Unleashing your potential

Unleashing your potential

Practical steps to transform your life during these difficult times By Richard Sutton This year started much the same way as previous years. I had established goals, aspirations, defined projects, and I believed that anything and everything was possible in the coming year. I was excited. But, then, in a moment, everything changed. If you think about it, it sounds very much like a science fiction series that you would find on Netflix: A deadly virus crosses the species barrier. Within months, more than three billion people are forced into…

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Getting back to normal

Getting back to normal

Using EMDR to process traumatic experiences and make them more manageable By: Dr Aliza Bilman Pesach 2016 was a chag I will not soon forget. I was in the third trimester of my first pregnancy. I had heard that first time mums are often overdue, so I expected that I would be too. I had packed a bag just in case, but I had no intention of using it. On the last day of Pesach, my husband and I joined a family for a lovely lunch and then went home…

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Like a kiss from Hashem

Like a kiss from Hashem

The blessing of being tongue-tied By Chandrea Serebro Being tongue-tied is generally a sure way to lose an argument, but sometimes it can prove to be a matter of Divine intervention. Which is not to say that Hashem isn’t on your side, G-d forbid, but rather that it is a chance for Hashem to bring you to the place where you were always meant to be. And it is a win-win scenario. It starts in an ordinary doctor’s room. And while the place may be mundane when considering fate and…

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Have a bite

Have a bite

But you don’t have to By: Aron Ziegler “They tried to destroy us, we survived, let’s eat” – has become a commonly heard joke to sum up Jewish celebrations. Lavan, the Egyptians, Bil’am, Haman… ‘In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us, but Hashem, The Holy One Blessed Be He, saves us from their hand’[1]. It is not at all difficult to see why this one liner came about, as we eat festive meals on all of the yomim tovim – each with its own special foods,…

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A tribute to Rabbi Avraham Tanzer

A tribute to Rabbi Avraham Tanzer

Builder, developer, and nurturer of the South African Jewish community for over 50 years By Ilan Preskovsky With the spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur just behind us and with Sukkot mere days in our future, most of us in the South African Jewish community probably barely even registered the date of 29 September 2020 (11 to 12 Tishrei 5781), so busy were we with the usual hustle and bustle of the festive period that begins every Jewish new year. In an instant, though, the ground disappeared beneath us and we…

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What’s it ‘oil’ about?

What’s it ‘oil’ about?

Chanukah’s message of thanking Hashem for our soul Rabbi Dovid Samuels One of the most obvious difficulties with the festival of Chanukah is the emphasis placed on the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days, whereas the supernatural defeat of the Greeks at the hands of the Chashmonaim seems to be largely ignored. When we think about it, surely we would see our victory over an evil army to be more of a cause for celebration than a jug of oil lasting longer than expected. Why, then, when Chazal…

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Too far to go

Too far to go

Forgiveness and forgetfulness By: Rabb Dr David Fox The elderly stranger sat at the far end of the table after my Talmud class. I welcomed him. “It’s too far,” he replied, sneering at me with a disdainful look in his eyes. “Too far?” I echoed, waiting for him to elaborate. “It’s too far. It’s too far for me,” he said in a mocking voice, imitating someone. I remained quiet, meeting his glare with as much warmth as I could, caught off guard by this older man’s harshness. I had no…

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Taking things further

Taking things further

More thoughts on the shidduch crisis By Ilan Preskovsky Alex Cohen’s article in the previous issue of this magazine, entitled “The Shidduch Project?” no doubt struck a chord with many single people in our community. It certainly did with me. While rightly crediting the various shadchanim for all their hard work, Alex accurately identified a number of different problem points that have made finding the right person such an unending, uphill trudge for so many of us, while also offering a possible solution or two to our community’s version of…

