‘Email untrue’, still hopes for public shofar blowing
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Exemption talks continue

‘Email untrue’, still hopes for public shofar blowing

Lesli Berger: "The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is meeting with the most senior NSW Health decision makers this week to progress these discussions."

Rabbi Eli Schlanger blows a shofar on Bondi Beach in pre-pandemic days.
Rabbi Eli Schlanger blows a shofar on Bondi Beach in pre-pandemic days.

THE NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) insists it is “doing everything within our power” to enable members of the community to hear the shofar outdoors during Rosh Hashanah despite current lockdown restrictions.

Since July, JBOD has been in discussions with the state government about an exemption to allow for shofar blowing to take place in a COVID-safe way, involving multiple applications for numerous locations across Sydney.

Noting the roof body is continuing to go through “a detailed exemption process”, JBOD president Lesli Berger told The AJN, “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is meeting with the most senior NSW Health decision makers this week to progress these discussions.

“We are grateful to be working with rabbis, synagogue leadership, the Rabbinical Council, our community and other faith groups.”

He added, “We are continuing to make representations to the NSW government to ensure that religious practices are prioritised as restrictions get lifted.”

The comments come after a leaked email from the Community Security Group (CSG) to NSW Police last week claimed that “further work will not be undertaken in relation to an exemption”.

“JBOD will continue to liaise with NSW Health and request the application to be knocked back a few days before [Rosh Hashanah],” a senior CSG employee told police.

The employee alleged, “It is important for synagogues and the community that the perception is JBOD is working on the process up until the festivals begin.”

A screenshot of the email was widely circulated within the community, prompting CSG to apologise to JBOD and the community “for any confusion caused”. CSG said it had corrected the comments to police.

Stating the comments were “completely untrue”, Berger insisted JBOD would “work right up until the last moment to allow the community to hear the shofar over Rosh Hashanah”.

In a statement to The AJN on Tuesday, CSG NSW head of security Matt Meyerson said his organisation “is not a party to seeking an exemption for the shofar blowing”.

“Our dedicated professional team and burgeoning volunteer base is operating with integrity, and works scrupulously within the NSW Health Orders,” he said, adding, “We will continue to do so in providing whatever security services the community requires over the High Holy Days.”

Rabbinical Council of NSW president Rabbi Nochum Schapiro told The AJN he is “certainly hopeful” the exemption will be granted.

“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,” the RCNSW said.

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