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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

My Journey Home

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

We arrived in South Africa on Thursday. My father really wanted us to come for Pesach and despite the long 15 hour flight, we agreed.

The South African Jewish Community is a unique, homogeneous community of about 60,000 people and almost exclusively of Lithuanian decent. The Jewish infrastructure in terms of shuls, schools, yeshivas etc is amazing for the size of the community. We eat lots of good food and many traditional foods that I have only ever seen in SA. My kids have a ball. They are spoiled rotten. Most important we have good family time. Even though they see their cousins only every 2 years, the level of connection is much deeper than with even their good friends in NY.

I left South Africa 18 years ago. My farewell present was that I was held up at gun point the week before I left. Over the years I have come home to visit and I am always very nervous. There are 2 camps of people. Those that have left and see all South Africa’s failings and challenges. Those that have stayed who focus on the opportunities and gloss over these issues.

My friend Dana from Israel joined us for the trip. She has met my parents many times when they were in Israel with us and invited her for Pesach. It is so interesting to see South Africa through her eyes. When I am home I take for granted the help that is happily and generously dispensed by Susan, my parent’s domestic worker who was my nanny growing up and who I have a deep affection. Dana was amazed that someone did her laundry and made her bed. She went to Soweto and the Apartheid museum and this generated a lot of interesting discussion.

My younger brother, Shaun, and I are very similar. His wife, Tami and Gavin always marvel at the similarities in our AAA+++ personality. We also live similar religious lifestyles, have a love for travel, we have similar views on family, Israel, Judaism etc. Yet when it comes to SA the country he lives in and I have left we see the world so differently. His perspective is his reality. I see high walls, electrified fencing, gated communities and armed guards as a sign things are not so healthy. He will convince you its in fact safe. I see instability and craziness he see opportunity and a bright future. On so many issues we see South Africa through different lenses.

It’s the lenses of our life that frame our reality.

Originally published: April 9, 2012


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