Miami-Dade County

Anti-Semitic incidents in Florida decrease, ADL audit says

A raw ham tossed at the front of a Jewish community center in Tavernier. “KKK” painted on a woman’s prayer center in Miami Beach. Pro-Nazi leaflets put on car windows in Palmetto Bay.

South Florida had its share of anti-Semitic incidents in 2013.

Even so, the number of incidents dropped significantly in 2013 from the previous year, a trend seen across the state and nation, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents released Tuesday.

“The numbers are encouraging,” said Hava Holzhauer, ADL Florida regional director. “Anti-Semitic or any incidents of bigotry or hate threatens our ability to live in a harmonious, multicultural society.”

In 2013, the audit revealed 11 incidents of assault, vandalism or harassment that specifically targeted Jews or Jewish property and institutions in Miami-Dade and the Keys, down from 16 in 2012. Broward had 11, down from 19 the previous year.

Statewide, there were 68 incidents of anti-Semitism in Florida, down from 88 in 2012. Nationwide, there were 751 incidents last year, down from 927 in 2012.

And while the numbers show that ADL education programs for adults and students are helping to reduce hate crimes, Holzhauer said incidents including the mysterious ham delivery are troubling.

“Pork is a forbidden food,” she said. “It made a statement to the community that was offensive and was full of hate.”

The rotting, raw piece of meat was left in front of the Keys Jewish Community Center in Tavernier in the Upper Keys in February. A passerby spotted the offensive package and called ADL, said JCC President Bernard Ginsberg.

Ginsberg said Tuesday that the center had two attempted break-ins before the ham was left under the center’s sign.

“To me it was very offensive,” he said. “It was a purposeful act.”

Another incident that stumped police and brought concern to the ADL happened in Miami Beach in December. Four separate sites were defaced by graffiti, including the Daughters of Israel Mikvah Center at 2530 Pinetree Dr. Someone had used red spray paint to spell out “KKK” and an “A” that resembled the symbol for anarchy.

A condominium, youth center and homeless shelter also were defaced.

Other incidents in 2013:

•  Fliers with images of uniformed Nazi soldiers and swastikas were passed out in a Palmetto Bay neighborhood in October by a white supremacist group.

•  A Coconut Creek restaurant owner and staff harassed a Jewish teenage employee with anti-Semitic comments and pictures of swastikas on a white board in May.

• Anti-Semitic graffiti including a swastika in front of the words “will guide you” were painted on a building adjacent to the Lubavitch Educational Center in Miami in December.

Holzhauer said while the audit does a good job of tracking anti-Semitic incidents, there are some that go unreported, especially with the increase of people using the Internet to spread hate. The audit, which has been done since 1979, is a way to track trends and address ongoing issues.

Holzhauer identified one alarming trend that emerged: a third of the anti-Semitic incidents in Florida evoked Holocaust or Nazi imagery.

“It’s a universal sign of hate,” Holzhauer said. “There is no place for it in today’s society.”