Anti-Semitism tar­get prefers out­reach

Danni Hey­mann re­acts to com­mu­nity anger af­ter she was tar­geted by a school­boy’s anti-Semitic mes­sage

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE -

A­ MATRICULANT­ at­ a­ Jo­han­nes­burgJewish­ school­ says­ she­ does­ not­want­ pun­ish­ment­ for­ a­ 14-year-oldTre­ver­ton­ pupil­ and­ his­ friends­ who­sent­ her­ an­ anti-Semitic­ voice­ note.

The­ voice­ note­ sug­gested­ to­ the­girl,­ Danni­ Hey­mann­ (18),­ that­ sheshould­ have­ died­ in­ the­ Holo­caust,and­ some­one­ then­ joked:­ “What­ doyou­ call­ a­ fly­ing­ Jew?­ Smoke!”

New­ Tre­ver­ton­ head­mas­ter,­ KeanB­room,­ re­sponded­ swiftly­ to­ ad­dress­the­ mat­ter­ at­ the­ Mooi­ River­school­ and­ said­ in­ a­ state­ment:“This­ is­ some­thing­ that­ is­ com­plete­ly­con­trary­ to­ our­ val­ues­ as­ aschool”,­ adding:­ “We­ are­ fa­cil­i­tat­ingthe­ process­ of­ apol­ogy­ and­ rec­on­cil­i­a­tion­be­tween­ per­pe­tra­tors­ andthe­ vic­tim”.

He­ added:­ “De­spite­ our­ nat­u­ralde­sire­ to­ want­ jus­tice­ im­me­di­ately,it­ is­ equally­ im­por­tant­ that­ due­pro­cess­ is­ fol­lowed­ and­ that­ thede­ci­sions­ we­ make­ are­ con­struc­tive­and­ build­ to­wards­ pos­i­tive­ and­last­ing­ change.­ I­ have­ been­ over­whelmedby­ the­ grace­ shown­ bythe­ Jewish­ com­mu­nity­ in­ the­ mid­stof­ the­ hurt­ and­ anger.”

The­ South­ African­ Jewish­ Boardof­ Deputies­ said­ it­ had­ en­gaged­with­ Hey­mann,­ the­ school,­ and­ theDur­ban­ Holo­caust­ and­ Geno­cideCen­tre,­ and­ will­ give­ sen­si­tiv­i­ty­train­ing­ to­ the­ boy­ and­ other­ pupil­sat­ the­ school.

The­ or­gan­i­sa­tion­ said­ the­ 14year-old­had­ apol­o­gised­ to­ Hey­man­nand­ he­ and­ his­ fam­ily­ had­ vis­ited­ the­ Jo­han­nes­burg­ Holo­cau­s­tand­ Geno­cide­ Cen­tre­ on­ Wed­nes­day.“We­ be­lieve­ that,­ wherever­pos­si­ble,­ ed­u­ca­tional­ pro­cesses­ witha­ view­ to­ be­havioural­ change­ are­crit­i­cal­ in­ ad­dress­ing­ anti-Semitismand­ in­deed­ all­ forms­ of­ hate­ in­ our­coun­try.­ This­ is­ es­pe­cially­ true­when­ the­ per­pe­tra­tors­ of­ such­ ha­tredare­ still­ young.”

In­ a­ re­sponse­ on­ so­cial­ me­dia,Hey­mann­ said­ she­ did­ not­ want­ to­lay­ charges­ against­ the­ boy.­ “I­ sim­ply­wanted­ to­ use­ this­ sit­u­a­tion­ asa­ plat­form­ to­ build­ up­ aware­nes­sof­ a­ far­ greater­ prob­lem­ than­ a­ 10-sec­ond­ voice­ note­ from­ a­ childthat­ clearly­ has­ not­ been­ ed­u­cate­don­ this­ topic­ be­fore.”­ —­ WR.­

THIS is an edited ver­sion of the re­ac­tion on so­cial me­dia from the Jewish school­girl who was the tar­get of an anti-Semitic voice note from a Tre­ver­ton school­boy.

Hello ev­ery­one. My name is Danni Hey­mann and I am a ma­tric stu­dent at a Jewish day school in Jo­han­nes­burg.

The last 36 hours have been an ab­so­lute emo­tional roller coaster for me and many tears have been shed due to an un­bear­able feel­ing of be­ing far too over­whelmed.

I can clearly see how an­gry my com­mu­nity is. But I just want to re­mind you all that you can­not ed­u­cate a child with ha­tred. You can­not turn a neg­a­tive sit­u­a­tion into a pos­i­tive sit­u­a­tion with noth­ing but anger. What this boy did was hor­ri­fy­ing and I have never been af­fected by some­thing like this to such a large ex­tent. But be­cause I am the vic­tim of this sit­u­a­tion, I am able to see the big­ger pic­ture.

Per­haps an apol­ogy from the boy and the school seems like it wasn’t enough. But for me, it was the halfway point to

amend­ing the trau­matic sit­u­a­tion. The boy I heard on the voice note I re­ceived and the boy I heard on the phone to­day sound like two com­pletely dif­fer­ent peo­ple. In re­la­tion to that, I can see this sit­u­a­tion has af­fected him to the point where the only thing left for him to do is change.

My in­ten­tion with this sit­u­a­tion was never to ex­pel him, sus­pend him nor take le­gal ac­tion. I sim­ply wanted to use this sit­u­a­tion as a plat­form to build up aware­ness of a far greater prob­lem than a 10 sec­ond voice note from a child that clearly has not been ed­u­cated on this topic (of anti-semitism) be­fore.

I am ask­ing my com­mu­nity with all the love I have in my heart, to not ap­proach this sit­u­a­tion with anger, but rather with pride that we are such a strong na­tion. This sit­u­a­tion is not about the boy for me, it’s about the op­por­tu­nity this sit­u­a­tion has given me to make a change.

Please ap­proach my story with pos­i­tiv­ity and sup­port and not let anger take over the spe­cial and big hearts that our com­mu­nity has. I thank you all for your sup­port and for al­low­ing me to re­alise that I can truly make a dif­fer­ence now, and I am.

I even men­tioned to him while ex­plain­ing to him why I chose to make this pub­lic, that if I had replied to his text telling him the ex­act same thing I shared on­line, he would have never taken me se­ri­ously. I ex­plained to him that I am sorry that this was the only way he would be able to learn a les­son and af­ter hear­ing how sorry he was, and this was gen­uinely the most sin­cere and mean­ing­ful apol­ogy I have ever re­ceived, I knew in my heart that not only did these con­se­quences force him to grow up, but also change him into a bet­ter per­son.

We spoke for al­most an hour (on the phone) over the is­sue. What he said to me was so much more than an apol­ogy. Yes, this type of sit­u­a­tion surely forced him into apol­o­gis­ing, but that doesn’t mean that his apol­ogy meant noth­ing to him at all. Un­for­tu­nately what I feel so many peo­ple have failed to un­der­stand is that he is a 14-year-old boy who has prob­a­bly made the worst mis­take of his life.

I am a very pos­i­tive per­son, with a strong and de­ter­mined mind­set. I have learned over my 18 years of liv­ing that the only way to move for­ward is to be open to for­give­ness.

Danni Hey­mann: ‘... Please ap­proach my story with pos­i­tiv­ity and sup­port ...’

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