In-depth day 13: Old times

OLD TIMES: Photos depicting a sneak peek into the vast Jewish history of Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

OLD TIMES: Photos depicting a sneak peek into the vast Jewish history of Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

With the last set of Jewish holidays around the corner, I decided to stay a little closer to home.

I finally got an appointment atthe Jewish archives and headed over there to take some pictures and cutaways of old Yeoville newspaper cuttings and photos to add into my video.

I love looking at historical items, photos and the like. It fascinates me. Looking at the roots and discovering unknown facts about a once prominently Jewish area like Yeoville gets my adrenaline pumping.

I walked into a large room filled with tons of shelves and boxes upon boxes of photos, memoirs, newspaper cuttings, old books, records and information about places.

I discovered photos dating all the way back to the 1930s – the Synagogue (which today is a Congolese church) and a kindergarten class at the Jewish school in the area.

ARCHIVE SELFIE: There are another 6 or 7 sets of shelves in the room. This is just a taste of what it looks like. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

ARCHIVE SELFIE: There are another 6 or 7 sets of shelves in the room. This is just a taste of what it looks like. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

I even found a picture of an old cousin of the family’s who I didn’t even know lived in Yeoville during her life.

It took some time to make a collage and search through the information I was given and I was helped by a lovely lady who runs the place and keeps everything so ordered.

After taking my time to order the pictures, take some videos and stills, I packed up all the archive materials supplied and handed it back in. I headed out and made my way to Wits to do a few odds and ens.

I’ve started doing the first steps of actually putting something rough together for my video which is quite exciting. It’s going to be a long process but hopefully it will go well.

With that, I’m outta here!

Chag Sameach to all my Jewish readers! 😉

 

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In-depth day 12: films and stills – “D-Day”

I’ve been trying to process today. I am struggling to express in words what I’ve seen… what I’ve experienced.

This was kindness beyond measure. Something that touched a chord within me – deep within me.

Today… today is the reason why I chose to do journalism.

Today was filming day. It was all planned and ready. Of we went to Yeoville at 7.30am to meet and deliver home-cooked food parcels to members of the Jewish community still living in the area. The aim of the Jewish organisation is to bring home-cooked meals to the Jewish elderly who are unable to cook for themselves.

So today this was our mission: Delivering to the Jewish recipients around Yeoville!

There are about 18 in the area that the organisation knows of.

I had the honour of interviewing three beautiful people during the trip while also chatting with the social worker, Ingrid, who helps to run the organisation. Phil, Pessi and Pauline shared their life stories – the happy and the sad, the triumphs and the many difficulties – and also explained to me why they still lived in Yeoville.

As we left each home – a hug and a kiss on the cheek was shared and a promise of my return to have tea and spend more time with them in a more “social capacity” (in the words of Pessi). I was blown away at the warmth shown and that these people were so willing to give me an opportunity to take a peak into their lives and share in their stories.

I’m a little sad that I didn’t take any photos with each interviewee but I guess the best memories are those you truly feel rather than capture.

Part of the delivery root was to the heart of Hillbrow – a place where not many venture but we did and it was special meeting the people who still do their best to make the best of their lives despite the challenges of living in such a place.

And yet, they are happy there. Their lives are there and as many said, their neighbours (all colours and religions) are always so helpful.

One of my favourite experiences from today was seeing how one of the recipients gives a small donation each time the organisation delivers food as her way of saying thank you despite being elderly and living in difficult circumstances.

There is so much to share and so much to think about. To be honest no blog or words can describe the feelings experienced after such an emotional day.

Today was food for thought and once I’ve gathered my thoughts together properly I will tell you more.

Until tomorrow’s adventure: Good night everybody! 🙂

 

In-depth – day 2: Discover and distaste

DISTANT MEMORY: The once vibrant Yeoville synagogue is now home a Congolese church. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

DISTANT MEMORY: The once vibrant Yeoville synagogue is now home a Congolese church. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Today was a busy, interesting and at times a difficult day. A couple of false starts and a mild panic attack later, I found myself scouring the streets of Yeoville together with my classmates, looking for any hint of Judaism in the area.

I needed to find an in into the Jewish community were left there and fast. Time was of the essence and things did not look to promising.

