Aventura - Sunny Isles

A month after thwarted terror attack, synagogue marks Israel Independence Day

Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman takes a selfie with the Consul General to Florida and Puerto Rico at the 68th Israel Independence Day reception Sunday at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman takes a selfie with the Consul General to Florida and Puerto Rico at the 68th Israel Independence Day reception Sunday at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. cteproff@miamiherald.com

A month after federal agents thwarted a potential terror attack at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, hundreds of people gathered at the synagogue Sunday to mark the 68th Anniversary of Israel’s independence.

As a precaution, security was tight both inside and outside, with guests having their licenses checked — causing cars to pile up — to enter the parking gate. Inside, all items were searched and guests had to pass through metal detectors.

“Security is part of our lives,” said Consul General to Florida and Puerto Rico Lior Haiat. “We can cannot let terror win. We need to send that message.

This year’s gathering, which drew politicians, local leaders and other members of the community to Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, included a performance by the Pentecostals of Cooper City and speeches from Lieutenant Gov. Carlos López-Cantera, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Haiat, who has served as consul general for about three months.

Also in attendance: Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and even Miami Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin.

The festive cocktail-style party, which featured music, balloons and cake, celebrated Israel’s long history of survival despite tensions in the Middle East.

Wasserman Schultz said the potential attack at Aventura Turnberry “was a reminder for all of us in the Jewish community that we really need to be constantly vigilant.”

Last month James G. Medina, 40, was arrested by federal agents on a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against the synagogue after detectives said he bought a fake bomb from undercover agents.

“It was just another very up-close reminder of how vigilant we have to be, not only in making sure that we keep ourselves safe and that we make sure we have the kind of security that we need, but also our work isn’t done when it comes to promoting tolerance,” Wasserman Schultz said.

Last year’s ceremony came the day after the Vatican announced its plans to recognize the “state of Palestine,” which troubled Jewish leaders.

López-Cantera said Sunday Israel “cannot be a political issue.”

“There are so many forces trying to do harm to Israel this is not a time for there to be a division in the United States of America,” he said. “This is a time for solidarity and one unified voice saying we stand with Israel.”

An earlier version of this report misnamed the mayor in attendance.

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