With just under a month to go until polling day, election fever is building up countrywide. Last week, our Gauteng Jewish community had an opportunity to be part of the debate through a lively pre-election panel discussion at Beyachad. It was gratifying to see so large a turn-out from our own community, together with the evident enthusiasm and interest displayed by those present. The event was organised by the Board as part of its election awareness and education project. We thank the representatives of the ANC, DA, Cope and ACDP who participated in the debate, as well as Mandy Wiener for the very accomplished manner in which she chaired it.
Given the pressing issues on the table, the discussion was understandably robust at times. That being said, the generally civil and constructive nature of the exchanges, with participants focusing on the issues rather than on personalities, was very encouraging. This, after all, is how democracy should work, with everyone being given a fair, respectful hearing. Ultimately, we all want the same thing – a well-run, corruption-free city whose elected leaders are fully committed to finding solutions to the kind of problems experienced by ordinary citizens, from crime through to unemployment and deteriorating public services. Ideally speaking, all those elected to office on 3 August should see themselves as a team working towards a common goal, regardless of which particular party they represent.
What is true for our political democracy is just as true for how we, as a Jewish community, deal with our own internal affairs. The Board likewise encourages open and honest discussion between our constituents on issues of common concern, with the proviso that this at all times be civil, playing the ball and not the man. We must never become so polarised and distrustful of one another that those holding different perspectives come to be regarded as ‘the enemy’. The Colloquium held in Cape Town two weeks ago to discuss the question of women singing solo at Yom Hashoah ceremonies was a successful example of various constituencies within the community coming together to debate, frankly but without unnecessary antagonism, a matter over which there are strongly-held and widely differing viewpoints.