We came across some of the old synagogue buildings and also found where the ultra-orthodox school once was. It made me feel a mix of sadness, longing and nostalgia to see that this once thriving community was now a shadow.

Eventually I found the “Torah Centre” on Muller Street and went in to it. Unfortunately the person I had tried to contact before my arrival there was not overly accommodating which put a spanner in the works. However he take my details and promised to give them to someone else who might be able to help me.

After leaving disheartened and sure my idea was going to fall through, we started making our way towards the other group destinations. Soon afterwards we realised we were being followed by two men. We eventually lost them when we went into one the Churches in the area.

After talking to people, visiting the Rastafarian house and the Rastafarian compound, we came across a man who struck up conversation with Rofhi and I. He said he was Jewish and spoke Hebrew fluently. After telling him I was Jewish too, he told me his name was Ovad and that he was part of a Jewish Nigerian community who could trace their roots back to biblical times and had been practicing Jewish tradition for thousands of years. He said they were not properly recognised as Jews and his community decided to change this by going to Israel, doing an official conversion there and learning Hebrew.

BLUE STEEL: Nqo and I do a taxi selfie to celebrate my first time travelling like a real South African. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

BLUE STEEL: Nqo and I do a taxi selfie to celebrate my first time travelling like a real South African. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

He promised to take me to the Nigerian synagogue in the area and introduce me to the Rabbi tomorrow. It was decided that this would become my multimedia focus.

Hope for success on my written piece was not all lost after I came across a man in the Yeoville market wearing what looked like a yarmulke on his head. (Good eyes Bongi & Rofhi!)

I went to chat with him and found out he wasn’t Jewish but in fact he knew most of the Jews who still lived in Yeoville and was happy to take me to meet them over tomorrow. He said most are happy to chat but some are extremely sensitive, “One wrong word and they’ll throw you out swearing.” (A bit of a nerve-wracking thought).

The dampener on the day was a quick but scary incident that took place when one of my friends was harassed by a dodgy looking character. I saw him just before the incident. I kept thinking that he was going to try pick-pocket one of us and decided to walk just behind him and the friend so I could keep an eye on his hands. He started talking to her, something didn’t feel right and I become suspicious. It quickly escalated when he grabbed her with both hands and tried to… “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I shouted as Lameez and I pulled her out of his grasp.
“I just wanted to kiss her.” He appallingly answered. We shook our heads and quickly got away from him before things could go any further. But the damage was done, emotions were running high and a soft pain was creeping in. It was a frightening and unwelcome introduction to the Yeoville taxi rank.

Despite the horrible incident, we ended our day off with a traditional Joburg taxi ride back to Wits. My first one in fact!It was a lot of fun and something different. A new experience to add to my South African identity.

“The Story of a South African Farm(er)…”

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FOR SALE: An example of two farmers selling sheep for Labollah. Photo: file

I heard a great story today. I must say, I could not stop laughing. It represents the true spirit of the typical Southern African living on the “Plaasie” (farm). It also reminded me of the Henry Charles Bosman story we learnt about in first year English – “The Withaak’s Shade.”

My brother was carefully driving, on his way to Vereniging, when a very interesting sight caught his eye. He was stuck in a bit a traffic, so he decided to take a look at the scenery. Low and behold there was a man, the typical, Afrikaans farmer, with the “beer-boep” and the sun-hat, off loading an entire herd of sheep into a make-shift pen on the side of the road. A few minutes later, there was a large sign made out of cardboard that read:

“Sheep for sale, Perfect for Labolla.”

The sign was written in THREE different languages: English, Afrikaans and Zulu.

So if you’re on your way to Vereniging tomorrow, don’t forget to give our friendly sheep farmer a hearty, South African wave.

 

A students’ guide: the top 10 must-read books

*Featured on Wits VuvuzelaA STUDENTS’ GUIDE: THE TOP 10 MUST-READ BOOKS

  The-Catcher-in-the-Rye-the-catcher-in-the-rye-6057181-264-4001Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951).

 Although not a recent novel, The Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age story which shares the experiences and challenges faced during a young boy’s transition from adolescence to adulthood.

