Rabbi David Masinter is planting seeds in the minds of SA’s youth. He wants to awaken in them the realisation that they can achieve personal success.
Masinter is director of Chabad House in Johannesburg. This organisation assists members of the Jewish community around the world towards personal growth and helps them return to their heritage.
Through his work Masinter has learnt that troubles such as financial woes, drug abuse and a lack of hope often stand in the way of “getting life on track.”
Chabad House has been helping the Jewish community for decades, but Masinter felt there must be a way to help SA at large. In 2008, he published the first of a series of three children’s books called Grow Your Life. The aim is to uplift youngsters who are battling with financial issues at home, or who are struggling scholastically. These experiences may make them vulnerable to falling into what Masinter calls “the abyss of despair.”
Each book sets out to teach a particular moral. The first book shows that there is hope for the future; the second teaches that life is priceless, and that if you live responsibly, things will turn out right. The last book deals with a pertinent issue: the long slog that may lie ahead for a young person before he or she finds a job that is rewarding (personally and financially), and the patience and humility this will require.
It’s the story of a youth named Danny, whose family suffers financial stress. He has studied hard to obtain his diploma in computing, but cannot find work anywhere. He accepts a job as a shoe polisher, even though he feels this is stripping him of his dignity.
He ends up shining the shoes of a business owner and lands himself a job in the company’s computer department. The message: you have to start somewhere, and you never know where it may lead you.
It’s more like a programme of hope than a book, and is designed to change a child’s frame of mind from despair to hope by letting him or her feel a tinge of success.
At the back of the book children are asked to write down what they would like to achieve to better themselves and the country, and how they can do it. They must also reflect on how they can live more responsibly.
Once the book has been read, teachers must sign it so that each child receives a certificate.
The books have now been distributed to 1100 schools in SA. Masinter has paid special attention to the third book, which targets the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg. It will reach 13,000 children by the end of the year.
The books are part of a wide variety of Chabad House initiatives that target the challenges being experienced by SA communities. These include a nondenominational drug rehabilitation centre in Sandton which Masinter opened two years ago.
Masinter lives in Johannesburg with his wife. They have six children and one grandchild.