South Florida Sun Sentinel
South Floridians, including Holocaust educators and leaders of Jewish and Israel advocacy organizations, are reacting to the passage of Florida House Bill 741 that would prohibit anti-Semitism in the state's public schools and universities.
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), was recently approved in the Florida house on a 114-0 vote. A similar measure filed by State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) is moving in the Senate at press time.
Rositta E. Kenigsberg, president of the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center in Dania Beach said, "As the generation of Holocaust survivors age and the history of the Holocaust continues to be denied, distorted, and dejudaized, there is an urgency to preserve, protect and perpetuate the authentic memory of the Holocaust.”
"In light of the dramatic growth of global hatred and the tremendous surge of anti-Semitism especially right here in our own country, we need to do more."
Kenigsberg continued that the Florida Holocaust Education Mandate passed in 1994 resulted in impacting hundreds of thousands of students as well as thousands of teachers throughout the state about the lessons and legacy of the Holocaust.
"Therefore we must do all we can to ensure that Florida House's recently passed legislation that would specifically prohibit anti-Semitism in the state's public schools and universities also passes in the Florida Senate so that this bill can be mandated as well and impact hundreds and thousand of our students and teachers to stop the hatred, the prejudice and the anti-Semitism."
Carolina Simon, Holocaust Studies program director/eighth grade teacher at Loggers Run Community Middle School in Boca Raton said, "The dangers that befall a society that openly ignores or even engages in centuries old anti-Semitic tropes such as the ones clearly stated in H.B. 741 are too high a price to pay for anyone."
"The Holocaust not only decimated the entire Jewish community by murdering six million people, 1.5 million of which were children, but robbed the world of its humanity and innocence. Repairing the fracture such evil left on our collective souls will take time; to not actively seek to change the beliefs and behaviors that led to the Holocaust would be beyond foolish."
Simon continued, "I believe its a sign of great growth as a human family that we are addressing this social ill head on."
"After reading House Bill 741, I am hopeful that Florida will lead the way in restoring our civility and humanity and hopefully other states will follow suit. Legal measures such as this combined with the great work of educational organizations such as Zachor Shoah and so many others will certainly achieve this goal."
Ivy Schamis, a social studies teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who teaches a History of the Holocaust elective there said, "The Florida House is making a powerful statement by passing a law making anti-Semitism illegal in public schools."
"It is a step in the right direction to emphasize the seriousness of hate crimes not only locally, but nationally and internationally as well. It should be illegal to unfairly target any group of people because they are deemed different. We can all be stronger than hate and thanks to the new bill, Florida is making a difference."
Jon Warech, director of Hillel at Florida International University in Miami said, "It's a shame that in 2019 we need anti-discrimination laws at all, but as anti-Semitism continues to rise in our country, I'm proud that our state is taking the appropriate actions to ensure Jewish students are safe on campus."
"My hope is that this will unify all students to look out for one another and create an environment where education and equality go hand in hand."
Sara Gold Rafel, executive director for the Boca Raton-based StandWithUs/Southeast said, "StandWithUs has witnessed a marked rise of anti-Semitism in educational institutions, including the use of Holocaust imagery to attack Jews."
"We commend Rep. Fine and Sen. Gruters for recognizing that anti-Semitism should be regarded as a form of discrimination and the need to have a clear definition for it.”
Rafel continued, "The bills do not prevent any kind of hate speech which is protected by the First Amendment, but they make it clearer for law enforcement to investigate unprotected conduct such as harassment and vandalism as hate crimes."
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