 

 

 

9780349106533 2. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1995)

 A truly inspirational and tear-jerking autobiography that tells the story of the life of the late former president, Nelson Mandela. Mandela narrates his struggles under Apartheid before, during and after his 27 years in  prison on Robben Island.

 

 

 

lotr3. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien (1937)

Famous today for its film portrayal, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a timeless classic which explores the fantasy world of Middle Earth. It follows the journey of Frodo, a young hobbit who discovers a ring of great power that could destroy Middle Earth if it falls into the hands of the evil Sauron. 

 

 

the-help-stockett4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)

Set in the midst of segregation in the American South during the 1960’s, The Help tells the story of three different women living in Jackson, Mississippi. Two are black maids working for white families and the third an aspiring writer who takes it upon herself to tell the life stories of the black maids of Jackson.

 

 

 

gatsby_book_preview5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

An American classic which scrutinises the lifestyle, aspiration and wealth of the “roaring 20’s” in New York City. The story is narrated through the eyes of Nick Carraway who becomes entangled with the mysterious Jay Gatsby – a wealthy tycoon who throws elaborate parties in his mansion on Long Island

 


1360673-1681590371-l6. Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda (1996)

Ways of Dying can be described as an unconventional love story that takes place during South Africa’s transitional period from Apartheid to democracy. It has a magical-realist aspect and looks at the violence and dilemmas that blacks across South Africa faced during the transition. 

 

 

atonement7. Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)

Atonement tells the story of how a simple error in judgement can have damaging repercussions for the present and future for oneself and ones loved ones. The story is set in three different time periods – pre, post and during World War Two – when two lovers are separated by a mistake that could cost them their future.

 

 

 

Hunger_games8. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Set in a post-apocalyptic North America, The Hunger Games is a story of strength, endurance and eventual dissent against the autocratic regime of “The Capital”. The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is forced to battle it out against 11 other “tributes”–teenagers like herself–in the annual event of “The Hunger Games”.

 

 

 

HalfYellowSun9. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

Set in Nigeria, the lives of four individuals are thrown into chaos as the  Nigerian-Biafran Civil War breaks out during 1967. The lives a young houseboy,  a British citizen, a professor and a political figure are deeply affected by the difficulties that befall them during and after this tragic period. 

 

 

 

 

14192900_12071222222410. The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)

The Perks of being a Wallflower  looks at the life of Charlie through  a series of letters that he writes to an unnamed friend. He describes his difficulties as a high school freshman, his life, love and his new found friends – all in th

When does one say “enough?”

PAPER CUT: As journalists There is a fine line that should not be crossed.Photo: file

As someone who is currently being trained in the fields of English and journalism, a number of dilemmas have begun to arise within me.

It all began after I saw a number of “raw” images and footage from inside the Westgate Mall attack that was littered across social networking sites and news channels. Pictures depicting people who had been shot, bloodied up and killed began to disturb me deeply within. I started to question whether it is ethically correct for journalists and photographers to actually post such images of people at their worst and moreover people who have just been terribly traumatised. These photographs are scarring and damaging in many respects

On news networks I noticed journalists were hounding hostages and witnesses who had just been rescued or escaped a terrorist attack – that has, in-turn had a great effect on the whole African continent – South Africa included. This too me does not seem morally correct either.

 

But then again, to play the ‘devil’s advocate’ , how are journalists supposed to actual cover certain ‘breaking news’ events without interviewing newly released hostages or witnesses? How are journalists supposed to honestly portray the story to the world without showing these terrible yet revealing images despite their disturbing connotations?

During the run up to the 12th Anniversary of September 11th, I decided to take a look at how international news networks portrayed the attack from that day on YouTube

Many of the eerily unsettling images and interviews during the coverage on that day in 2001 moved me to tears so many years later. Without those images and those touching interviews – one in which a woman who had been in the towers cried on the shoulder of the reporter interviewing her – the international community would not have had a proper idea of the full effects it would have globally. These images inspired men and women from across the globe to donate blood, money, medical supplies and even fly-over forensic teams to help deal with the aftermath.

These images brought about a sense of pain and relief to those who had been exposed in this way and to the world.

The image of a man jumping from one of the top floors of the Twin-Towers became an iconic image of September 11th. But too his family and friends, is this image not the perfect example of betrayal of trust and ethics?

