In-depth day 18: Final day in Yeoville – take two

SAY CHEESE: A giggle and a laugh as Phillip tells a joke during our picture perfect moment. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

SAY CHEESE: A giggle and a laugh as Phillip tells a joke during our picture perfect moment. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

Well the day has come.

All “good” things must come to an end?

Our time was very limited because the KMM social worker had prior commitments and needed to get ready for Shabbat – the Big Shabbat that happens once a year.

Despite the time constraints she was amazing – willing to do having twice or three times over if need be.

I met with my three interviewees: Pessi, Pauline and Phillip who happily received me again.

I must say Phillip is the sweetest man – he is such a character and has the best sense of humour! I think I’m ready to adopt him as my grandfather! ūüėČ

It was a bit stressful… and nerve wracking trying to make sure the camera was positioned correctly and trying to check that all my was¬†in focus… I may have gotten flustered and even went blank a couple of times during the interviews but I managed to get through it.

It was special to spend time with my interviewees again and lovely to hear more about their lives. I love taking a peek into their fascinating life stories. They have so much to give and so much to tell…

Well after a super busy morning, everything worked out and guess what?

It was all in focus – Hooray!

As I sign off from my last in-depth blog there are a few people I would like to thank: Firstly, to Leon, Ingrid and Glenda who made the fiming possible – thank you for the patience, kindness and love shown throughout!

FAREWELL: A quick pic with the lovely Pessi before we head off. A memory that will be forever cherished. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

FAREWELL: A quick pic with the lovely Pessi before we headed on our way. A memory that will be forever cherished. Photo: Ingrid Woolf

To my wonderful interviewees Pessi, Phillip and Pauline – you are so special and touched me in ways I cannot begin to express

To the wonderful Nigerian Jewish community in Yeoville – thank for being so welcoming and open and for teaching me what it really means to have faith – especially Rabbi Obiekwe and Charity.

To Nechama B, for being an amazing mentor. Thank you for all the guidance, encouragement and help all the way through!

To Michael T – thanks for supplying the sound kit! Without your help I would have had ZERO sound and only half a project.

To you, all my wonderful readers. Thank you for joining me on this journey . Thank you for reading and sharing in this exhausting and most of all brilliant experience!

And last but not least to the Man Upstairs – Hashem. Thank You for helping me to get everything together and for the strength to get through it all!

With love,

Ilanit

 

Day 16: There and back again

Despite my disheartening day yesterday, today was a little more on the up side.

I went back to Yeoville with Luke, his group and Kudzai to get a few more shots of my Nigerian Jews.

Our first stop was at the hill so that Luke could get some cutaways and B-role for his video.

COLOURFUL PRAYER: A group of Christian worshipers praying on the hill top in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

COLOURFUL PRAYER: A group of Christian worshipers praying on the hill top in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

 

Afterwards we headed off to my Nigerian Rabbi. He and his community never fail to inspire me.

While the girls waited in the car, Luke and I headed in to see the Rabbi and take some pictures. One of the congregants told us that “Rabbi is eating lunch and we don’t disturb him during lunch.”

We waited for him in the Synagogue as one of the congregants came in and did the daily afternoon prayer. I watched him take his shoes off, get on his knees and say a number of different verses. It was beautiful.

The Rabbi came in and greeted us with a warm “Shalom Aleichem!” (Meaning Welcome, peace be upon you.)

I explained what I needed and off we went to do my photo shoot. We started chatting afterwards and he asked me if I’d like to chat with his majesty, Igwe Royal Highness)¬†Eze Eri, the leader and Chief Rabbi/Spiritual Leader of the Igbo Jews. He is the direct descendant of Gad, son of the patriarch Jacob.

“Now?” I said.

“Yes I will call him now. He would love to speak to you! I will phone him in Nigeria now!”

I was mildly shocked and in awe that this was about to take place. The thought of speaking to someone who knows he is directly related to a biblical figure was overwhelming.

