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In One Voice cancelled but CSG says community events should proceed

Ruby Kraner-Tucci
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Crowd at In One Voice

In One Voice 2024 has been cancelled. Image: Facebook.

Published: 5 December 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Organisers were worried about hosting one of Melbourne’s largest Jewish events next March but the Community Security Group says cancelling was premature.

In One Voice 2024 has been cancelled in response to the current climate affecting Jewish communities, despite strong messaging from security organisation CSG Victoria that events celebrating Jewish life should continue.

Held annually in March, the much-loved Jewish cultural festival drew 8000 people this year for shared music, food, art and community activity.

In One Voice Coordinator Ross Lomazov said the decision to cancel the event “wasn’t made lightly”, but ultimately came following “a review of the current climate affecting Jewish communities”.

He told Plus 61J Media that the board of Yiddish cultural organisation Kadimah, which runs the event in partnership with youth group SKIF, made the “tough decision” to withdraw from the festival due to a combination of community perception of holding a festival during the Gaza War, concerns about safety, and the potential for worsening circumstances.

“It's obviously disappointing because the point of the festival is to celebrate Jewish communal life as it is in Melbourne, to be proud of being Jews right here right now, and building our community up and strengthening it,” Lomazov said.

“Hopefully things [in Gaza] will resolve and I hope our community can continue celebrating together shortly.”

But Justin Kagan, CEO of Community Security Group (CSG) Victoria – the organisation responsible for In One Voice’s security detail in conjunction with Victoria Police – said its cancellation was premature.

“Certainly, there's been no advice from CSG and police that any event should be cancelled,” Kagan said, adding that he was not aware of the cancellation prior to speaking with Plus 61J Media.

“Obviously, there are some events that we'd recommend against [holding], but as far as In One Voice goes, sitting in December now, I see no reason for it to be cancelled. In the same way, we wouldn't want to cancel any of our Chanukah functions.

“More often than not, our view is to put in place a security plan to ensure the community can go about celebrating events safely, rather than cancelling them.”

While Kagan said the festival organisers were “entitled” to their perception of the risks to the Jewish community, it did not reflect the actual threat posed.

“At the moment, looking at statistics of how many reports we've had of antisemitic activity, and general reports that we get of people worried about instances, those have skyrocketed over the last eight weeks, [but] many of them prove to be nothing.

“I think that speaks very much to the psyche of the community: people are scared about what's going on and are feeling very nervous.

“There's no question that the normalisation of antisemitism is highly concerning for us … but I still think it's important that the message for our communities is that they're safe in Victoria, they're safe in Caulfield, they're safe to walk around and live a proudly Jewish life.”

SKIF choir performing at a past In One Voice festival (Facebook)
SKIF choir performing at a past In One Voice festival (Facebook)

CSG Victoria, which is largely comprised of volunteers, is taking a multifaceted approach to safeguarding the community. This includes deploying a high physical security presence, working with community organisations to provide advice and guidance, and regularly meeting with Victoria Police and key politicians to keep them informed and secure sufficient resourcing.

The organisation is also encouraging the community to report any instance of antisemitism through the Jewish Emergency App (JEAP), developed in collaboration with Hatzolah, which provides security or a medical response during an emergency and collates critical data for police and policy makers.

“It's very hard to predict what it will look like for the community in six to 12 months’ time,” Kagan added.

“We're a vibrant, energetic, resilient community. At no stage are we asking anyone to stop going out [and] being proudly Jewish, going to Shule and celebrating Chanukah.”

Melbourne’s annual Chanukah celebration, usually held at Caulfield Park, has been moved to Caulfield Racecourse, a venue which is easier to secure and has recently been used for Yom Ha’atzmaut. Thousands of community members are expected to attend the event on Sunday and organisers Chabad of Caulfield are encouraging attendance as a “show of unity”.

Both CSG Victoria and Victoria Police are supporting the security of Chanukah at the Racecourse 2023.

Response from In One Voice Co-Chairs Ross Lamozov & Joe Tigel

The tenor of the article suggests that the organisers of IOV based the postponement of the 2024 event primarily on fear and security concerns.

While the security of our community including attendees, participants and volunteers is always a primary consideration, we had confidence that coordinating with CSG and Victoria Police would ensure a safe environment as it has been for other community gatherings in recent times.

Our reasons for postponement were far more operationally focused and based on a detailed assessment of a broad range of risks. Theseincluded a consideration of how the ‘mood’ of our community would affect attendances and participation. Although we concur with CSG that we should continue to celebrate Jewish communal life, the Kadimah Board in particular, which has been responding to ongoing concerns of Jewish artists, held reservations about progressing such a significant event given the fluid nature of war in Israel and the obvious impacts on Diaspora communities. The latter also influencing our capacity to fundraise as we are required, for the festival at a time when philanthropic efforts are understandably weighted toward supporting Israel’s key organisations.

Kadimah and SKIF have for over 35 years presented the IOV festival and fostered this major event to engage and celebrate the diversity of our Jewish communal organisations which has brought together thousands of people across all generations. The decision to postpone was not taken lightly and we look forward to celebrating again with the community In One Voice.

About the author

Ruby Kraner-Tucci

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist and assistant editor of TJI. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Time Out, Law Society Journal and Dumbo Feather Magazine. She previously reported on the charity sector as a journalist for Pro Bono News and undertook internships at The Australian Jewish News and Broadsheet Media.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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