exploring the concerns of the south african jewish community
In this article Marlene Silbert looks at the importance of interfaith spaces for the South African Jewish community. She focuses on an Interfaith-Intercultural Youth Programme, aimed at grade 10 & 11 learners from schools across the Cape Metropole, which she initiated under the auspices of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative. She further discusses the potential that interfaith collaboration can hold for the South African Jewish community.
The Interfaith-Intercultural Youth Programme helps us understand and respect differences and make friends with one another. I have learnt not to react badly when people offend me unintentionally because they make uniformed statements. As ambassadors of the Interfaith Programme we should respectfully engage such people and help them to become informed and change their mind-set (Grade 11 learner, Herzlia High School).
RECENT estimates suggest that nearly ninety percent of all Jewish children in South Africa attend Jewish community day schools. Many also attend Jewish youth movements. De facto, this means that the vast majority of our children have very little, if any, meaningful engagement with the full diversity of broader South African society. And, of course, the converse holds true: there is very little opportunity for broader South African society to engage with and learn about Jews and the Jewish community, particularly at a younger age.
"Prejudice towards Jewish South Africans can derive from not having any engagement or meaningful dialogue with members of the South African Jewish community."
This is not just an issue facing the Jewish community in South Africa. It is, however, this social and cultural chasm within South African society that interfaith programmes try to address, some with greater success than others.