Threats against Jews draw out­rage

Rep. Wasser­man Schultz an­gered over bomb hoaxes

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By An­thony Man | Staff writer

Days ago, U.S. Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, D-We­ston, in­vited two rab­bis, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial and a mother to join her in speak­ing out against a ris­ing tide of anti-Semitism in South Florida and across the na­tion.

As they gath­ered Mon­day morn­ing, the is­sue be­came more per­sonal and dra­matic: the David Pos­nack Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Davie, where Wasser­man Schultz’s own chil­dren went to preschool years ago, was among the lat­est group of JCCs across the coun­try sub­jected to a bomb threat.

“I’m in­cred­i­bly an­gry. But I’m here to­day to chan­nel my anger so that we can make sure that first and fore­most we find the bas­tards, and that we make sure that we don’t rest and there is nowhere that they think they can hide that we won’t hunt them down and find them,” said Wasser-

man Schultz, whois the first Jewish woman elected to Congress from Florida.

She later re­peated the de­nun­ci­a­tion of “th­ese bas­tards who are ter­ror­iz­ing peo­ple all across the coun­try.”

Mon­day’s threat to the Pos­nack JCC is the fifth in re­cent weeks in South Florida alone, fol­low­ing bomb threats that forced evac­u­a­tions of JCCs in Ken­dall, Mi­ami Beach, Pinecrest and Palm Beach Gardens.

All were hoaxes, in­clud­ing the one Mon­day in Davie. Sgt. Mark Leone, of the Davie Po­lice Depart­ment, said the threat came in just be­fore be­fore 9:30 a.m. At 11:22 a.m., the Pos­nack Cen­ter said on Twitter that “we have re­ceived the all clear to go back in the build­ing.”

The JCC As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica said in a state­ment that bomb threats were called in Mon­day to schools and/or JCCs in a to­tal of 11 states. The to­tal num­ber of in­ci­dents is now more than 70, the as­so­ci­a­tion said, in­clud­ing previous waves of bomb threats Jan. 9, Jan. 18, Jan. 31 and Feb. 20.

Over the week­end, swastikas were scratched into cars in a largely Jewish neigh­bor­hood in Mi­ami Beach. About two weeks ago, a swastika was spray­painted on a car in a pre­dom­i­nately Jewish neigh­bor­hood west of Boca Ra­ton.

“What th­ese do­mes­tic ter­ror­ists are try­ing to do is un­der­mine the confidence of the Jewish com­mu­nity” in im­por­tant in­sti­tu­tions in the com­mu­nity such as JCCs and scare peo­ple away,” Wasser­man Schultz said .“They’re try­ing to force them, in­tim­i­date them into mak­ing the de­ci­sion to take the path of least re­sis­tance, to take the eas­ier, less chal­leng­ing path by un­der­min­ing their be­lief that th­ese in­sti­tu­tions are safe.”

Wasser­man Schultz said Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump needs to do more to con­demn anti-Semitism.

He spoke about it a week ago, af­ter his daugh­ter, Ivanka Trump, a con­vert to Ju­daism, tweeted on Feb. 20 that “Amer­ica is a na­tion built on the prin­ci­ple of re­li­gious tol­er­ance. We must pro­tect our houses of wor­ship & re­li­gious cen­ters. #JCC.”

The day af­ter, while vis­it­ing the Na­tional Mu­seum of African-Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture, the pres­i­dent said the rise in anti-Semitic in­ci­dents “are hor­ri­ble, and are painful, and a very sad re­minder of the work that still­must be done to root out hate and prej­u­dice and evil.”

On two previous oc­ca­sions, the pres­i­dent didn’t ad­dress re­porters’ ques­tions on the topic.

The con­gress­woman, a for­mer chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, said the rise in pub­lic anti-Semitism has hap­pened along with the rise of Trump in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and since he’s been in the White House.

“I don’t think it’s a co­in­ci­dence that the in­ci­dence of anti-Semitic acts per­pe­trated across the coun­try co­in­cide with the per­mis­sive­ness of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, of someof the ac­tions that they took that per­pet­u­ated an­tiSemitism and the fact that Pres­i­dent Trump, nei­ther as a can­di­date or un­til last week, was will­ing to ac­knowl­edge, beat back, crit­i­cize, call out anti-Semitism,” she said.

She sug­gested that his cam­paign and pres­i­dency give li­cense to peo­ple who pre­vi­ously felt con­strained from be­ing “openly anti-Semitic and com­mu­ni­cate anti-Semit­i­cally but to take it to the next level where they are ac­tu­ally go­ing af­ter and ter­ror­iz­ing com­mu­ni­ties. I don’t know what else to at­tribute it to.”

