THE Community Security Group (CSG) NSW has issued an extraordinary apology to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) after it falsely claimed that JBOD had abandoned its efforts in seeking an exemption to allow outdoor shofar blowing to occur during the High Holy Days.
In an email to NSW Police on Monday this week, seen by The AJN, a senior CSG employee claimed that following discussions between CSG and JBOD, “further work will not be undertaken in relation to an exemption”.
The CSG employee, who The AJN has chosen not to name, alleged that “JBOD will continue to liaise with NSW Health and request the application to be knocked back a few days before [Rosh Hashanah]”.
And in a stunning further comment, the CSG staffer told police, “It is important for synagogues and the community that the perception is JBOD is working on the process up until the festivals begin.”
In a statement on Friday morning, CSG said it had “corrected the comments made in an email sent to the NSW Police Force”, and “apologised to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the community for any confusion caused”.
“CSG notes that the email was a single communication in the context of complex and ongoing discussions with NSW Police regarding the operational response and co-ordination in the lead up to the High Holy Days and a CSG assessment that any decision in relation to the exemption may only be determined a few days prior,” the group said.
It added, “CSG is proud of its record of service to the NSW Jewish community and is ready, willing and able to protect and serve the community during the High Holy Days as always.”
The AJN understands a screenshot of the email was leaked and widely circulated within the community on Thursday.
It comes the same week that JBOD – together with the Australian National Imams Council, and the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops of Sydney – wrote to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian asking the state government to allow outdoor gatherings for religious worship.
The AJN understands JBOD is in ongoing discussions with authorities regarding the outdoor shofar blowing proposal; no decision has been made on an exemption; and there was never an agreement for JBOD to request that its own application be knocked back “a few days before the festival”.
In a statement to The AJN on Friday afternoon, JBOD president Lesli Berger said, “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies will continue to work right up until the last moment to allow the community to hear the shofar over Rosh Hashanah.”
Stating, “Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue,” he added, “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has only recently become aware of the email and acknowledges CSG’s correction of the record.”
The Rabbinical Council of NSW said, “We have accepted the assurance of the Board that they had no knowledge of any attempt to undermine the application to allow shofar blowing in parks on Rosh Hashanah, and that they have been working hard to secure permission and will continue to work hard.”
JBOD statement in full:
“With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the horizon, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies continues to work with the NSW Government to determine how the community can observe and celebrate this year.
“With Synagogues closed, limits on gatherings and restrictions on travel, this year’s High Holy Days will look unlike anything we have seen before.
“When the lockdown started, the Board quickly reached out to the NSW Government to open a discussion on what the restrictions meant for the community.
“While our communal institutions have come together to unite the community at home this year, one of the key ongoing discussions with authorities involves restrictions surrounding the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
“The Board has worked tirelessly since July, in conjunction with communal Rabbis and the Rabbinical Council of New South Wales, to lodge an application for an exemption from health orders, to allow for the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah in a COVID-safe manner. Our efforts will continue until a decision is made on the application by the NSW Government. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue.
“The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has only recently become aware of the email and acknowledges CSG’s correction of the record.
“The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies will continue to work right up until the last moment to allow the community to hear the Shofar over Rosh Hashanah.”