With this type of information, which too those who have been exposed is extremely sensitive, when should a line be drawn?

When one looks at the massacre of Rwanda in 1994 and the current struggles across Sudan, one questions how much of an impact this “raw” footage and images that depict death and violence have had in the world?

In Rwanda there was hardly an international intervention despite the brutal violence and slaughter being inflicting on scores innocent men women and children.

As stated in the film Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina tells the main journalist Jack that he is glad that he has shot this footage because it’s the “only chance that people might intervene.”

In response to this Jack asks, “If no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?”

This epitomises the whole dilemma perfectly. If these images will not make a profound difference to a trying situation, should they still be shown and exposed to not only the public but to the global community?

This bridge is an extremely complex and difficult one to cross. As a future journalist, I feel that it is important for us not to sensationalize these images and not become caught up in the morbid curiosity aspect.

We must respect this form of the media and treat it with real caution and care, because we do not know who and what it may affect in the present and the future.

 

The Life and Times of a Rookie Journalist

As the turn style moves, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts toward the second floor and the white washed walls sparkle in the early morning sunlight.

I run toward the glass door yelling “hold the elevator” or “wait for me!” The doors have closed. I’ve mistimed things again and there is 10 minutes until my fate is decided – news conference.

This is how my day has begun, every morning for the last 3 months.

WAM – the Wits University Art Museum on University Corner holds the 20 floors filled with arts, drama, culture and journalism. There is something novel about this place. It is not your typical university building. Blue hair, nose rings, rock star t-shirts, tall, short, guitars, musicians, students with cameras around their necks or notepads in their hands – rushing to cover a breaking story. They are all around me, they surround me, and they have now become a part of me.

This is the life I have chosen, the degree that could make or break me. I am a journalist.

As the adrenaline pumps through my veins, my feet carry me onto Main Campus. I have to find the source of all this – I have to change things, make them better.

“It’s my job” I repeat to myself over and over again. Concerns fill me up as I walk towards her – what if I mess this up? What if I misquote her? What if she doesn’t want to talk to me?

What if…What if…What if…

In a heartbeat the interview is done. I have what I need. I’m on my way back to the tenth floor ready to write this story. Something refreshing – something different, I pray I can get it down on paper. I hope once it is done they will not rip it apart…

The silver doors shut as I approach the button glowing blue. I’ve missed the elevator again. Another ten more minutes until it approaches. The wait will not abate me although this wait may shake me.

It’s arrived; I climb inside, classical music… I wish we could shoot it.But there are bigger things pressing on my chest.

A story is there and it could cause despair but I know if I do it right, I may be able to save someone’s life.

It hits me as we travel upward, the bulb is flashing on – John Grogan’s words of wisdom, those which inspire me to be – “In the English Language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty-six letters form the foundations of a free, informed society.”

Encounter…

*Note: For certain reasons, the name of the person in question has been changed to “Ralph.” 
Place of residence has also not been specified.

STAR OF DAVID: A yellow star that all Jews had to wear in the Ghetto’s during the Holocaust

It is a cold winter morning, the sun is barely seen beyond the horizon. The purple curtains in the room slowly begin to light up and I am forced to leave the warmth of my bed. The day begins as any other, nothing to remotely suggest that anything unusual is to happen. I say my morning prayers, dress and eat breakfast. My mother calls down the hall to check that I am ready to brace another day. Finally, we are off. We chat about what the new term, a Holocaust movie I watched and then I find myself moaning to her about the long, tiresome day a head. As we pull into the main entrance, she swipes the card and drives up the hill. As the traffic-light turns red, I jump out and make my way down the long, bricked pathway into the University.
The day gradually becomes fast-paced. I jump from a double History class to a double English and then to Psychology. The lesson drags and suddenly…the class start to fidget. They become increasingly rowdy, “well this noise tells me that it’s time for me to shut-up and for you to go. Tomorrow, don’t forget, our afternoon lecture is still on!” The entire class groans. “It’s the first week of the semester, can’t they give us a break?” a girl says loudly.

