October 7th Impact Across The Community


Now more than ever, we must put our effort, energy, love, and passion into teaching and ensuring there is understanding, particularly with our schools, about how this will impact the community, students, and the Museum. So, if anything, there was a reenergisation and a focus on the work the Museum does and teaching about the Holocaust and its impact. More than ever, that story needs to be told.

We're not going to let this take us down; we are going to work harder and double our efforts to be more impactful in telling the stories, the critical stories about the Holocaust. October 7 has impacted the Museum in several ways. Physically, unfortunately, the Museum has been a site for several incidents. The King's Cross police have worked actively with us, and they have been truly amazing in looking after the Museum, but we have had a number of incidents. Some of those unfortunately made national news that then has gone on to impact school confidence in the Museum and our security, even though our security is beefed up and as good if not better than it's ever been.

The Museum has 38 Incredible Holocaust survivors who will give up their time and tell their stories to school students. There are many of them struggling to understand the rise in antisemitism, particularly in Sydney, a safe city where everyone feels so incredibly secure. But that sense of safety is not so evident anymore. One of the few things that have come out of October 7 has been us looking very carefully at where this misinformation is. Where is this behaviour coming that's affecting particularly young people? And whilst we've been focused physically in the schools in the classrooms, it's also essential to be in the social media space and offering ways. It means tackling the shocking video content, the terrible views that are often circulating amongst small networks of schools, and students who are very compelled to read this content that often goes unchallenged.



When war broke out, at our supervision groups for our Mum for Mum volunteers, those mothers had a safe place to come, and we could talk about our feelings, self-care, and where we find resilience. During the repatriation process with the Australian government, we also worked closely with JCA to help Australians returning with their families from Israel to provide emotional support to the broader community. We were at the airport to meet the first flight and supported families on their return to Australia.  Our volunteers are supported in a safe space so that they have the emotional resources amid the trauma and confusion to know what the best approach is for these families and how to support these mothers best. We also have a few volunteers who are not from the Jewish community. They have understood what we are going through because we've been very open with them about how traumatic it is for us to sit in a space of fear, anxiety and discomfort. And they have been some of our biggest supporters. In its outreach, our program has created allies and friends who have stood by us.



I remember a message coming through on October 7 in one of the workgroups with our operational staff. And I knew then that this was going to kick off; this was going to be something that would impact the Jewish community for an unprecedented amount of time and on a level that we had never seen before. I reached out to authorities in a way I had never done before. While I'd contacted them with very little information, I expressed the fact that this was something different and that we, as a community, needed some awareness from the police; we needed support from the police. Internally, I knew we would be having conversations, and while the situation was still in its infancy, the CSG staff sprang into action. Our office was abuzz from that Saturday, late afternoon, well into the evening. From that point forward, right the way through till the end of the year, we didn't have a day where there weren't CSG staff and volunteers working hard, reassuring community members who were contacting us with concerns and fears; we were reassuring them, we were giving them the confidence that they could continue to go to schools and live their life. Within those first few weeks, we received upwards of 200 phone calls a week from community members.

Operationally, CSG deployed resources to every school for pick-up and drop-off. We were at every synagogue and committed to the community, saying that we were there if they were there. We stuck by that throughout the remainder of 2023 for synagogue services, school pick-ups, drop-offs, and events. We were there. We knew right from the beginning that the community wanted to be out there. They wanted to show their solidarity for Israel.

Everyone will remember that in a matter of days, the largest communal rally we've seen in Sydney took place - over 10,000 Jewish community members gathered together in solidarity for their support of Israel. With over 130 CSG personnel deployed for that event and over 100 NSW Police officers on site, the event needed to be securely protected. At that point, CSG showed its strength to the Jewish community and its ability to protect at such an uncertain time.

Our CSG volunteers stay for a varied amount of time. But one of the things that we've struggled with over the years is how we keep these individuals connected. We've always known that belief in the mission, which is one of our four core values, is so deeply ingrained in every one of our volunteers. Following October 7, this shone so true and so bright that past volunteers – not only those who left a month ago but those who left 20 years ago, were knocking on our door to come back to bring their experience back into communal security to protect their community. In times of crisis, we've seen that the community turns to CSG for support for our safety, security, and reassurance. We're trying to empower the community. In times of crisis, the community turns to CSG, but we also, together with JCA, turn to the community. You've never mattered more.



My first concern was ensuring our community's security and well-being. Of course, whenever there is an incident in Israel, it has ramifications for Jewish communities around the world. So, my immediate concern was securing all of our communal facilities.

It was a Shabbat afternoon, and I immediately contacted CSG. Initial contact with the police commenced. We also reached out to key political stakeholders to brief them on what was transpiring and open up those channels of communication.

Since October 7, we have continuously engaged with key political stakeholders from the Premier down. We've engaged with the New South Wales Police together with CSG, our friends and contacts in multicultural New South Wales, and other civil society leaders here in New South Wales. We've also taken a leadership role in helping the community through this time of deep trauma and shock.

Unfortunately, the long shadow of Jewish history has caught up to us. We now realize that the past three or four decades were a golden age in Jewish history, and that golden age has ended. Antisemitism, this ancient evil force which has been mutated throughout the ages, has once again returned and returned with a vengeance and acts and behaviour that we never thought possible before having now re-emerged here in Sydney, Australia.

We don't know what the new normal will be when the war ends, but one thing is for sure: we will have to advocate better and more effectively than we ever have before, and that will require additional resources.

Throughout Jewish history, our people have faced all manners of trials and tribulations. Unfortunately, what we've experienced over the past months has been our generation's challenge. Looking around, I'm so proud of the way the community has risen to the challenge—the resilience, the courage, the unity.