The last decade of the twentieth century saw the deepening of globalisation, the emergence of the digital age, as well as a rise in political, religious and ethnic violence globally. In South Africa it was a time of renewed hope with Apartheid in its death throes and Nelson Mandela a free man with the vision to create a unified and democratic country.
The global tide of antisemitism was ever-present, with attacks on Jews and their way of life becoming an almost daily occurrence. It was against this backdrop in 1992, in an effort to protect their way of life, that Jewry in the Western Cape rallied together and formed the Community Security Organisation Cape Town (CSO CT). The South African Jewish Board of Deputies formally launched the organisation a year later. CSO CT was founded on the key principle of protecting Jewish life, the Jewish way of life and empowering the community to protect itself.
In its infancy, its role was to provide security and physical protection to those attending shul on the Shabbat, and to other Jewish sites of importance. Fast forward to the present, and CSO CT provides services to the greater Western Cape community that also include medical, emergency and training services. In addition, they run numerous school programmes alongside related community initiatives.
The CSO model is based on our shared humanity. Every individual within CSO helps out on a voluntary basis by contributing either their time, expertise or skills. While CSO employs three full-time paramedics, the remaining 20 medical staff are volunteers. The same applies to the 90-odd individuals who give of their time within the protection and security services, in the control room, or with the COVID-19 Wellness Monitoring Programme. This usually consists of one or two shifts each month as well as some training. The pandemic has meant that training is now fairly challenging, but CSO CT has managed to continue training volunteers online to ensure that they are able to continue providing a much-needed service to the community.
“When I tell people I work at CSO, the response is always the same, thank G-d for CSO. This underlines a critical sentiment — when the community calls on us, we will respond and never let them down. This is something I believe that none of us can live without,” says Loren Raize, Director at CSO CT.
She adds, “Our team of well-trained, dedicated and passionate volunteers give everything for our community. Volunteers are our most prized resource — we cannot achieve our mission without them, and so we urge the community to step up and join — there are many ways to get involved.”
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, CSO has further embedded itself into the community. By establishing a Wellness Monitoring Programme, CSO was able to remotely monitor community members infected with Covid-19 who were in isolation or quarantine. The programme tracks the heart rate, oxygen levels and temperature of patients. Should their condition deteriorate, a medical team or general practitioner is dispatched to conduct an in-person assessment and decide on further steps.
Every volunteer has their own inspiration for joining CSO CT. Some have a personal link or have had their lives impacted by the work of volunteers. Others have lost relatives in the Holocaust and during the horrors of the Second World War.
Says Raize, “Even if it is simply standing outside a Shul during services to protect fellow congregants, it is their contribution towards making the world a better place and ensuring that something like that never happens again.”
“While we continue to positively impact and support communities in the Western Cape, we require the resources to do so. We call on community members to contribute in any way they can, whether through their time, skills and expertise or manpower.” she concludes.
CSO CAPE TOWN — PROTECTING JEWISH LIFE AND THE JEWISH WAY OF LIFE EMERGENCY — NUMBER: 086 18 911 18
• Published in the PDF edition of the July 2021 issue.
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