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CSG need not be a taboo topic

October 1, 2009 – 11:25 am11 Comments
Not the kind of community participation that the author has in mind. Source of image: Gothamist.com

Not the kind of community participation that the author has in mind. Source of image: Gothamist.com

By Rachel Sacks-Davis

Last week Galus Australis ran a column by Almoni criticising a recent Community Security Group (CSG) advertising campaign. Although I did not agree with the content of Almoni’s article, I was surprised at the number of commenters who challenged not only the content but the validity of discussing online anything related to the CSG. Not only was there reticence toward online discussion, but some commenters claimed that there should be no critical discussion of the CSG at all.

In the words of one commenter, Mark, “Anyone from OUR community who is critical of CSG for any reason is a naive and confrontational ignoramus. Subjects like this SHOULD NEVER be aired publicly. [Commenter’s emphasis.]” Another commenter, Shmuli, writesdiscussing our security in this type of open forum makes me quite distressed.” These commenters seem to believe that any discussion of CSG poses either a security risk or a public relations disaster.

Interestingly, the proposed moratorium on discussing the CSG does not appear to have originated from the organisers of the CSG themselves. Certainly, the CSG’s recent advertising was widely distributed through the Australian Jewish News, a publically available newspaper. Clearly those who organised the advertising campaign do not consider their existence to be a secret; nor should they.

Nonetheless, a culture of secrecy has been promoted by some CSG volunteers for a number of years. Anecdotally, I remember some volunteers who felt they could not tell their Jewish friends when they had CSG training, despite the fact that those same friends regularly saw them standing outside shuls. This culture is problematic and it contravenes the ethos stated on the CSG blurb on the JCCV webpage, “Communal security is everybody’s responsibility.”

Collective responsibility for community security should not just involve collection of funds, but rather broad participation and education about risk. This latter point is important because the vast majority of violent anti-Semitic attacks in Australia take place outside of major functions, synagogues, and Jewish schools, which are the main loci of formal CSG presence.

Given that this is the case, and that anti-Semitic incidents have increased in Australia in recent years, I believe that one of the most valuable things that the CSG could offer the Jewish community is community education directed at empowering regular community members to recognise risky situations, and better equipping them to respond, for example, through self-defence classes. This type of education could be targeted at groups who are most likely to become victims of anti-Semitism such as those who wear religious garb and are thus most easily identified as Jews.

From this perspective, the recent CSG advertising campaign may not have been productive because rather than provide community members with researched and useful information about security risks and measures, it opted for an image that suggests that every community institution is under threat.

The CSG leadership should encourage volunteers to be open about non-sensitive security information and CSG activity. This would promote broader community involvement and empowerment, and might also be a valuable way of engaging potential donors.

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