Chaverim Yakarim

 I have been asked to share my sermon from last Friday via the AdKan with all of you. Please let me and/or ManCom know what your thoughts are on the subject, and please join the conversation.

Shabbat Shalom—Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Welcome back – and it is good to be back.

Summer in Johannesburg is – as we all know – a much quieter time, and if we decide to stay at home, we actually can use this quietness to reflect on the past and the future.

I did just this:

Last year was an important one, because of some of the historic milestones that were commemorated. The End of World War one, the 80th anniversary of the “so called” Kristallnacht, the night of the broken glass in 1938, which marked the beginning of the Final Solution of Nazi Germany. And not to forget, there was, of course Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

2019 will be a year filled with those kind of remembrance days, too. In September we will mark the beginning of World War II in 1939, and in June we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. But most importantly this year, we, South Africa, celebrate the end of Apartheid and the first democratic elections in 1994 – 25 years ago.

This is a milestone in the younger history of South Africa and I am looking forward to it. For me personally, it is an opportunity to learn more about the history of South Africa, the different biographies of people whose lives I share, and it is my hope that I will understand more how South Africa’s multi-faceted society has tackled the many problems on the path of reconciliation. However, I think this year, is also a great opportunity for Bet David to examine our own identity within this larger context.

Last year, we started a discussion about the future of Bet David, our Vision for this congregation. Where do we see Bet David in 5, 10 and 25 years from now? And more importantly, what impact will we make as progressive Jews in the future? How can we keep our congregation significant for our members, for the Jewish community and for the society we live in.

The questions can only be answered, when we start thinking about our own identity right now. Where does Bet David fit in, in this post-Apartheid South Africa. What is our role in the reconciliation process that perhaps only begins now? What is our history, where did we fail, where did we match the principles of Judaism?

When I look at the congregation, I see a very diverse congregation, with members and worshippers coming from all kind of backgrounds, seeking here a safe space to encounter God and Judaism. I see people united and willing to shape the future for the best. But do I see everything, am I seeing the broken identities of some of you, the scars of the past, the open wounds that are not able to heal, yet?

Do we see them?

Friends, I am not an expert on reconciliation for South Africa. My biography is very different to yours. But I share with you this dream, this hope, this longing, to bring healing into our world. As a progressive Jew, as a Jew, as a human being, I know that we have the strength and the ability to work together to bring about this change—aiming for a healed world. I invite all of you to join me and ManCom in this effort.

Let us make 2019 a year of celebration and a real milestone in bringing South Africa together.

Shabbat Shalom