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A Statement From the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami

In 2019, in the aftermath of the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, 50 of Miami’s Jewish clergy came together for a day to study disaster spiritual care in partnership with our Greater Miami Jewish Federation chaplaincy program, the Secure Community Network and local law enforcement. We realized that each of our institutions were potential targets, and as spiritual leaders we wanted to be prepared if the unthinkable were to ever happen at one of our local synagogues.

The antisemitic attack at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX reminded each of us that our institutions, and even our bodies, are on the front lines. We sadly say these things without any hint of exaggeration. With the rise of antisemitic violence, every synagogue in our community has needed to enact security protocols. Our communities are regularly in touch with law enforcement and the FBI, monitoring hate groups and violence against Jews. According to the ADL, last year more than 2,100 distinct incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment against the Jewish community were recorded, the largest number since the ADL began tracking events in 1979.

This country was built upon the values of freedom of worship. Religious institutions should be a place where we can come together during celebration, as well as loss, to connect to our sense of the Divine. For most Americans this is the reality. Yet for Jews, the uncomfortable truth is that we need to be vigilant; our doors need to be secured. The terrorist who entered Beth Israel was not simply taking hostages. He was specifically targeting Jews. No Jew should ever feel afraid walking into a Jewish institution, much more a place of God.

In recent years, as spiritual leaders, many of us have been disappointed that the media and many of our allies have downplayed the impacts of antisemitic activity. Whether in the far-right or the far-left, hatred of Jews has been allowed to fester and many of their slanderous ideas have entered the mainstream, even among political leaders. Jews have always been on the front line in this country, calling out all forms of hatred. Yet, from some parts of our country, including our historic allies and parts of the media, the silence has been deafening. We call on all people of good will to speak out, to not allow this vicious hatred to endure.

The Jewish people are resilient, and we will continue to celebrate and create, despite recent traumas. Yet we cannot deny our experience during these times. Deborah Lipstadt, today’s most prominent scholar of antisemitism, was recently appointed by President Biden to be the United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating antisemitism. We urge our federal representatives to approve her appointment without delay. She got it right when she paraphrased Justice Stewart’s quip about pornography: You may not be able to define it, but you know it when you see it. Whether it takes the form of anti-Judaism or anti-Zionism, we know it when we see it.

Rabbi Rachel Greengrass, President

Rabbi Frederick L. Klein, Executive Vice President

Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami

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