Last summer, South Florida saw a spate of anti-Semitic incidents involving synagogues and cars spray-painted with swastikas, “Hamas” and hateful symbols, as well as protestors holding offensive signs at anti-Israel rallies.
The region was not alone. Operation Protective Edge — a military operation Israel launched in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014 — fueled anti-Semitic activities across the country.
On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents showing a slight increase in 2014 over the previous year in Florida and a huge jump nationwide.
Middle East tensions may have exacerbated anti-Semitism, said Hava L. Holzhauer, Anti-Defamation League’s Florida regional director.
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“Those who harbor anti-Semitic attitudes use the conflict between Israel and Gaza as an excuse to express their hatred,” she said.
Seventy incidents of anti-Semitism were reported in Florida in 2014, a slight increase from 68 in ADL’s 2013 audit. Of the 70 incidents in 2014, 50 were classified as harassment, threats and events, five fewer than the previous year; 19 were classified as vandalism, up six from the previous year; one incident was classified as assault. There were no assaults in 2013.
The majority of Florida’s incidents — as has happened in previous years — occurred in the southern part of the state, with 21 incidents in Miami-Dade County, 19 in Palm Beach County and 11 in Broward. In 2013, 11 incidents were reported in Miami-Dade and 11 in Broward.
The ADL audit, which has been done every year since 1979, showed that there were 912 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2014, an increase from 751 incidents in 2013. Florida continues to be in the top four states reporting incidents of anti-Semitism, with New York, California, and New Jersey reporting more incidents than Florida.
“It’s disheartening,” Holzhauer said. “We have been on a trend of decrease. This is a big increase nationwide. It says we have a lot of work to do in education. It’s the only tool that combats hate effectively.”
Among this year’s incidents:
▪ The two front pillars of Torah V'Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue at 1000 NE 174th St. in North Miami Beach, were spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Hamas” in July. At the time, Rabbi Yerucham Benzinger said he felt the synagogue had been “violated.”
"It is something very painful to realize," he said.
Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, but no one has been charged.
▪ Also in July, several cars were vandalized in Miami Beach. A couple walking at about 6:30 a.m. spotted cream cheese smeared on a car spelling the words "Hamas" and "Jew," and another car also was egged in the same 4200 block of Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach. At the time, a police report indicated that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime. The daughter of the cars' owners said the family was shocked by the incident.
▪ The same month, during a protest against Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, outside the Consulate General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico’s office at 100 Biscayne Blvd. a demonstrator was spotted holding a sign that said “Long Live Gaza,” “Long Live Hamas” and “[expletive] Jews.”
▪ In September, a banner outside of Miami Beach’s oldest Conservative temple, Temple Emanu-el, was vandalized with swastikas. “The message is clear. It’s a message of hate and intolerance,” said Temple Emanu-el Rabbi Marc Philippe at the time. “And whenever you have intolerance, you have problems.”
▪ In October, a Miami Beach Jewish family was on vacation and returned to find their apartment vandalized with swastikas and Stars of David following a robbery.
▪ In October, the website of Temple Kol Ami Emanu- El in Plantation was hacked by a group calling itself “Team System Dz.” The group redirected visitors to a page with messages expressing support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.