Whether or not you have been the victim of a hate crime, you have surely noticed a rise in hate and bigotry in society at large. Of particular note is the rise of religious-based hate crimes. And, while many would assume otherwise, the data is clear that the majority of religious-based hate crimes in the United States are perpetrated against the Jewish community.
In recent years, Jews have been murdered while praying at their synagogue in Pittsburgh, white nationalist staged the infamous Charlottesville march, synagogues have been vandalized in New York, Jewish college students are being harassed — swastikas painted on Jewish professors’ doors — and the anti-Semitic Israel boycott movement, BDS, continues.
And this rise in anti-Semitism is not an America-only phenomenon. Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose 57 percent in 2018 in the United States, and a staggering 74 percent in France, while violent hate crimes against Jews grew 60 percenet in Germany.
Though South Florida, a beautiful amalgamation of cultures, religions and races, mostly provides a respite from these forms of hatred and bigotry, we cannot ignore the reality around us. Leaders of the Jewish community, and the community at large, must plainly and unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism and other forms of hate and discrimination whenever and wherever they appear.
In Bal Harbour, where I serve as mayor, I wrote and passed the nation’s first municipal ordinance prohibiting our municipality from entering into contracts with entities involved in the boycott or divestment of any authorized trading partner of the United States, including Israel. This ordinance has spread to cities across the country, and with the help of others, to 26 states, including Florida.
In addition, to assist law enforcement officers in enforcing existing hate crime statutes against the Jewish community, Bal Harbour was the first in the nation to codify the uniform definition of anti-Semitism originally drafted by the State Department in 2010. Our officers are directed to reference the definition and its examples when investigating a potential hate crime against the Jewish community.
Our anti-Semitism ordinance was then adopted by the Miami-Dade Chiefs of Police Association, followed by the state of South Carolina. Now, just a year later, a bill has been filed in Tallahassee by Rep. Randy Fine that would make Bal Harbour‘s ordinance Florida law.
My efforts have taken me to the United Nations, the Israeli Knesset, and the Italian Parliament to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism and its newest wardrobe “anti-Zionism,” espoused mostly by those who call for the boycott of the only Jewish nation in the world, Israel. The BDS movement calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. But, wherever the BDS movement lives, there lives clear-cut, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
History teaches us that discrimination and bigotry poison societies, and that hatred against one group never ends with that group.
One constant in my experiences is that other local leaders are eager to do what they can to change the climate of hate in their communities. Those relationships have aided the spread of anti-BDS ordinances as well as resolutions condemning Airbnb, which last year decided to de-list Jewish/Israeli homes in Israel’s Judea and Samaria region — the West Bank — while allowing listings from non-Jewish/Palestinians in the same region.
This week I am traveling to Israel with mayors from all over the world to tackle this topic. Along with Mayor Uwe Becker, of Frankfurt, Germany, and Mayor Haim Bibas, of Modiin, Israel, I will host a series of roundtable discussions and meetings to explore how municipalities can best counter this rise in hatred and anti-Semitism. Together we will build an alliance of mayors from around the world to stand up to the rise of hatred and all of its forms, including anti-Semitism. My hope and expectation is that this partnership will be one of substance over form, where we will build working relationships, share ideas and change the atmosphere and dynamics in our municipalities and beyond.
It is only with strong leadership, communal and individual pride, and a complete societal rejection of bigotry, that we can reverse the disturbing global trends of the rise of hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism.
Gabriel Groisman is the mayor of Bal Harbour.