When our freedom is challenged

Almost every day since the beginning of 2017 has brought news about multiple anti-Semitic incidents -- at college campuses, synagogues, day schools and community centers. The continued telephone bomb threats to the JCCs, day schools and other Jewish organizations have rattled the Jewish community. The desecration of Jewish cemeteries has stirred memories and fears that we thought were consigned to the past. The safety and the freedom to live as Jews, which we've taken for granted for so long, are being challenged on a daily basis. The attention of the Jewish community and its resources are being diverted toward security concerns.

As I was writing this email, the news broke that a suspect in at least some of the bomb threats has been arrested. Although, at this time, it does not appear the man in custody is suspected in all of the recent threats, it is reassuring to see that federal, state and local authorities are focused on putting a stop to these crimes.

As we try to find an explanation for these very troubling events, I think it's very important to look at them in a historical perspective and to do a thorough analysis and a thoughtful examination of the trends. Today, I am giving the Fed Friday "podium" to an outstanding scholar of the Jewish community, Dr. Steven Windmueller, whom some of you met last June at one of Federation's community leadership forums or at Federation-sponsored lecture on Jews and politics.

Dr. Windmueller has been writing about the rise of anti-Semitism over the past several years. In a 2012 article, he makes a wide scan of the trends and asks, "Do these observations make me an alarmist or a realist?" Five years later, unfortunately, the answer is "a realist." In an August 2016 article, Dr. Windmueller challenged our long-held assumptions and hypotheses about the decline of anti-Semitism in the wake of the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel. The grim reality is that "a world without anti-Semitism is a non-starter. No society can escape the invariable effect of anti-social behavior, resulting in specific and targeted threats to Jewish security."

In this week's article "Why Now? Why Here? Understanding the Rise of Anti-Semitism in America," Dr. Windmueller continues his analysis with the added perspective of recent developments.

Of course, even on issues that unite us, such as standing up against anti-Semitism, we often have varying opinions on how to achieve our goals. In today's Heritage Florida Jewish News, you will read an op-ed by Federation President Rhonda Forest, addressing a timely issue of the role of Federation in today's politically charged environment.
 
As Rhonda points out, Federation works hard to achieve a delicate balance, not "taking sides" in political fights but rather providing useful information and encouraging dialogue on matters of great importance to our community. To that end, our Jewish Community Relations Council has just launched a new web page with resources on how you can take an active role in fighting anti-Semitism. I hope you will take a moment to check out the page, www.jfgo.org/takeaction. As always, we welcome your suggestions!
 
On another positive note, last night's community sing-along at Congregation Ohev Shalom brought a much-needed spiritual boost to those who attended. There's nothing like music and singing to give your soul a spiritual "workout." I felt rejuvenated and uplifted. Be sure to watch the videos from this very special gathering!
 
We just welcomed the Jewish month of Adar. As our tradition says, when Adar enters, our joy increases, because just in a few days we'll be celebrating Purim, reliving a miraculous story of the salvation of the Jewish people. Last night's sing-along was a fitting welcome to Adar.

 
Wishing you a good Shabbat and a joyful Adar,

Olga Yorish,
Executive Director