Finally, it’s lunch! I speed off to the Cafeteria determined to get a table. My favourite one is free. I set my things down and go to buy a glass of hot water. I pour it into my Israeli pre-packed pasta and wait five minutes. It is ready and I sit down, hungrily digging into this ‘delightful’ meal. While reading my set-work, Northanger Abbey, an elderly man in his early sixties asks if he can sit at my table. It’s the only table in the room not packed to the brim. I happily agree. Little do I know what is to come.

We begin to talk about my degree. While we chat, I notice that he has a strong European accent. I ask curiously where he is from, he is definitely not local. He tells me that he is originally from Germany but his family moved to South-West Africa after World War Two. I find this intriguing and the subject drastically changes to tolerance and religion. He states very carefully, “you are a Jew.” Very confidently say “Yes, how did you know?” He tells me bashfully that I have what they call “the look”.

I begin to feel mildly anxious at this response. He looks at me nervously and states that he rarely tells people this frightening fact: His father and his fathers brothers were all Nazi’s under Hitler during the War.
As I hear this, a great part of me wants to run away swiftly, but common courtesy holds me back. I am surprised and even mortified at the fact that he has shared this information with me, a Jew. Awkwardly, I nod my head and stutter a startled response. He proceeds to make the point that he is nothing like his father or his family. He is very ashamed of the terrible things that they did to so many innocent people.

I know that I am treading on shaky ground and very cautiously I ask if he is willing to tell me his story. He readily agrees.
He was born in 1947 in South-West Africa. Hewas the fourth of six children in a home which primarily spoke German – hence his strong accent. He knew that his entire family had left Germany immediately after the end of World War Two. Although, he was never told the reasoning for this. If he ever asked, he would be roughly handled by his father for even mentioning it. As he grew up, a strong stigma began to develop. He was ashamed of being German, he had known what Germany had done in the war and even more so, knew the destruction that they had caused. Yet his father, his uncle’s and at times, strange visitors would never mention anything about their actions or placement during the war. Ralph* proceeds to tell me how it was always covered up, “nobody was allowed to ask questions. My father would say that we are here now, we are to only focus on the present and our future.”

He tells me of the the many times when odd characters’ would come to his family home at unusual hours. “They would knock on the door, my father would open, they would be bustled into the house and go strait into my fathers study. They would talk for hours as if they were having an important business meeting. Afterward they would stay for a quick meal and my father would then take them to the harbour to catch a boat. I would sometimes join him.” Ralph* tells me that many of the boats were heading toward South America.
At times these men would even stay in the area for days, weeks and in one case, a man named “Uncle Jose” stayed in a small apartment nearby Ralphs* home for just under a year.
Uncle Jose, would come over to the house for supper twice a week. It became a customary ritual. Ralph* was about six or seven at the time. ‘Uncle Jose’ seemed nice and kind. He would always bring them presents like chocolate and other delicious treats… It is later discovered by Ralph* that this man was none other than the notorious Dr Josef Mengele – Commando of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the well-known mass murderer of Jews and Gypsies alike.

One morning at about four or five, a loud commotion is heard from down-stairs. It was ‘Uncle Jose,’ he and Ralph’s* father were arguing loudly about something. Then, they both just took him to the harbour. It seemed to be a matter of urgency. After that he was gone and Ralphs* family never heard from him again. As a teenager, Ralph* distinctly remembered that his father would sometimes have violent nightmares late into the night. He would sometimes scream so loudly that the children would be woken. Ralph* was never told the reasons behind this and when he would ask his mother, he would be scolded for bringing it up, she would act as if she did not know what they were talking about. To Ralph*, this all seemed very strange.

