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2017-06-16 digital edition
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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


June 16, 2017  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

State funds better security for 35 Jewish day schools

Gov. Rick Scott greets students at Orlando Torah Academy, where he touted the new appropriation for Jewish school security. The day school was the target of bomb threats earlier this year. Gov. Rick Scott greets students at Orlando Torah Academy, where he touted the new appropriation for Jewish school security. The day school was the target of bomb threats earlier this year. For the first time, the recently approved state 2017-18 budget includes a $654,000 appropriation to enhance security at 35 Jewish day schools, including two in Tampa.

Teach Florida, a project of the Orthodox Union, helped draft the legislation and advocated strongly for its passage. Officials in the organization declared the appropriation as a victory for Jewish children.

“Security is a public good, and we appreciate that Florida’s elected officials have stepped up to help safeguard our students,” said Mimi Jankovits, executive director of Teach Florida.

The funding is available to Jewish day schools serving children in kindergarten through high school, she said.

The two Tampa schools that are eligible to receive funds for enhanced security are Hillel Academy at 2020 W. Fletcher Ave., and Hebrew Academy at 14908 Pennington Road.

The funding comes after a sharp rise in bomb threats to Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions this year, including numerous attributed to an Israeli teen who was arrested this spring.

Gov. Rick Scott touted the funding when he visited Brauser Maimonides Academy in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando Torah Academy on June 6.

“This is just the beginning. I will work for all our children to be safe, public or nonpublic. If anybody is the subject of threats, we should look into how to protect them. We have to work on keeping everyone safe,” Gov. Scott said.

A Miami Herald report noted that Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative counsel, said the budget item raises constitutional questions. “The fact that the funding singles out one religion raises serious concerns about unconstitutional discrimination, whether intentional or not,” the Herald reported she said in a written statement. “Many groups are seeing a spike in violent threats in recent months – not only Jews, but also Muslims, Sikhs and immigrants. If the state sees responding to these threats as a priority public safety issue, funding should be available to all similarly targeted groups.”

The funds are to be used for video cameras, fences, bullet-proof glass, alarm systems and other equipment, but just how much would go to each school had not been determined, according to the Herald report.

World Religion News reported that Jankovits explained that in the future the goal would be to expand funding to other private schools, but the bill was limited to Jewish schools this year because of the rise in security threats. “We had an immediate need we wanted to address,” she said, according to that paper’s report.

“Next year, children in Jewish day schools across Florida will be safer and more secure,” said Dr. Allan Jacob, chairman of Teach Florida.

In addition to my letter that

In addition to my letter that appeared in the last edition of the Jewish Press, were two other articles acknowledging the persistence of hate crimes, especially anti-Semitic incidents that took place locally as well as nationally. In fact, the Florida legislature appropriated $654,000 to enhance security of 35 Jewish Day schools including two in Tampa (is this even constitutional?. Granted ,there has always been strong xenophobia and anti-Semitism feelings embedded in the American culture, but ever since candidate Trump became President Trump isolationism and xenophobia has reached new prominence, and to quote New York Times columnist Bret Stephens; “ isolationism is back thanks to Trump and anti-Semitism can’t be far behind and not just from the alt-right”. Make no mistake about it- signals to the Trump base are being sent by none other than Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and CEO who declared;” it is up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites and media elites because these are America’s ” greatest domestic threats”. If that doesn’t sound familiar you have not paid attention to remarks by President Trump himself at CPAC when he said that the media is “the enemy of the people”. On July 1st, President Trump was invited to give the sermon at the Celebration of Freedom concert held at the Kennedy Center sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Dallas, whose pastor is Robert Jefferess. Mr. Jeffress thinks that Catholicism represents the “genius of Satan and is “a counterfeit religion.”He continued; you can’t be saved being a Jew”, abortion caused 9/11, and that contemporary American Christians face similar challenges to Jews in pre-war Germany. It is obvious why Trump accepted that invitation; he is sending a signal to a segment of the population that he would not be caught dead celebrating the U.S. as anything but a Christian nation. At both events, President Trump received a standing ovation. A question might be, how he is going to be received when AIPAC convenes their next meeting especially when the last time he appeared the longest applause lines followed his promise that the U.S. embassy is moving to Jerusalem. As Jews and Americans we should recognize the emergence of an “alternative culture “appropriated by the right. Social media sites like INFOWARS, Breitbart, Reddit, or Voat, and the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer are gaining traction within a segment of a certain type of an audience to whom contradiction and disruption is exciting. An example would be the term ‘fake news “. Did “fake news “appear in the lexicon before the emergence of Trump the candidate or Trump the president? Every day we are accepting an increasingly low bar in public discourse. Be aware, and do not under estimate the support this president has that lies just beneath the surface like a paddling duck moving across the water; the tweets that are expressing outrageous impetuousness and hateful rhetoric churn furiously below while the deconstruction of the administrative state moves steadily foreword It is understandable that many in the Jewish community felt President Obama did not, to their satisfaction, properly recognize the existential threat to Israel or have a better relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and cast their vote accordingly but, as a consequence, the behavior of THIS president shatters any pretense of our seriousness as a nation by exhorting intolerance by demonizing the media and institutions that represent our values long admired by the world. We, of all people, have seen this before! As William F. Buckley said; “the resistances to a corrupting demogague shoud take first priority for Americans. Robert Berman

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