The Jewish Report Editorial

A community that cares when the chips are down

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As we end our first week of level-4 lockdown, I don’t believe we have greater freedom in spite of some of the bans being lifted. There just seems like no end in sight.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | May 07, 2020

People’s initial peacefulness has now become a type of trauma and, for some, depression has set in.

It all stems from a real sense of fear for our future. We don’t know what our world will look like when the lockdown finally ends.

As a journalist, it was upsetting to read about Associated Media Publishing closing down after 38 years of the Raphaely family bringing out a host of phenomenal magazines. Then, the news that Caxton’s magazine section was also dying, losing another 10 magazines, was devastating.

Effectively, the magazine industry in South Africa is dying.

Look at the aviation industry. Comair, once a proud Jewish family-owned business, has filed for business rescue. Meanwhile, South African Airways, already in dire straits before COVID-19, has begun the process of liquidation. While there is talk of a new airline being launched down the line, this industry is also in tatters.

Imagine just how many people are now unemployed in these two industries, and how many families are going to need help to survive.

We can see why depression may be setting in, along with the trauma of having very little control over our future.

But then, I turn my focus to our small community. In good times, we challenge each other, sometimes picking on people for having divergent views and competing against each other. Yes, you can say we are your regular dysfunctional extended family.

However, like family, we may disagree, but we still care deeply about one another. Words can be cheap, but in this community, people actively care.

I say this because on our front page this week, we have a story that warms my heart. It’s proof of what I’m trying to say in a way that I never thought possible.

Back when coronavirus first became a reality in South Africa, our chief rabbi started worrying about what might happen to us. Knowing that there are a large proportion of entrepreneurs among us, he had a sense that COVID-19 cut was going to cut deep. It had the potential not just to hurt, but to maim us.

He began speaking to people with a lot of clout. He spoke to people with lots of money, sewing the seed for a fund to help small-to-medium-sized businesses that were going to need rescuing.

Now, it’s one thing for a spiritual leader to talk, quite another for others to rally around the idea and make it happen.

I know that for various reasons there is a big mask over the amount of money set aside in the new Gesher Fund to rescue businesses. However, I have it on good authority that it is worth tens of millions of rand, and it will be able to take care of many, many businesses in dire need.

Very wealthy people often have a bad reputation for being stingy. I’m sure you have heard it said that those people are rich because they don’t share. However, clearly, there are a large number of wealthy Jewish people who are so different. They care, and want to help. I’m so grateful for such people, who will keep our community afloat.

Then, there are hugely successful business people who have agreed to sit on the Gesher board to decide who is given loans to save their companies. I know a few of them, and I know just how busy they are. They have to make appointments to see their own children, but they have made time to get involved in this venture, which will be time consuming. Why do they do it? Simply because they care. Is it going to help them in any way? No. It’s not about them, it’s about the community, and saving our businesses.

So, yes, our community can argue. Yes, we can bitch and moan. However, I know I said it last week, and I repeat it again, we have the most extraordinary community in the world. A community with an enormous heart.

So, we may get depressed. We may be traumatised. We may be going through a whole host of unpleasant experiences.

But I, for one, am extremely grateful that I was born into this community because we look after our own without neglecting others.

Last week, I did something that was extremely difficult for me to do. I asked the community to help keep our newspaper afloat.

I have been astonished at the response. With its kindness came some of the most beautiful messages about how much our newspaper means to people’s lives. I have been bowled over at their gratitude.

I have received messages from some I least expected to hear from. They paid tribute to this newspaper, and what it means to them.

As an editor, there are few things that mean as much as knowing that what I and my incredible team do is appreciated. We certainly put our heart and soul into bringing this newspaper to you. So, thank you very much.

Shabbat Shalom!


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