Shalom Aleichem Igwe Eze Eri, Ze Rabbi Natan m’Drom Afrika,” said Rabbi Obiekwe. Natan is Rabbi Sylvester’s¬†Hebrew name. (The above translates as “Peace be upon you your highness Eze Eri, this is Rabbi Natan from South Africa” – in Hebrew I might add) They proceeded to speak in Igbo (a Nigerian language spoken in Southern and Eastern Nigeria) and Rabbi Sylvester handed me the phone.

We spoke for about 10 minutes about my project and I told him how wonderful his community is in South Africa and I hope to come visit the community in Nigeria. He told me about a few holidays and celebrations the Igbo Jews would be having in Nigeria soon and explained his lineage and role as leader.

IT'S ART: As we left Yeoville I came across this amazing piece of graffiti on a wall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

IT’S ART: As we left Yeoville I came across this amazing piece of graffiti on a wall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

He gave me an incredible blessing at the end of the conversation which included “doing well with my project”, “being successful with everything”, that I should “flourish as a Jewess and follow the ways of G-d [Hashem]” and that I should “have a long, happy and peaceful life.”

I handed the phone back to Rabbi Obiekwe¬†and Rabbi Obiekwe¬†said that Igwe Eri and his community would be happy to sponsor a trip for me, a friend and Rabbi Obiekwe to meet and see the Jewish community of Nigeria. I should just “let him know if I want to come”.

It sounds like a pretty awesome plan!

We thanked the Rabbi, said our goodbyes and headed back to the car – I must admit, I was in a bit of a daze.

We then helped Roxi, Thabi and Palesa film at their barbers on Rocky and headed back to the car. On the way, I once again got hit on by another old “Sugar Daddy”. His comment was something I’m not going to share on this forum…

COOLING DOWN: A chilled end to busy but fun day. Photo: Wits Student

COOLING DOWN: A chilled end to busy but fun day. Photo: Wits Student

We got back to Wits, Luke and I giggling and having fun the entire trip back and the two of us wanted ice-cream.

So we went on an “adventure” to the Matrix to find some good old-fashioned ice-cream. Yum!

The perfect ending to a productive (and albeit amazing) day!

In-depth day 8: Find me Jewish

MEETING: Influencial Beth-El member Charity Nnonyeli, Rabbi Obiekwe, and I after our interview. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

MEETING: Influencial Beth-El member Charity Nnonyeli, Rabbi Obiekwe, and I after our interview. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

Well today was one of the most inspirational days I’ve spent in Yeoville.

Rofhi and I got the opportunity to meet with some of the Nigerian Jewish community members and got to experience a few of their prayer rituals and photograph them while in their religious garb. They had prayer shawls, religious books, tzit-tzit (don’t ask me to translate that) and smart clothes. (Yarmulke’s are worn 24/7 by the religious members of the community).

They prayed beautiful and I must say there were a lot of similarities to the way in which the Orthodox community pray. They ended off by chanting “Adon Olam” in English which means “Master of the University” and is traditionally recited in the Synagogue at the end of a prayer service.

Afterwards, I met with one of the women elders (or Rebbetzin’s) in the community who explained her role as a Jewish woman and a Jewish wife. It was incredible to hear her viewpoints ¬†from a similar but mildly different perspective.

“The Jewish woman’s role is to bring peace to the house, raise the children in the ways of Hashem and look after her husband. This is not to say she cannot or should not¬†immerse herself in the working world. She can do both but family must always come first.” She said.

It gave me a bit of a spiritual rejuvenation and made me think: If they can be so strong in their faith in Judaism and God, how much more so should I be?

The Igbo Jews are fantastic.¬†I’m glad to have them as apart of the “tribe” and “family”.

JUST KIDDING: Taking a swing in a park in Observatory while on a break. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

JUST KIDDING: Taking a swing in a park in Observatory while on a break. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

Following my wonderful morning we met up with Bongi and headed off to meet her interviewees. Both were interesting (and a little dodgy) rappers. We went on a trek to find a quiet park to film and ended up walking into the middle of Observatory. We found a lovely park with swings and while Bongi did her thing, Rofhi and I decided to find our inner child, (which we did!) on the swings. It was a nice change for a change.

