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St. Pete leaders take action as community highlights rise in antisemitism

St. Pete leaders take action as community highlights rise in antisemitism
Posted at 6:12 PM, Sep 14, 2023

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — People in Pinellas County are shining a light on the rise of antisemitism as the St. Pete City Council took action on Thursday.

City Council approved a resolution supporting the establishment of a definition of antisemitism to help identify, measure, monitor, and fight antisemitism.

“Being able to identify what something is is the first step in then knowing how to solve it,” said Michael Igel, the Board Chair of the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Pete.

As the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, it’s not lost on him or other visitors to the museum the significance of what’s on display.

"These were all people,” said Igel. “But it also makes me feel very hopeful because we're here, and we educate, and we will not let people forget."

Yet, even today, the rise in antisemitism is real.

St. Pete leaders take action as community highlights rise in antisemitism

In 2022, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it tallied more than 3,600 antisemitic incidents throughout the US. It says that that’s a 36 percent increase from the 2,700 tabulated in 2021 and the highest number on record since it started tracking these incidents in 1979.

Earlier this year, Governor DeSantis signed legislation to fight antisemitism further.

"We're in 2023,” said Stuart Berger, the Jewish Community Relations Council Director with the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast. “I thought at this time we would be getting closer together rather than becoming further apart."

To be part of the solution, Berger said, report incidents as you see them and take action.

"When you hear something that you think is antisemitic, it's like, why do you think that? Why do you say that?” said Berger. “Just get people to talk, and a lot of times when people start talking, they'll realize that they don't know what they're talking about."

Igel remains hopeful, yet he said being hopeful requires action.

"It's not just a Jewish problem,” said Igel. “These are things we all need to step up together and battle back. Antisemitism doesn't exist in a vacuum, but neither does the response."

The ADL says fighting hate and antisemitism is something everyone can do in simple ways.

First, it says to speak up and offer higher-level support by signing petitions or calling for legislative action to strengthen laws. Second, share facts, and if you encounter any forms of hate, report your experiences to the ADL, local Jewish center, or law enforcement.

You can also take your complaint directly to the platform if you see something on social media.

And finally, the ADL said to show strength, which means speaking to friends, family, and colleagues about the consequences of antisemitism and hate speech. You can find more ADL resources here.

The Florida Holocaust Museum issued this response to the resolution that was approved:

“The Florida Holocaust Museum applauds the St. Petersburg City Council for officially adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism, with special thanks to Councilmember Driscoll for introducing the resolution.

This internationally-accepted definition will provide a strong foundation for both education and policymaking, as well as a reference for addressing antisemitic acts. We know all too well the consequences of ignoring or minimizing antisemitism, and are heartened that the City has taken this vital step.

Amid heightened antisemitism both in America and around the world, decisions like these are especially important. As we teach learners of all ages, standing up for what’s right creates positive ripples across entire communities, and adopting IHRA affirms that St. Pete truly cares about all its citizens.”