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South Floridians Remember, Seek Justice 25 Years Following AMIA Bombing

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sergio Carmona

July 18, 2019

A candle lighting ceremony at Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus in North Miami Beach commemorated the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

More than 700 people remembered and demanded justice at Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus in North Miami Beach throughout an emotional community-wide 25th anniversary commemoration of the tragic bombing of Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

The commemoration of the July 18, 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 85 people and injured 300 was co-hosted by the American Jewish Committee’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs and Beth Torah with the support of co-sponsoring and participating South Florida organizations.

Juan Dircie, associate director for National Latino Outreach for AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, said the organization made the decision to keep the memory of the victims of the AMIA bombing alive by convening this annual memorial event in Miami-Dade County.

"Through this initiative, AJC reaffirms once again its role leading the work of the global Jewish community and its long-standing support to AMIA, one of AJC’s 37 international partner Jewish community organizations."

Dircie continued, "25 years later, there is still the same pain and the same feeling of injustice and impunity."

South Floridians light candles to remember the victims of the 1994 AMIA bombing. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Although no one has been brought to justice for the AMIA attack in the quarter century since it took place, Argentine prosecutors have accused the Iranian government of directing it and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah of carrying it out. In January 2015, Alberto Nisman, the Argentine special prosecutor investigating the bombing, was found dead hours before he was to meet with Argentine legislators to discuss accusation that then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and then-Foreign Minister Hector Timerman covered up for former Iranian officials accused of being involved in the attack.

Jennifer Enslein, a member of AJC's Latin American Task Force, said by hosting this anniversary commemoration every year, the organization keeps the memory of the victims alive.

"We remember and continue to condemn the attack against the AMIA Jewish Community Center and the judicial misconduct, and honor the victims of this hateful act, whose families have yet to see justice 25 years later."

David Harris, AJC’s chief execute officer and the commemoration’s featured speaker, said representatives from the organization arrived in Buenos Aires 36 hours after the attack and have been going back there repeatedly since.

"The belief there is that justice delayed is justice denied. It's been 25 years of pursuing justice and we're not going to give up."

Harris stressed to the attendees, "We have a right to insist upon and demand justice, or else the victims will have been twice murdered."

An emotional candle-lighting by South Floridians took place during the 25th anniversary commemoration of the 1994 AMIA bombing. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

The commemoration included a sad and solemn candle lighting ceremony that honored the memory of the victims that died as their names were called one by one and their faces shown on a screen. Candle-lighters included representatives of the event's participating organizations.

Shai Habosha, executive director for Temple Beth El of Hollywood, said that lighting a candle was emotional for him and that watching the videos and hearing the testimonials was "really moving but also angering at the same time that justice hasn't been served yet."

Habosha said that, at press time, he is planning to tell his congregation during its July 19 Friday night services that they must stand up for justice and remember the AMIA bombing as well as the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires.

Sara Gold Rafel, executive director for the Boca Raton-based StandWithUs/Southeast, said, "Commemorating this day becomes even more imperative, given rising anti-Semitism worldwide."

"Since StandWithUs' inception in the Southeast five years ago, we recognized how critical it is to support AJC's event. We bring students every year because we owe our kids history, and a reminder of the dangers of forgetting the past."

The event also included Rabbi Mario Rojzman of Beth Torah, a Buenos Aires native, sharing his personal experience of the tragedy.

“As a rabbi, I participated in more than 20 funerals of the people we remember today, and I still recall being in the place where the attack happened, standing next to the Orthodox rabbi, surrounded by debris and trying to see if we could identify bodies before they were taken to the morgue."

South Floridians unite to light candles and remember the victims of the 1994 AMIA bombing. (Mike Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

The commemoration also included a video message by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), a special address by Florida Lt. Gov Jeanette Nuñez and remarks by Guy Gilady, deputy consul general of Israel in Miami, and Leandro Fernandez Suarez, consul general of Argentina in Miami.

Suarez emphasized that the AMIA attack was not only a strike against the Jewish people of Buenos Aires, but a strike against the entire Argentine society. He also asserted that the Argentine government is fully committed to bringing to justice those guilty of the attack.

Gilady stressed that justice will prevail and that the Iranian regime will be held accountable.

“America and Israel know the magnitude of this threat, of allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, of allowing them to continue their conquest for an empire at the expense of democratic and western values. We will not leave it for chance. And we urge our enemies not to test our resolve.”

On July 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution jointly introduced by four lawmakers, including U.S. Rep Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), that commemorates the AMIA bombing and demands justice and accountability for those responsible for the attack.

“With this vote, Congress honors the victims of this horrific attack, recalls the brave work by Alberto Nisman who lost his life pursuing justice and calls for full accountability for those responsible,” Deutch remarked on the house floor. “It has been far too long.”

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