Michalya Schonwald Moss
Michalya Schonwald Moss

Imagining a Jewish African Spring

As the world watches the fall of another dictator, South Africans are secretly (and some not so secretly) waiting for bits of the Mugabe coup to rub off like a monsoon after a prolonged pest-infested drought.

A few days ago South Africa’s future trajectory looked dim. With no African Spring in sight, the Jewish community of Johannesburg has  especially been at a crossroads. A worsening economic recession coupled with rising school fees in the Jewish private schools and the exorbitant cost of kosher food, have all been contributing factors to yet another exodus of young Jewish families from the region.

South African Aliya rates have tripled in the past year alone. The word on the street is that the local Aliya office is unable to assist with queries until 2018.

Many young Jewish professionals in the community are feeling hopeless and frustrated that affirmative action is preventing them from pursuing degrees in their field and from being chosen for jobs they are qualified for. And when it comes to future planning, Jewish parents are confronted by the reality that if there is no real sustainable financial future for themselves in South Africa, what kind of future will their children have?

A noticeable trend for young families right now is the ‘exploratory trip’ where the parents leave the kids at home and fly to Israel for two weeks to gauge what kind of a future the Jewish State could offer.

D-Day for Jewish Johannesburg, according to our peers, will be the upcoming elections in December, when the ANC will choose new leadership.The country will then set off on a new course-either in the direction of dictatorship or towards a true democracy. Many of our friends in the community have shared with us that their Aliya date will be determined by how the elections swing.

One thing is for sure, that the upcoming elections will determine to a large extent what kind of future South African’s will choose to bring in. For the 120 Jewish souls left in Zimbabwe today, they are the first to bear witness to this new incarnation of seemingly massive transition on the continent.

If an African Spring is truly taking root and if the people are in the process of reclaiming their power, will South Africa be next? And if change is coming, what role will Jewish South Africa choose to play? My hope is that the community will rise up and contribute on a radical scale to this unfolding Spring, as partners of the Mandela legacy.

About the Author
Michalya Schonwald Moss is the Director of Global Impact and Development for Cadena, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization, guided by the principles of Tikkun Olam.