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2017-11-03 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. 


November 3, 2017  RSS feed
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ADL: Florida sees big spike in anti-Semitic vandalism

One of the incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism perpetrated in Florida since the beginning of 2017. One of the incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism perpetrated in Florida since the beginning of 2017. While the pace of anti-Semitic incidents Florida for the first three-quarters of this year is down from the same period in 2016, cases of anti-Semitic vandalism are up statewide by 200 percent, including three reported incidents in Pinellas County, according to an Anti Defamation League audit.

Additionally, a Jewish student in Pinellas County was subjected this year to having pennies thrown at him, and was belittled with Holocaust jokes. Holocaust-themed memes were also disseminated at his school and a classmate drew a swastika and a number, similar to those which were tattooed by Nazis on concentration camp prisoners, on the student’s arm.

The audit also includes reports of bomb threats to both Tampa Jewish Community Center preschools.

All that and more is included in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual Audit of Anti- Semitic Incidents released Nov. 1.

This Valentine’s Day card was given out by a student in Miami-Dade County. This Valentine’s Day card was given out by a student in Miami-Dade County. The audit shows somewhat encouraging news that there were 69 total verified incidents of anti- Semitism in Florida in the first three quarters of 2017, compared to 85 verified incidents in the first three quarters of 2016 with assaults and harassments down. But those statistics are offset by the spike in anti-Semitic vandalism cases that includes three congregations in Clearwater, all within a mile of each other, that were targeted with anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi graffiti on the same day, Jan. 12.

Rabbi Levi Hodakov of Chabad of Clearwater discovered swastikas and the white supremacist numeric symbol - 1488 - scrawled in chalk in front of his Chabad center. Alerted by Rabbi Hodakov, two nearby synagogues – Temple B’nai Israel and Congregation Beth Shalom – also found similar graffiti.

“We are seeing a disturbing escalation, where anti-Semitic rhetoric and expressions have progressed into acts of vandalism, as highlighted in the audit’s findings. This is a sobering reminder that we must be vigilant in educating and speaking out in the face of hate,” said Sheri Zvi, ADL Florida regional director.

Nationally, anti-Semitic incidents rose to 1,299 – a 67 percent increase from the same time period in 2016. In addition to the significant bump in the first quarter of the year, there was also a notable increase after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA., in August. From January through Sept. 30, according to ADL, there were:

• 702 incidents of harassment, including 162 bomb threats against Jewish institutions;

• 585 incidents of vandalism, including 52 against Jewish institutions;

• and, 12 physical assaults.

Florida continues to be in the top states reporting incidents of anti- Semitism, with New York, California, and Massachusetts reporting higher incidents. The annual ADL Audit comprises criminal and non-criminal incidents reported to the ADL Florida office and law enforcement, including incidents of vandalism, assault, and harassment targeting Jewish individuals and institutions.

The Florida counties with the highest number of reported incidents were Miami-Dade with 17, Palm Beach with 16, and Orange with 9.

In addition to the cases of vandalism in Clearwater, similar incidents involving swastikas and Holocaustrelated imagery were reported in Escambia County in the Florida panhandle, in Daytona Beach, and in Palm Beach County.

The ADL Audit recorded 50 cases of anti-Semitic harassment in Florida in the first three quarters of 2017.

Incidents included verbal attacks and slurs against Jewish individuals (or individuals perceived to be Jewish); anti-Semitism conveyed in written or electronic communications, including anti-Semitic cyberbullying; and anti-Semitic speeches, picketing or events. Of particular note was the prevalence of the use of the swastika symbol in a significant number of harassment cases.

Florida Jewish institutions received 21 bomb threats this year. As the arrests that have been made in these bomb threats reveal, many anti-Semitic incidents were not carried out by organized extremists. Sadly, a young Israeli was arrested in the case of numerous bomb threats in Florida and other states.

In addition to the harassment of the Pinellas County student, other incidents include:

• Miami-Dade County: For Valentine’s Day, a student disseminated Valentine’s Day cards with the phrase “Would Jew Be Mein?” and an image of Adolf Hitler.

• Broward County: A business was given an online review as a ‘Jew-run business.’

• South Florida: A synagogue received an online check-in on a social media application with a one-word comment – “Jihat.” After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the offender was overseas and not a security threat.

Two anti-Semitic assaults occurred in Florida in 2017, up from a single assault in the previous year. One of those happened when a man from Jupiter, claiming to be ‘German royalty,’ pushed a woman and made anti-Semitic remarks, including, “You Jews and blacks should just get over Hitler.”

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