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Hundreds rally against antisemitism in Miami

Against a dramatic backdrop of a sculpted hand rising out of the flames of the Holocaust, hundreds of people gathered for an interfaith rally against antisemitism Thursday evening in Miami Beach.

The rally outside the city’s Holocaaust Memorial, organized by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, drew dignitaries and faith leaders concerned about the rise in antisemitic incidents in South Florida and across the country. Speakers stood in front of a banner that read, “No Hate. No Fear. End Anti-Semitism Now!”

“This year, we’ve seen hate manifested against so many groups, against Asian Americans, against LGBTQ Americans, against Black Americans and against Jewish Americans,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava told the crowd. “I stand with each of these groups and I stand proudly as your first Jewish, woman mayor of Miami-Dade county.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), during the span of the two weeks of conflict between Israel and Hamas last month, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 75% compared to the two weeks before the conflict. In 2020, antisemitic incients in Florida increased by 40%.

One week ago, vandals spray-painted a swastika and the words, “Jews are Guilty!” on a wall outside the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. In Bal Harbour attackers threw garbage and shouted “Die Jew!” and “Fuck the Jews!” at a Jewish family leaving a synagogue.

Among those who called for an end to such attacks were Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman, Levine Cava, Acting Consul General of Israel Maor Elbaz, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Archdiocese of Greater Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, and United Church of Christ Minister Priscilla Felisky Whitehead.

Many speakers stressed that criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic, but the targeted attacks towards Jewish people most certaintly is.

“Not all criticism of Israel is antisemitism,” said Isaac Fisher, chair of the federation’s executive board. “However, demonizing Israel, denying Israel’s right to exist, attacking Israelis as ‘white colonial settlers’ or attacking Jews broadly on the basis of Israeli policy is most certainly antisemitism.”

Mayor Gelber told the hundreds in attendance that he is “a proud Zionist.” He also thanked the police officers that secured the area around the memorial. There was a heavy police presence that included officers perched on nearby rooftops and a drone overhead.

One attendee, Bianca Szklaruk, said that while she hasn’t experienced antisemitism in person, she has witnessed it online.

“For example, if I say something about Israel, they’ll say ‘Oh you’re a colonist’ and I’ll get taken aback by it,” she said.

DeAnne Connolly Graham said she attended even though she isn’t Jewish. The Miami media consultant said she “believes in justice for all people” and “wanted to show solidarity.”

One of the attendees, Chaim Plewinski, is a Russian immigrant who said that he has experienced antisemitism since he was a child in Russia almost 60 years ago.

“We’re talking about Black Lives Matter, we’re talking about Asians, what about the Jews?” Plewinski said. “Nobody’s talking about the Jews. So I’m here to support this to stop the horrible hate that’s going on in the world.”

Fisher pointed to the sculpture standing behind the attendees.

“Take a look behind me,” he said. “That towering outstretched arm represents the silent voices who were murdered during the Shoah. We chose to hold the event in this sacred place, to make a strong and resolute statement as we stand shoulder to shoulder against the rise of antisemitism. We have seen this hatred before.”

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