Antisemitic hate crimes soaring in Florida, study finds

The number criminal acts against Sunshine State Jews just because they’re Jews has risen 300% in the last decade, says the ADL.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Antisemitic hate crimes have soared in Florida over the last two and a half years, with white supremacist groups being the leading cause, according to an Anti-Defamation League report published on Tuesday.

“Florida is home to an extensive, interconnected network of white supremacists and other far-right extremists” that cooperate in carrying out propaganda campaigns and street demonstrations, the report noted.

These include several neo-Nazi groups, the Patriot Front, the White Lives Matter network, the New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA) and the Goyim Defense League, among over a dozen others listed together with their main events.

The white supremacist Patriot Front and NJEHA were particularly prominent in the distribution of hate material throughout the state over the last two and a half years, said the report. The ADL recorded over 400 incidents of the dispersal of these hate messages in this time period, 95 of which “included antisemitic language or symbols, targeted Jewish institutions, or both.”

In one such widely reported occurrence in July, flyers were thrown onto dozens of lawns in several Florida cities over the course of a single night. Faces of various people were stamped with the Star of David and the accusation that they were responsible for such “sins” as mass immigration, gun control, or “Disney childgrooming.”

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Other incidents in the state this year included a slur-filled email sent to Venice Mayor Ron Feinsod telling him to kill himself, and antisemitic initiation rituals at a fraternity in the University of South Florida, leading to its suspension by the school.

Others noted in the report for their antisemitism were four Black nationalist groups with chapters in Florida, some of whose members have carried out violent attacks in other states.

Overall, the report said, there has been a 300% rise in reported antisemitic hate crimes in the state over the last decade. The concerning numbers have shot up especially over the last few years, with a 50% increase in 2021 over 2020.

While final numbers can’t be given yet for 2022, the report noted a spike in August, after the FBI raided former president Donald Trump’s Florida home looking for classified records he had allegedly stashed there. Among other targets, right-wing extremists sent numerous death threats to the Jewish judge who signed the search warrant, as well as to his family.

From statistics cited in the report, religion-based hate crime against Jews seems to be especially egregious in Florida. The most recent FBI’s Hate Crimes Statistics report, updated to 2020, states that 56% of such crimes nationwide targeted Jews, while in Florida it was a whopping 80%. This, when only some 3% of the state’s citizens were Jewish as of 2020, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.

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In general, the ADL said, 2021 was the worst year for Jews in America since it began tracking antisemitism in 1979, with “more than 2,700 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment nationwide.”