'You should've died in the Holocaust': Joburg pupil shocked by anti-Semitic voice note

09 November 2018 - 11:24
By Nomahlubi Jordaan
A Jewish man takes part in a memorial ceremony. File Photo.
Image: AFP PHOTO/SERGEI SUPINSKY A Jewish man takes part in a memorial ceremony. File Photo.

A grade 12 pupil at a Johannesburg Jewish school has relayed the trauma of receiving an anti-Semitic voice note from a pupil who attends a Christian school in KwaZulu-Natal.

The SA Jewish Board of Directors (SAJBD) said it was made aware of the voice note sent to Danni Heymann by a pupil from Treverton College, in Mooi River, on Tuesday.

Among other offensive statements, the boy is heard saying ". . . you should have died in the Holocaust".

The pupil has since apologised to Heymann, the board said.

Heymann commented in a separate letter that she had been in contact with the boy, his family and the school. Her approach was education, not punishment of any kind.

"You cannot educate a child with hatred. You cannot turn a negative situation into a positive situation with nothing but anger," said the Matric pupil currently writing final exams.

She added: “The last 36 hours have been an absolute emotional rollercoaster for me and many tears have been shed due to an unbearable feeling of being far too overwhelmed.”

“This situation is not about the boy for me, it’s about the opportunity this situation has so gratefully given me to make a change, spread awareness of such an important issue and speak for not only myself, but on behalf of my entire nation who has been dealing with anti-Semitism for centuries.

"Please approach my story with positivity and support and not let anger take over the special and big hearts that our community has,” said Heymann.

Heymann said the boy and his family had informed her that he would start an educational process with the Jewish board.

“I think educating him will not only make a difference in his life for the short term but also the long-term as I know that what has happened in the past 36 hours is something he will never forget.”

The SAJBD said it had been engaging with Treverton and the Durban Holocaust and Genocide Centre regarding a process of Holocaust education and sensitivity training that the pupil and others at the school would embark on.

 “This will be prioritised so that it is arranged as a matter of urgency. The 14-year-old and his family also visited the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (this week).

"We believe that wherever possible educational processes, with a view to behavioural change, are critical in addressing anti-Semitism and indeed all forms of hate in our country,” the board said

It paid tribute to Heymann, "whose courage and moral fibre are an inspiration to our community and indeed to all young people in our country. "

The board described Heymann as a “remarkable ambassador” for the Jewish community.

Treverton said in a letter that it was shocked by the "extremely hurtful" voice notes, which was conduct at odds with the values espoused by the school. It committed to engaging in processes that would allow for learning and growth from this experience.