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Seizing the day

Seizing the day

Opportunities abound in the changing and turbulent economy By Chandrea Serebro Pivot (v): rotating, as if on an axis – and the buzz word of 2020, a year that will go down in the annals of history as a time of sickness and fear, but also of hope and change. The whole world is reeling from the Coronavirus and the economic crisis that inevitably followed. The world looks in no way similar to the way it ever did. People have lost loved ones, businesses, and sometimes all hope. But out…

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Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Out of the COVID-19 gloom, there have been lessons to learn and gratitude for the things we have always taken for granted. Here is just a peek at what some people have learned about life in the time of Corona. By Chandrea Serebro Lindi Markowitz Katzoff  That my ex-husband and I can work as a team and still live under the same roof. And that we must wash our hands a lot! Sara Spiro Don’t procrastinate. If you can do it now, do it now. Michael Black How much I…

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Round and round

Round and round

Why is the concluding and restarting of the Torah reading cycle celebrated on Shemini Atzeres? By: Aron Ziegler Reading through the Torah in our weekly parsha cycle is a very old custom. The Rambam codifies[1]: “The prevailing custom throughout the Jewish nation is to complete a cycle of reading through the Torah over the course of each year. Beginning on the Shabbos after Sukkos…and (ultimately) concluding on the following Sukkos.” Shemini Atzeres is the day that has become set for the celebration of our siyum (completion) of the parsha cycle….

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Covid-19 and the sins of the fathers

Covid-19 and the sins of the fathers

A unique opportunity to reassess our lives and the structures we hold dear By David Levin The period of the Yamim Nora’im (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), far from being stand-alone times for teshuva, come at the end of an extended period of teshuva starting all the way back in Tammuz with the fast that commenced the “Three Weeks”. The seven weeks immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah are known as “shiva d’nechamusa” – the seven weeks of nechama. For each of these seven weeks, the Haftara of the week does not…

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The key to Repentance

The key to Repentance

A spiritual tool to achieve lasting change, even after Yom Kippur is over By: Rabbi Dovid Samuels So Close It says in the Torah[1]: For the mitzvah that I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far from you. It is not in the Heavens, that you say, “Who will ascend for us to Heaven and get it for us, and teach us and we will do it?” Nor is it on the other side of the sea, that you say, “Who will cross the…

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A not so simple childhood

A not so simple childhood

With significant change comes stress and worry By Chandrea Serebro Being a kid is awesome. Exploring, playing with friends, learning new things in and out of school, hobbies and pastimes, lazy days and sleepovers, grampa’s love, and birthday parties. Then came Corona. And with the snap of its toxic fingers, any outlet that kids might have had to deal with their problems, their anxiety, their difficult feelings and experiences to make them more manageable was whisked away with their freedom and their outside time. Because, yes, says Ashley Jay, Educational…

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The Shidduch Project?

The Shidduch Project?

A modest proposal…for increasing proposals By: Alex Cohen We are taught from a young age that one day, when we grow up, we’ll meet a suitable young person, look into each other’s eyes, discuss our life dreams, assess our compatibility on a practical level, and eventually get married, please G-d have kids, and build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel (a faithful home among the Jewish people). The Talmud specifies that it is forbidden for a man to marry a woman until he meets her and she finds favour in his eyes. Furthermore, a…

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Juggling life

Juggling life

The new reality of everyone learning and working from home By: Maria Beider There is an astute meme about homeschooling that has been doing the rounds on social media recently with a picture of Mary Poppins and Miss Hannigan side by side. On day one of homeschooling we exemplified the kind, virtuous, calm image of Mary Poppins. By now many of us have become the frazzled, impatient Miss Hannigan. How have we as parents risen to the challenge of distance learning in 2020? What a novel position we all find…

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Hearty meals for winter

Hearty meals for winter

The quickest way to warm your heart is through your tummy By: Sharon Lurie In these uncertain times, where the corona virus could be lurking on our doorstep, one thing’s for certain, we don’t want to be out shopping unnecessarily. And, as we approach colder weather, who really wants to go out anyways? Hopefully, most of the ingredients in these recipes will be in your cupboard and freezer. Although they’re soups, some of them can be served as hearty meals, especially with the crispy “as simple as that” bread. Carrot…

