Over the last few months, the board has witnessed engaged debates and discussions among our community — about COVID-19 and what we should do about it, about PPE, about schools and shuls, about devastating economic realities, and, well, just about people. We’ve seen our people lift each other up and tear each other down, and recent developments lead us to believe it is time to make a clear statement: There’s No Place for Hate, and Words Matter.
Section 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa gives every person the right to freedom of expression. This right is fundamental to any democratic society, as it enables citizens to engage in healthy debates on issues of public importance, exchanging different ideas and information and promoting tolerance for one another. This right is not absolute and must be balanced against other fundamental human rights- such as our right to human dignity, equality, and freedom of religion, belief and opinion. This “free speech” right is never a justification for the use of derogatory or hateful words, and where it incites harm or propagates hatred, it will amount to hate speech.
We align with the following values, which guide our activities and strategy: integrity in our every action and interaction; accountability to our Western Cape Jewish community; inclusivity of all members in our diverse Western Cape Jewish community; a collective responsibility for the continued advancement of the Western Cape Jewish community; and justice for all. We recognise there are often times where our community fundamentally disagree on issues, and that the only way to foster understanding is through public debate and engagement. We implore each and every member of our community, when engaging in such debates, to remember these values, and that words can hurt and have a lasting impact on a person’s life and livelihood, long after the debate has ended.
When a small community doesn’t have a kind word for one another, there’s nothing to be proud of. Community disappears, and forums for change along with it.
We at the Cape SAJBD put forward the idea that our Cape Jewish community take up the challenge of becoming practitioners of careful, thoughtful and deliberate positive communication. That we don’t fall for the ease of speaking without thinking. That we practice engaged listening and connect with one another meaningfully despite our differences.
If what you want to talk about seems untraversable, talk to us. We’ve championed the webinar space of late, and we’d be delighted to engage on your topic with volunteer speakers in a spirited and respectful debate hosted as an open forum.
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