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  • Grace Mackey

Antisemitic activity shocks Palm Beach County’s Jewish community

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Havdalah Ceremony held at the AT&T building in West Palm Beach on Saturday, Jan. 21. (Photo courtesy: Grace Mackey)

The Jewish community of Palm Beach County was shocked by the displays of hatred in their usually welcoming hometown. On Saturday night, Jan. 14, a swastika was projected onto an AT&T building in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. Earlier that day, antisemitic flyers were spread throughout a neighborhood in Boca Raton.

The response of both Jewish and government leadership sent a message of intolerance for the hateful actions.

“The Jewish community will not tolerate antisemitism or hatred here or anywhere in this country or world,” Rabbi Moshe Scheiner said.

Rabbi Barry Silver, leader of the Temple of Understanding, views antisemitism as “a pandemic” with “outbreaks of diseases.”

These actions across South Florida came as no surprise to Rabbi Silver. He identifies the root causes of antisemitism to be politics and religion, and he attributes the extensive antisemitic history to the relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“If you worship an intolerant God, you become intolerant,” Rabbi Silver said. He called for “a complete transformation of religion.”

Others called for action on the local level. A week after the incident at the AT&T building, Jewish and government leaders held a Havdalah Ceremony titled, “Dispel the Darkness with Light.” Members of the West Palm Beach community gathered to hear from core leaders in the Jewish community as well as West Palm Beach authorities.

“We are going to take this location that was permeated with darkness, and we are going to dispel the darkness with light,” Rabbi Scheiner stated.

Dr. Irving Berkowitz, son of Holocaust survivors, shared a message on Saturday night for antisemites everywhere.

“You will always be outnumbered, you will always be outsmarted, and you will always be outlasted,” Dr. Berkowitz said.

According to Mayor Gregg Weiss, 1 in 8 people in Palm Beach County are Jewish. In an area usually full of retirees, Weiss attributes the growth of young families largely to the Jewish community. Both Weiss and Rabbi Scheiner point to the COVID-19 pandemic as a source of the expanding Jewish population. Rabbi Scheiner watched Palm Beach Synagogue grow from 375 members to 500 since the pandemic.

The swastika was projected by two masked individuals using a rented truck and a generator. They made a previous projection in Jacksonville the prior weekend. Authorities believe that both the West Palm Beach and Boca Raton incidents were connected. In Boca Raton, the law allowed the four men who distributed antisemitic flyers throughout a local neighborhood to get off on littering. Those responsible for the West Palm Beach incident faced no charges.

Mayor Weiss has recognized these laws as inadequate and is developing a bill that will outlaw the display of an image without permission on public or private property.

The general public recognizes antisemitism to be on the rise not only locally, but also nationally. Mayor Weiss acknowledges this national growth and views social media as a new breeding ground for antisemites to find support.

By Grace Mackey

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1 Comment

Lori Halderson
Lori Halderson
Mar 15, 2023

The mongoloids are still criminalizing intelligence...

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