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Law of return

Law of return

What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours By: Rabbi Dr David Fox There was no doubt about it, he was dishonest. There was nothing I could do about it. True, it had been money owed to me, and it was a large sum in those days. In fact, it had been a very large sum; money which I had earned through hard work. In fact, it had been very hard work over a very large interval of time. Through a series of deceptions and other manipulative legerdemain, the…

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Coping with financial distress

Coping with financial distress

New initiatives in the time of Corona By Ilan Preskovsky At this point, what more is there to say about COVID-19? Most of us have never experienced a global phenomenon even remotely like this; one that has so thoroughly altered our most basic, day-to-day existence on so fundamental a level that even with all the political and social upheaval that 2020 has wrought, it will forever be defined by this pandemic. And that’s only partly because of its health implications. The forced disruption of day-to-day living by life under lockdown…

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Where to from here?

Where to from here?

COVID-19 and the Economy By Ilan Preskovsky The first two decades of this new millennium have certainly had their challenges, but 2020 seems to have taken all the uncertainty, anguish, and anxiety of the 21st century and condensed it into a single year – or, as of this writing, half a year. Hysterical premonitions of the apocalypse may be rather premature (there have been significantly worse years in human history), but we are living in the midst of the greatest global crisis of most of our lifetimes. All from a…

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Outreach

Outreach

Taking note of a helping hand By: Rabbi Dr David Fox The sun was still rising when we began our walk to the tiny house of worship. It was, literally, in a little house, where a select group of men gathered very early every Shabbos morning for worship and prayer. I could see and could feel the frosty mist which still covered the air around me with its soft breezy touch. We were not the only ones out at that hour. The alleyways and paths through the labyrinth of stone…

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Jewish food

Jewish food

The Influence of and Influences on Jewish Cuisine By Ilan Preskovsky What we eat and what we drink has been at the heart of Judaism for as long as it and we, the Jewish people, have existed. From the Torah detailing what Avraham gave his visitors to eat to the often intricate laws of Kashrut and the even more intricate rules of the sacrifices (almost all of which, after all, were comprised of foodstuff), our great tradition has placed a major emphasis on food and our relationship to it. Even…

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Essential Stock

Essential Stock

The Most Versatile Budget Foods That Belong In Every Jewish Kitchen By Ilan Preskovsky In these uncertain times, the financial stability of people around the world has seldom looked quite so unstable. The fact that it’s a situation whose effect on most people around the globe may well have made the truism “we’re all in this together” relevant as almost never before doesn’t make it any less scary. Frankly, the ever-increasing cost of living in South Africa was high enough to begin with long before the arrival of COVID-19 and…

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Above the clouds

Above the clouds

Flying through life…and Israel By Chandrea Serebro From Bapsfontein to BB Netanyahu, Kevin (Akiva) Braun is flying through the ups and downs of the life of a pilot in Israel, learning Hebrew while flying over the chosen land, seeing five capital cities from Jerusalem’s clear skies and transporting prime ministers, celebrities, and not one, but two Israeli Chief Rabbis all in a day’s work. And it is a dream come true, after a lifetime of Hashem’s Divine assistance that lead him there. “It is a real privilege to live and…

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The great equaliser

The great equaliser

Learning lessons in resilience, as we search for meaning and purpose By: Maria Beider When the whole world as we know it and as our parents have known it is turned upside down, what happens to us psychologically and emotionally? When your living room becomes your kids’ classroom, your bedroom is turned into a yoga studio, people don masks and gloves in order to buy their groceries, and the price of crude oil is negative, there is pandemonium. Or is that an understatement? In the last few weeks, as the…