We trekked back to Yeoville and by 2.30pm we were once again heading back on a Taxi (I’m use to it now!) to Wits. Our driver was mildly crazy and took a few chances. I was nearly ready to kiss the ground after we arrived back safely.

A lovely day was had by all – with quite a few laughs along the way. But I must say – I am exhausted!

Tune in tomorrow where I will be looking to locate old photos of Yeoville’s Jewish community for my video.

Laters!

TIME OUT: Rofhi and I taking a break and having a little fun in the sun. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

TIME OUT: Rofhi and I taking a break and having a little fun in the sun. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Wake Up Call…

WAKE UP: The Jewish horn, known as a shofar, is blown daily during the Jewish month of Elul.

WAKE UP: The Jewish horn, known as a shofar, is blown daily during the Jewish month of Elul. Photo: Supplied

This time of the year is an especially auspicious one in the Jewish World. It is time of the year that on the one hand, I love and on the other, it instills a feeling of absolute fear within.

Why, you may wonder, do I juxtapose these two opposite feelings together?
Well on the one hand, the Southern Hemisphere is leaving the cold of winter behind and is moving on toward beautiful spring. This seasonal change is a subtle reminder that the time has come to start making a change. This entails doing the task of introspection and making “the” attempt to improve ourselves. It is this part that I love and fear. Realizing the good and more so the bad actions that I have committed or played a part in over this past year…

Elul, which is the final month of the Jewish Calendar brings along with it the blowing of the Shofar or Rams Horn. It is a piercing cry – a wake-up call that tells us that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – (The Jewish New Year and the Days of Atonement) are coming closer and so we need to rectify our mistakes and change our ways.
This piercing cry of the Shofar (a rams horn blown every morning after Prayers) wakes us from our usual apathetic slumber of normality and jolts us into taking real action!

Unfortunately, for many of us, our wake-up call, came a little earlier and more painfully this year as I’ve seen people close to me pass away – young and old – some leaving families and small children behind.
This year, in the space of three months, I was shattered to lose my gran, a close friend from overseas and a cousin.

After their passing, I began to think. I started to realize that over the course of this year, I have been slowly slacking off in my morning Prayers and a little in my Religious studies and maybe even a little on my kindness to those around me too.

These¬†painful losses have woken me and made me realize that it is time to act; it is time to wake up and start thinking. It is time to do a little more Jewish Studies, time to act kindly and respectfully to those around me, time to appreciate and maybe even time to Pray harder – not just for this month but all year round so that we do not have to experience such a wake-up call like this again… To often we go through life in an automatic mode without giving much thought to our actions. My mission for Elul and the Days of Atonement – to change this!

Sometimes it is scary, when we have to look into ourselves and we realize that we have to rectify those things that need some fine tuning or improvement. Although, it can sometimes be a very daunting task – which, I might add, should be done carefully and in a step-by-step process – it is worth it in the end because we become better people for it!
So to all my readers I ask;  look inside yourself, make the first step to being the improvement; do a good deed, give someone a smile, give a little charity, be kind to those around you, and especially appreciate the ones you love.
You never know what life has in-store.

CUSTOM: Apples dipped in honey are eaten during  Rosh Hashana in hope of a sweet new year. Photo: Supplied

CUSTOM: Apples dipped in honey are eaten during Rosh Hashana in hope of a sweet new year. Photo: Supplied

Remember: the tinniest of good deeds can go a very long way – just think about the “Pay it Forward” idea: a small deed which travelled far and wide in a short time. Something that we can set our minds to and something we can both actualise and internalise if we make the right choices.

On this note may we  only hear of peace and happiness from here on and out!

Through our merits and good thoughts, may these special souls be elevated to the highest level and may we all be written in the book of good and the book of life!