At age twenty-one, Ralph* was asked to help his family pack up and move into a smaller home as four of his six siblings had gotten married or had gone off to college. While sorting through boxes in the attic, he came across an old, medium sized box that was hidden in a corner behind a large cupboard. The cupboard itself had been purposely blocked by many other boxes in the past. Ralph* thought that this was strange and so he took the box out from its hiding place, behind the cupboard. He was not prepared for the horror of what he would find inside. As he slowly broke open the seal, he continued to find it odd how it had been hidden away so carefully for no one to find. Once opened, the blood from his faced drained very quickly. His worst nightmare had become a reality. Inside the box was a faded Nazi S.S. Uniform. There were medals, Swastika emblems, photo’s, fake passports and other Nazi memorabilia. Within the box there was a photo of his father with Josef Mengele and another unidentified Nazi official. I do not have the heart to actually asked Ralph* who the third man is.
Ralph* recalls how he frantically called down to my mother, and when she came up to the attic, he showed her his shameful discovery. He tells of how she looked mildly surprised and tells him very firmly to ask his father about it. Ralph* went down to his father’s study and barged into the room holding this uniform tightly in my hand. His father closed the door very calmly and told him to sit down. He explained to Ralph* that he had been quite a high-ranking Nazi Officer whom was involved in the running of the Camp: Auschwitz-Birkanau.
Ralph then talks of his fathers brothers, who had served at the front-lines for the Fuhrers army, they had served in the Luftwaffe and even at Dachau Camp in Germany, “my girl,” he cries to me, “I was disgusted and appalled at my family’s actions. I just wanted to leave this place and get as far away from my family as possible. I felt as if my entire life had been a lie.”

Upon hearing his father’s ‘testimony’, Ralph* left South-West Africa abruptly. He moved to South Africa and severed all contact with his father. He married a local girl, also of German decent and had four children. In the late 1980’s his father became desperately ill, “he was on his death-bed and I felt that I could not leave things as they were.” says Ralph*, “when I went back home, I begged him to tell me why he did what he did, I told him that he cannot claim to be a true Christian and then act so thoughtlessly by murdering so many innocent people who had done nothing to deserve their terrible fate.” His father just responded, as many other Nazi’s did, that he was just following orders. However, he voiced to Ralph* he knew what was coming to him. The words ‘I’m sorry’ never left his lips.
Ralph’s* father died a few days later on December 25th 1987. “A very ironic day for a Christian…”.

Many years later Ralph* decided to look his father up on Google, he read of many atrocities that his father had been involved in and discovered that he had been listed as missing as of 1950. No further inquiries had ever been made into his disappearance. The fake passports that he had found in the box that day were the reason behind how his father, his brothers and the rest of his family had evaded prosecution all these years.

Ralph* proceeds to ask if I have lost any family in the Holocaust. I tell him that much of my mothers family were killed in Auschwitz and Treblinka. That my grandparents had escaped to South Africa just before the war but the rest of the family were unfortunately not so lucky. I also continue to tell him something of my fathers family that we have recently discovered. I had a great-great Uncle, named Judel who had made it through the Lithuanian Forests, joined the Partisans, was captured, sent to Auschwitz and then moved to Dachau. He was liberated near Munich on a death-march in 1945 and survived to tell his tale. Much of my fathers family were also murdered, this included Judels entire family.
With tears in his eyes, he takes my hand gently, “My dear girl,” his voice is quivering, “can you ever forgive me? I am so sorry for what has been done… I am sorry for the terrible atrocities that my father and his family carried out on your family and your Jewish people. It was a crime beyond comprehension – no good deed in this world can ever take back what my father did… I am so sorry.”
He bows his head and droplets fall from his face. I look at him sadly and thank him for his comforting words. I firmly tell him that I cannot hold him responsible for crimes that he had no hand in committing. “You, sir, are not your father. You have done nothing wrong.” My heart aches. I cry.
We sit for what seems like hours, a deep silence between us. He later tells me that he keeps the photograph of his father and Mengele (from Auschwitz Camp) in his desk draw as a reminder of the person that he must never become. When he loses sight of things, he takes the photograph out of that draw and looks at it. It tells him to always accept all people for whom they are and what they are. That the human race have no right to judge or discriminate, that we are all the same, flesh and blood put on this Earth by God to do his work.
I look down at my watch, lunch break is almost over. I have to leave for my next class. We stand up, we shake hands. It turns into a hug, warm tears spill. I trudge off toward the lecture theater without looking back.