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613 Mitzvos

613 Mitzvos

An impossible task? By Rabbi Dovid Samuels At Har Sinai, we all famously proclaimed: “Na’aseh v’nishmah!” – “We will do and we will learn!” We received 613 mitzvos – 613 ways to connect to our Creator, and every single one is necessary. The Sh’lah[1] – one of the most famous Kabbalists from the 17th Century – teaches us an important concept that has become very well-known: the human body is made up of 248 limbs and 365 sinews. The 613 mitzvos of the Torah are made up of 248 positive…

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The Mother of Kings

The Mother of Kings

The mother of kings By: Robert Sussman We are accustomed to reading Megillas Rus (the book of Ruth) on Shavuos and there are several reasons for this. One of those reasons is because Shavuos is the yarzheit of Dovid HaMelech (King David), therefore we read about his birth and about his forefathers. We all look forward to Moshiach ben Dovid and this is one of the fundamentals of our faith. The day will come – soon, please G-d – when we will all be gathered to Eretz Yisrael and there…

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Shabbos in an African village

Shabbos in an African village

Wherever we are when the sun sets on Friday, it’s Shabbos By Chandrea Serebro When Rabbi and Bella Grynhaus and their family decided to take a long weekend in Swaziland to experience the beauty of nature and the simplicity of being out in the African air, they thought it would be from the scenic vista of their accommodation, or at best, while on a Sunday morning walk. But, what started as an ideal way to extend their trip and have more time to enjoy the tranquillity of the scenic surroundings…

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The unwitting drug dealer

The unwitting drug dealer

He went to Israel for a yeshiva experience, he never expected to experience the inside of an Israeli prison By Chandrea Serebro Imagine a yeshiva bochur. He is a good boy in Israel learning for the year. He is not yet 18 years old. He has no money, no family in Israel, and he is just trying to enjoy the experience, despite being a bit homesick. One day, in the middle of a gemara shiur, his rabbi calls him out of the class. Outside waiting for him, he finds the…

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A traditional Pesach

A traditional Pesach

Recipes from my Bobba and Mother By: Lauren Boolkin It seems bizarre to be writing about Pesach in January, but in truth it’s a blessing. The key to enjoying the chag is to start thinking about it way in advance and definitely straight after Purim. Although you cannot “change over” your kitchen, you can certainly spring clean the rest of your house. Just implement the no food in bedrooms rule and you are well on your way. I also like to keep a stock book where I write down the…

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Maggid like you mean it

Maggid like you mean it

Owning the story, before giving it over By: Rabbi Dovid Samuels Who’s listening, anyway? If we look for the festival of Pesach in the Torah, we will not find it referred to as ‘Pesach’, but rather as Chag HaMatzos – the festival of Matzos. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev[1] explains that when we mention Pesach, we refer to it by praising the greatness of Hashem as He passed (pasach) over the Jewish houses in Egypt. However, when Hashem mentions Pesach in His Torah, He refers to it as the Festival…

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Good enough

Good enough

Society asks that we be perfect, but there’s a tremendous value in making mistakes along the way and learning from them By Maria Beider, MSW How often do we hear expressions like “Strive for excellence” or a variation quoted in our everyday lives? When did excellence become an end goal and an aspiration? Being excellent places tremendous pressure on an individual and may cause untold anxiety. If one is deemed excellent, one must constantly continue to live up to that elite standard, with no respite. Moreover, it is not uncommon…

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Cup after cup

Cup after cup

Can I pour you another? By: Robert Sussman Who doesn’t know the Mah Nishtana? Every child learns it in school so he can give his parents nachas when he recites it at the seder. We ask about the matzah; we ask about the maror; we ask about the dippings; and we even ask about the leaning. But why don’t we bother to ask about the four cups of wine that we have at the seder, “…on all other nights, we are not obligated to drink even one cup of wine,…

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Party for five

Party for five

It’s one of the most famous episodes in the Haggadah, but why were all of those famous Rabbis gathered in Bnei Brak together? By: Robert Sussman The Haggadah famously speaks of the five Rabbis who gathered in Bnei Brak for the Pesach seder – Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva, and Rabbi Tarfon – and who spent the entire night discussing the going out from Egypt, until their students came to inform them that the time had come for the morning reading of the shema –…

