Mensch spent a week of collaborative learning in Cape Town and Johannesburg with sought after social justice Rabbi and activist Shmuly Yanklowitz. Voted in The Forward as one of the 50 most influential Jews of 2016 his writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. As author of eleven books on Jewish spirituality, social justice, and ethics, his teachings spoke to Mensch’s purpose – our ethical contribution as Jews to all society.
Rav Shmuly led a Mensch study session in Johannesburg for Mensch members, inviting conversation and thinking around our ‘moral courage’ as ethical people, Jews and South Africans. He quoted from Rav Yisrael (father of the Musar movement in Orthodox Judaism and a famed Rosh Yeshiva and Talmudist) reminding us that ‘’We must hold on to three qualities in order to lead with courage: not to despair, not to get angry, not to expect to finish the task.” He also drew on the inspirational words of researcher and storyteller Brene Brown who has spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. “Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.” Wonderful inspiration for change-makers in the Mensch community as we strive to lead as social activists in South Africa with courage and resilience.
In Cape Town, Mensch co-hosted Rav Shmuly’s shiur ‘To Whom Are We Responsible’ with Rabbi Sam Thurgood at Beit Midrash Morasha in Sea Point. In this session these words from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World, were discussed:
‘’There is no life without a task; no person without a talent; no place without a fragment of G-d’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call. It may take a lifetime to learn how to find these things, but once we learn, we realize in retrospect that all it ever took was the ability to listen. When G-d calls, He does not do so by way of universal imperatives. Instead, He whispers our name – and the greatest reply, the reply of Abraham, is simply ‘Hineni’: ‘Here I am,’ ready to heed your call, to mend a fragment of Your all-too-broken world.’’
We are so grateful to Rav Shmuly for his leadership, insight and wisdom as we being to grow our community of Jewish social change in South Africa.
“Rav Shmuly reminded me that we are capable of so much more than we can ever imagine”