After this encounter I have very mixed feelings. There is shock, awe, pain and confusion. I am amazed; that of all the tables this man could have chosen, he chose to sit at mine – the table with the only Jew in the room. I know that this is something beyond co-incidence.
My shock gradually turns to fascination, this experience is truly enthralling. I abruptly remember: Poland… The places I have seen. The places where my people were brutally murdered – Auschwitz, Majadanek, Krakow, Treblinka, the Ghetto’s…. there I had been – sitting, talking, interacting with the son of a Nazi. A man, who’s father had most probably had a great hand in murdering so many of my relatives. And yet, unbelievably, there we were, together, having a civilized conversation – he the son of a Nazi and I the great-niece of a Holocaust survivor. This is the true meaning of tolerance. Acceptance is the key

The little things in life

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AFRICA’S CHILDREN: Poverty is a large and scary reality in South Africa

The hustle and bustle between these four walls began to overwhelm me. I could not believe I was back. Three and a half months of pure relaxation – well nearly any way – had got me use to “worry-less” lifestyle.
I wondered what fascinating things this year would bring.

Last year was a little more eventful than I’d hoped. Nonetheless I managed to actually get through the hardships by the skin of my teeth and basically unscathed. So in retrospect I knew that the time had come to tackle a new year and moreover, a new start. But I still wanted to moan and groan for the comfort of my bed.
Fourth Year… Honours Year… Final Year One step away from having “another” degree under my belt… Yes… “Gosh, I hope so…” is all I can think of.

As usual, small anxieties pop up with knowing that the end is neigh. They definitely have a way of taking one by surprise when one least expects it. As day one continued to pulsate through me, I finally manage to gather my thoughts. I received my class schedule, bought all my books and made my way out toward the parking lot. Something caught the corner of my eye and distracted me. Something I would never expect, well not here anyway.

A young boy… his eyes gaunt with hunger scrounging around one of the dustbins just off the University campus. He had no shoes and his clothes were torn. He cannot be more than nine or ten. This sight struck a chord within me… Not again… This poverty – it’s everywhere!

They stand by nearly every traffic light in Town. They bow on their knees. It is sad and disturbing.

Out of nowhere anger begun to pulsate through me. Pain gripped me from all sides – knowing that our “beloved” Head of States built a home worth hundreds of millions and this little boy (and so many others) cannot find a morsel of food. So many live on “less than a dollar” a day. How degrading it must be to have to dig inside a dustbin just to find something. Anger struck inside me again.
Without thinking I ran toward my car, speeding as fast as I can; the wind whipping through my hair. I promptly pressed the unlock button.

“Where is it…? Where is it?” There…I see it! I see it!”

Excitement started to flood through me. I picked it up and ran toward the pedestrian gate as I the boy walked away from the trash can, something small held tightly in his hand – almost as if life itself depended on it. I swiped my card and ran out.

“Hey! Hey!” I called. I ran out toward him trying to grab his attention forgetting the many dangers that lie outside the University walls, “little boy! Wait…” I finally caught up to him.

“Here – it’s all I have but I hope it helps.” I smile at him.

He snatched the chip packet and bottle of water hungrily. He was about to turn away until suddenly a smile spreads across his face; completely changing his distorted bony features for just a minute, “Siabonga Sissie.”

As I walked back towards the University gate I heard a loud shout behind me, “Sissie…Sissie!” I turned around and felt a pair of arms grip my waist holding tightly, “Siabonga! Siabonga!” said the muffled voice.

He let go as hot, wet tears stream down my face. His beautiful smile rained down on me. “No cry Sissie… No cry!” He hugged me again and left me standing there mildly shocked.
I slowly let myself back into the University wishing I had had more to give but relieved that I was able to help even a little bit.

I am grateful for the things I have… grateful for the fact that I am lucky enough, by the grace of G-d to have hot meals every day, grateful for the roof over my head and grateful that I am being afforded the opportunity of an education. A sense of guilt comes over me as I realize how often I take all these wonderful things in life for granted. Something that many of us, myself included, are guilty daily.

As I drove out of the university toward the main street, I caught a glimpse of the little boy with three or four children around him. I had just a second to watch him hand out some chips and share the water before the traffic light turned green. I am gobsmacked that this child is so willing to give and share something so small with so many others.

It got me thinking.

I realize that we can all make a difference, no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us has a part to play in this world that we call “our own.” Each of us has the ability to change a life even if it is just for a minute, an hour or a day. For one never can tell the rippling effect that may come from doing the smallest act of kindness