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Going Out of Egypt

Going Out of Egypt

This year in Jerusalem? By: Rabbi Dr Dovid Fox When the Army transport plane crash-landed, apparently an attempt at sabotage by Axis agents, the American soldiers were glad to be alive. The fire which engulfed the aircraft was extinguished by the primitive means available at this desert airfield. Having left their bases in Morocco and in Libya, the soldiers were shaken, yet excited about seeing yet another North African country, although still wary of the enemies who were moving closer to the Allied installations, and still uncertain of the domestic…

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Questions about questions

Questions about questions

Just what makes the wicked son so awful? By: Robert Sussman In the Jewish world, the Four Sons and their questions are even more famous than the Fab Four. Each of the questions that gets attributed to a different son comes straight out of the text of the Chumash: The Chacham (Wise Son): “What are the testimonies, ordinances, and laws that Hashem, our G-d, has commanded you?” The Rasha (Wicked Son): “What is this avodah (service) to you?” The Tam (Simple Son): “What is this?” The fourth son doesn’t actually…

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Czech-mate

Czech-mate

What happens when we face our opponent once the game is over? By: Rabbi Dr David Fox Each year, he had held a festive gathering, a Seudat Hoda’a – meal of thanksgiving – to commemorate when the war had ended for him and for his family. A teen when the Germans took over much of Europe, he had been interned in the Prague ghetto along with his parents. Life had gone from hard to tenuous, from hunger to starvation, and the curfews, the arrests, the beatings, and the murders were…

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A Persian Feast

A Persian Feast

The story of Purim takes place in Persia, so celebrate Queen Esther with a menu and tablescape laden with different spices, flavours, and colours in honour of the occasion By: Lauren Boolkin Hamantaschen are the most recognisable food associated with the Purim holiday, but there are many different foods for celebrating Purim. One of the four mitzvos of Purim is to have a festive meal on Purim day, and because I have been obsessing over the plethora of Middle Eastern recipe books hitting our shelves, I’ve decided to create a…

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War with Amalek

War with Amalek

The mind, body, and soul of hating evil By: Rabbi Dovid Samuels One of the most basic and fundamental principles regarding the fulfilment of the mitzvos of the Torah is that each mitzvah has three aspects to it: machshava – thought; dibbur – speech; and maaseh – action. For example, when we approach the mitzvah of Tefillin, the contemplation of the meaning behind the mitzvah and our pure intentions occupy the realm of thought; the blessing we make just before the placement occupies the realm of speech, and the actual…

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Celebrating by giving

Celebrating by giving

Making the party something bigger and better By Chandrea Serebro “Yad Aharon was privileged to be chosen by a bat mitzvah girl as the perfect venue to celebrate this momentous occasion in a manner which went beyond the confines of family and friends,” says Alice Friedman of Yad Aharon. “The family and friends who attended the event actively and happily participated in the mitzvah of chessed by packing our food parcels for the following day’s distribution. We hoped that this girl’s courage to do things differently would inspire many others to celebrate…

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Sing, sing a song

Sing, sing a song

Two musicians taking the music industry – and events everywhere – by storm By Chandrea Serebro Reuven Garber’s Holy Music Reuven Garber always enjoyed singing when he was young. As a teenager, he felt the first stir of real inspiration when his sister got engaged and friends and family gathered together. Out came a guitar, the strumming started, and everyone was singing in a circle, the proverbial fire roaring in the middle. “For me, it was out of this world. I really felt the music and its power right through me, and…

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Scaling down the simcha

Scaling down the simcha

The wedding is your future, but it doesn’t have to cost you your life By Chandrea Serebro He offers her the ring and the promise of forever. She says I do with a tear of happiness in her eye. Families gather, dance, and toast to the happy couple. Then they contact the caterer. And the rest is not yet happy ever after. What soon follows is a battle of wills and finances, triumphs and disappointments to plan the perfect wedding without bonding the not-yet-bought house three times over. These days,…

