Above Board 1 December 2011
With the school year ending this week, many members of our community will be leaving shortly for their end-of-year holidays. I would like to take this opportunity to wish them a very safe journey and to travel with the utmost care. There is no need during this time to rush to one’s destination. Part of the pleasure of going away, after all, is to travel to or through parts of our beautiful country that we otherwise never see. Why not opt for a leisurely drive, with regular stops, rather than treating the journey as something to be gotten over with as quickly as possible? At the minor cost of arriving an hour or two later, one can have a stress-free and much safer trip.
For those of us that live in the coastal towns, the holiday season brings us into contact with many of our co-religionists from Johannesburg, Pretoria and other inland centres. Even Capetonians often relocate to other parts of the coast for their vacations. All this provides a welcome, if temporary boost to Jewish life in the smaller centres, such as Umhlanga in KwaZulu-Natal and Plettenberg Bay, George and Hermanus along the Southern Cape coast. The main coastal cities – Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London – also undoubtedly benefit.
For a good few years now, George has particularly come alive from a Jewish point of view during December, having become a regular holiday destination for scores of religiously observant Jews from Johannesburg. For several weeks each year, its shul becomes the venue for daily minyanim and constant shiurim and learning programmes, and youngsters wearing yarmulkes and tzitzit are a common sight in the shops and streets. One of George’s greatest attractions from the halachic point of view is that it is one of the very few places outside of the cities that has a mikvah, the maintenance of which is carried out in partnership between the local community and the visiting Johannesburg families.
Another excellent example of a successful working partnership between locals and out-of-towners is in Plettenberg Bay, where there is today an active Jewish community with a full-time rabbi. Johannesburgers, some of whom have holiday homes in the area, remain very much involved in the congregation’s affairs throughout the year.
I commend all those Jewish holiday-makers who take the opportunity during their vacations to make connections with local Jewry and help to stimulate Jewish life in the areas they visit. Indeed, it is something I urge all Jewish visitors to do. Coming as you do from strong, vibrant centres of Jewish activity, you have so much to give to the smaller communities. At the same time, you will be much enriching your own vacation time. A necessary holiday from work, after all, should surely not be allowed to become a ‘holiday’ from Judaism as well.
Once again, I wish everyone a restful and safe holiday and look forward to meeting at least some of you in Durban during that time.
This Above Board column first appeared in the South African Jewish Report on 1 December 2011