say that either of us meant any harm by the Purim Shpiel he wrote and I published is astonishing. We both have the greatest respect for the school, its educators, the pupils, parents, and alumni. It’s without doubt an exceptional school, which is part of the reason I, for one, was so sure that nobody could possibly believe any of the nonsense that was written in the piece. It was absurd, as Purim Shpiels are meant to be. Who on earth would question the values of the school? We certainly didn’t, which is why we believed we had a great Purim Shpiel.

However, while there was much laughter, we also somehow managed to upset a number of people with our words, and for that I’m extremely sorry. We certainly never meant any harm or malice. It wasn’t a real story, nor was it meant to be.

We were so sure that all the clearly absurd markers in the story would scream “Purim Shpiel”, but for some of our readers, particularly the parents and children at King David, it wasn’t amusing. They didn’t see the joke, and are furious with us. To them, I give my assurance that we meant no harm.

We have received ugly emails, and we have even been called anti-Semitic for publishing this shpiel. We were told that we were “mocking a Jewish school”, and asked why we hate King David. The SA Jewish Report also came under attack on the valuable platform of Joburg Jewish Mommies. Interestingly, while there were many who defended us, nobody mediated the vicious attacks.

I watched this unfold with astonishment, as this fury and hatefulness certainly wasn’t our intention. It was lighthearted, and a little bit of fun.

Quite simply, we didn’t believe that anybody in their right mind would imagine a top school like King David allowing drugs or any of the absurd things written in the shpiel. Even the thought of it is absurd!

I guess there are many in our community who are also unfamiliar with the tradition in the Jewish media of a Purim Shpiel, which is much like an April Fool’s joke. It’s when the Jewish media pranks their readers once a year, just before Purim, with a patently obvious nonsense story. (See article on page 16.)

I’m willing to roll with the punches when a genuine story touches a nerve, which does happen. That’s our job, and the truth is that right-wing folk sometimes see us as too left-wing, and the left sees us as too right-wing. The very religious see us as too secular, and so on. That’s acceptable. We can’t please all the community all the time, as much as we try to do so. It also means that we are positioned somewhere in the middle and don’t take sides, which is a good thing.

I do understand that we sometimes touch a nerve in the stories we write, but I believe that we are doing a service to our readers in giving you news, views, and information that’s valuable to you. We do it in the best way we can.

My team and I are so committed to this newspaper and this community, we spend many extra hours considering and labouring over what we present. We want to give you the best quality newspaper.

However, to be lambasted for a Purim Shpiel, and to be threatened and abused doesn’t seem logical.

There was truly so much of value to read in last week’s newspaper, so much to take seriously rather than a spoof that was simply meant to make us laugh at a time when we so dearly need it.

Having said all of that, if you were particularly offended by it, I’m sorry!

Shabbat Shalom

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