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A truly fun mitzvah

A truly fun mitzvah

Rejoicing with the bride and groom By Chandrea Serebro If you peek into a Jewish wedding hall, don’t be surprised to see a circus-like dance floor full of masks and feathers, fire and dancing. The mitzvah of gladdening the bride and groom is found in the Talmud, and it has become a much-loved practice at Jewish weddings. Some people have even made it their business to rejoice with bride and groom. The Kollel Dancers Ivan Ziskind was dancing at a wedding over 40 years ago, doing his three-legged-man routine, when…

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Baruch Hashem for my Dyslexia

Baruch Hashem for my Dyslexia

How a New York rabbi made his dyslexia work for him By Ilan Preskovsky Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch is a highly respected rabbi, author, and curator of the acclaimed Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn, New York (see the story “Bringing the Torah Alive” in our last issue), but it wasn’t an easy journey to become the man that he is today. His childhood years, in particular, were beset with an undiagnosed learning disorder that frustrated young Shaul Shimon to no end – a frustration that was only exacerbated by teachers…

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Mexican fiesta

Mexican fiesta

Simple entertaining, so you can enjoy your time with family and friends By: Lauren Boolkin We start the new year with a new edition to Jewish Life. Lauren Boolkin is no stranger to our recipe pages, having appeared many times in the past – but this year, we’re trying something new. Lauren is our new In-House Chef and she’ll be appearing in these pages every month, sometimes with guest chefs joining her in the kitchen. We look forward to seeing what she’s got on the stove each month! It never…

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Take it from me

Take it from me

Making a plan of action for matric year and beyond By: Batsheva Lea Sometime during last year, another parent asked me how matric was going and I replied, “I’m finding it very stressful.” She laughed, but the reality is, the whole family does matric and it can be overwhelming. Looking back, there were a few things that we hadn’t thought of, or which we learned along the way, or even found out about just before or after a deadline. With that in mind, I decided to pen this piece to…

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Days gone by and yet to come

Days gone by and yet to come

Matrics share their plans for the future and advice for the incoming class By Chandrea Serebro Jared Mosselson, KDL Matric What is your plan for the future? I’m going to Israel next year for a gap year and I will then decide whether or not I will make Aliyah. I want to study Law and Political Science. What is the most exciting part about leaving school? Being able to enjoy a new sense of freedom while gaining the opportunity to find yourself and do what you like. What will you…

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Should I stay or should I go…

Should I stay or should I go…

More than just a sentiment, #imstaying has become a movement. What do the youth of today think about it? By Chandrea Serebro Leora Kuper, Matric, King David Linksfield Stay or go? Next year I am leaving South Africa to go on a gap year based in Israel. I want to grow as a person, gain experiences, and make new friends, as well as learn life lessons from the people around me. I can’t wait to use my newly found confidence, enthusiasm for life, and maturity in my endeavours in South…

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Setting goals and achieving

Setting goals and achieving

A programme of fathers and sons learning together gives birth to another programme that sets the bar even higher By Chandrea Serebro What better time is there for both parties than father and son time? The amount of love and inspiration and spiritual growth that comes from just hitting a ball or taking a walk is unparalleled. Now, add Torah learning into the mix, and the mountains that can be conquered are limitless. Avos U’Bonim, which literally means Fathers and Sons, is a learning mentorship programme that has been running…

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Facing our beliefs head on

Facing our beliefs head on

Clarity, depth, and passion in Judaism By Chandrea Serebro They say that kids are like sponges, and it is very true in many ways. Take Judaism. We show them a love for it and they live it their young lives, learning all the songs in nursery school and delving deeper as they go along their school career. But, one day, they wake up as young adults, and they start to question the things they have been taught and always knew to be true. And, very often, they find that they…

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