Teen anti-Semitism victim reaches out

By Mercury Reporter Time of article published Nov 9, 2018

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Durban - The 17-year-old victim of an anti-Semitic voice message has been lauded for her reconciliatory response and request to get the perpetrator to learn about Jewish history.

Matric pupil Danni Heymann received a voice recording from a Treverton College pupil, telling her she should have died in the Holocaust.

The message created a stir within the Jewish community and on social media this week.

However, Heymann has been praised for her mature approach. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has since intervened and the 14-year-old offender was flown to Johannesburg to apologise to Heymann in person on Wednesday.

Heymann told The Mercury that the incident happened when she confronted the boy and his friends about allegedly bullying a boy she was going to start tutoring next year.

Heymann said the youngster she stood up for was well known to her.

“He messaged me and said ‘Dan, I am being cyberbullied and he is threatening me and I am not sure what to do’. I asked for the boy’s number and when I contacted him, I warned him that if he did not stop I would make sure there were serious consequences.”

Heymann said the boy replied with a voice note on WhatsApp telling her “you need Jesus”.

“I sent a voice note back beginning with ‘I am actually Jewish’. He did not reply, then I got that voice note from another number, someone from Treverton,” said Heymann, who attends a Jewish school in Johannesburg.

“What this boy did was horrifying. I have never been affected by something to such an extent. But because I am the victim, I am able to see the bigger picture,” she said.

She said an apology from the boy and the school did not seem enough, but for her “it was the halfway point to amending the trauma”.

Heymann said she arranged to speak to Treverton College acting head Kean Broom and also reported the incident to the board, to initiate educational opportunities for the boy.

“My intention was never to get him expelled or suspended or to take legal action. I simply wanted to use the situation as a platform to build up awareness of a far greater problem than a 10-second voice note from a child who clearly has not been educated on this topic,” she said.

Broom said a tough road lay ahead that would include discipline and justice but also education and growth.

He said that despite a natural desire to want justice immediately, it was equally important that due processes were followed and the decisions they made were constructive and helped build lasting change.

SAJBD director Wendy Kahn said they had engaged the offender’s school and the Durban Holocaust and Genocide Centre to initiate a process of Holocaust education. The boy’s family also visited the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre yesterday.

“We believe that wherever possible, educational processes, with a view to behavioural change, are critical in addressing anti-Semitism and all forms of hate in our country. This is especially true when the perpetrators of such hatred are still young. Our responses to anti-Semitism, wherever possible, should not be about vengeance, but changing attitudes.”

The Mercury

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