Among the ex­am­ples she cited were Trump’s cam­paign sea­son tweet con­tain­ing a pic­ture of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton ac­com­pa­nied by what looked like a Star of David con­tain­ing the words “Most cor­rupt can­di­date ever!” The back­ground was a pile of $100 bills. Last month, the White House state­ment on In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Day didn’t men­tion an­tiSemitism or the deaths of six mil­lion Jews.

Sid Din­er­stein, for­mer chair­man of the Palm Beach County Repub­li­can Party, said Demo­cratic crit­ics are con­stantly look­ing for rea­sons to find fault with the pres­i­dent and Trump shouldn’t pay any at­ten­tion to any­thing Wasser­man Schultz wants him to say.

“The Jewish lib­er­als, if Don­ald Trump said the sky was blue, they would call him a racist and an an­tiSemite and a ho­mo­phobe,” Din­er­stein said. “If I were Don­ald Trump I wouldn’t spend one sec­ond try­ing to make th­ese peo­ple happy by say­ing what they said you’re not say­ing strongly enough.”

Howard Needle­man, se­nior rabbi of Tem­ple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plan­ta­tion, said anti-Semitism has been present for thou­sands of years. He said it often gets worse in times of trou­ble or eco­nomic cri­sis. “This seems like an aber­ra­tion be­cause we’re at a time of pros­per­ity in our na­tion. Yet hate crimes rise again,” he said. “We don’t know the an­swers as to why things are oc­cur­ring.”

Wasser­man Schultz said peo­ple in South Florida, with its large Jewish pop­u­la­tion, shouldn’t be blind to what goes on else­where. “I can’t tell you the num­ber of times that I have trav­eled the coun­try that I have made the de­ci­sion not to wear the Star of David based on where Iwas go­ing. Andthat’s be­cause there are some places in the coun­try and in the world where it is not safe to ex­pose your­self to the anti-Semitism and hate that we all ex­pe­ri­ence at some time, un­for­tu­nately, through­out our lives.”

Rabbi Jonathan Berkun of the Aven­tura Turn­berry Jewish Cen­ter said he hadn’t per­son­ally felt un­safe in the United States un­til last spring, when a man plot­ted to blow up his syn­a­gogue. “Thanks to God, to the FBI, to the Aven­tura Po­lice Depart­ment, he was caught be­fore he could go through with it,” Berkun said.

“This re­cent wave of an­tiSemitism can­not be al­lowed to be­come a new nor­mal,” he said. “What we can­not do is re­turn to those days when ha­tred, big­otry, ig­no­rance and racism ran free and unchecked. We are stand­ing here to­day be­cause we refuse to al­low Amer­ica to be­come a place of fear.”

Col. Steve Kin­sey of the Broward Sher­iff ’s Of­fice said the threats are se­ri­ous. “They are hor­rific threats that put peo­ple in fear,” he said. “This is un­ac­cept­able.”

Among the po­lit­i­cal re­ac­tions:

• More than 150 Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress wrote to the at­tor­ney gen­eral, the sec­re­tary of home­land se­cu­rity and the FBI di­rec­tor last week urg­ing swift ac­tion to ad­dress the na­tion­wide se­ries of bomb threats. The let­ter was signed by eight of the nine mem­bers of Congress from Broward, Palm Beach and Mi­ami-Dade coun­ties.

• U.S. Rep. Car­los Curbelo, a Mi­ami-Dade County Repub­li­can, met Wed­nes­day with lead­ers of the JCC in Ken­dall, which was sub­jected to one of the ear­lier hoax bomb threats.

• U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Palm Beach County Demo­crat, said she met with Florida lead­ers of the Anti-Defama­tion League on Wed­nes­day about the rise in an­tiSemitic in­ci­dents and said she’s plan­ning to con­vene lead­ers from syn­a­gogues and JCCs in her district, and pos­si­bly a broader com­mu­nity meet­ing.

• Wasser­man Schultz said Mon­day she would push in Congress for an ex­pan­sion of pro­grams that fund se­cu­rity at re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions.

• Wasser­man Schultz said she would con­vene a large gath­er­ing of rab­bis, Jewish civic lead­ers and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials from Broward and Mi­ami-Dade coun­ties on Fri­day to dis­cuss howto im­prove se­cu­rity and com­bat anti-Semitism.

• Four Demo­cratic and four Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress an­nounced Mon­day they were re­con­ven­ing the Bi­par­ti­san Task Force for Com­bat­ting An­tiSemitism.

“We con­tinue to wit­ness anti-Semitism that is both danger­ous and com­plex,” said a state­ment from the four co-chair­men, who in­clude U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents parts of Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties, and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Le­hti­nen, a Mi­ami-Dade County Repub­li­can. “In light of re­cent events, it is more im­por­tant than ever that Democrats and Repub­li­cans work to­gether to root out ha­tred and racism in all its ugly forms.”

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