A Bitter Sweet Jewish New Year

2015-09-12 19:15

There will be no fire works. No parties and no final countdown. Indeed the Jewish New Year is a sombre affair marked by prayer and by introspection. It’s a time to take stock and to wonder with some trepidation what the next year will bring. And for South African Jews, given the year that was, this is particularly daunting.

The Jewish New Year begins at sunset on Sunday evening. Jews throughout the world will enter synagogues, shake hands with their friends and wish each other a sweet new year. They will have called family throughout the world, they will have sent cards and emails to their friends to remind them that they are in their hearts and minds and they will have made charitable donations in the names of their loved ones so that they merit the goodness that comes from that kind deed. They will dip apples in honey to reinforce this sweetness, but they will also note with some irony that the year that was, was anything but.

No longer strangers to anti Semitism, the community has had its fill of hate. Three boys attacked at a mall in Rosebank for wearing traditional Jewish head coverings, Wits SRC Mcebo Dlamini lauding Hitler and blaming Jewish money for Wits’ ills, a pig’s head placed by COSAS in what was meant to be the kosher section of a supermarket, chants of “Shoot the Jew” at university rallies, Government Ministers singling out the Jewish community and questioning their loyalty to South Africa, a convicted terrorist who still espouses violence against Jews welcomed to the country, a university in Durban asking for Jewish students to deregister and a level four security alert raised around Jewish places of worship. Concrete barriers surround synagogues and reminds us that this is a community, like many around the world that is at risk.

And then there is the fact that South Africa has presented a weekly buffet of disquiet. From government corruption to Eskom to Omar al Bashir. From the failing currency to the failing public healthcare to the failing economy. It has not been an easy year to be South African.

And yet. As important as it is to note the difficulties and to take an honest and un-tinted look backwards, it is important to note and to be grateful for what we have. Because Jewish South Africans are blessed to live in a country that values and protects their right in the very fabric of its founding constitution. Grateful that Jewish children are free to be educated in matters of Jewish faith and history. Grateful that Jewish South Africans are able to contribute daily in the fields of medicine, business and be to involved transformation of this wonderful country. Grateful for fellow South Africans who want only peace; to the Christians and Hindus and Moslems and to those who are not aligned with a religion and to those would don’t worship.

I am grateful for our country's weather and beauty and for the beggar on the corner who presents an opportunity for us to do good at every traffic light. I am grateful to our President who makes us laugh even when he doesn’t mean to. Grateful for the Parliament Channel on TV for providing hours of entertainment and to Julius Malema for his starring role. And that internet speed is finally improving. Grateful for Mmusi Maimane. For Reverend Kenneth Meshoe. Grateful for our sense of humour that is uniquely South African. Grateful for game drives and Kruger Park, even when we only see impalas. Grateful for Homo Naledi and for those who think the discovery was racist. Grateful that we can say what we want, even if it’s stupid, so long as it doesn’t cause us to hate.

Grateful that being South African means believing in the goodness of our fellow countryman and believing in miracles. Grateful that we have done it before which means we can do it again. Grateful that we are living through history and that we can make a difference, if we set our minds to it.

As Jews in South Africa enter their Synagogues they will wish each other a sweet year. They will wish both Jew and non-Jew a year filled with hope and optimism and with love. But mostly they will ask God to protect them and all South Africans in the year to come. To grant peace and health and financial security. They will ask God to inscribe us all in the Book of Life. And May that be His will.

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