Terrorism is not a Jewish problem, it is the problem of humanity
The confrontation in which a gunman held a rabbi and three worshipers hostage for 11 hours at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas on January 15 is yet another reminder that we must all speak out against anti-Semitism and extremism in this country.
This reinforced, in a terrifying way, that anti-Semitism continues to be a major threat to Jewish communities in the United States.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Naples joins others in condemning all acts of terrorism. We are grateful to the government leaders, law enforcement and others who worked together to ensure that all hostages survived this act.
Unfortunately, we are also very aware of the rise in acts of anti-Semitism in recent years. FBI hate crime data indicates that more than half of religious crimes target the Jewish community, with anti-Semitic incidents being reported at record highs.
In 2020, 327 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, a 40% increase from 2019. Many of these attacks are fatal. The potential threat also exists here in Southwest Florida.
Like Congregation Beth Israel, which attributes the positive outcome of the hostage situation to security training, our staff, lay leaders and community members have received training from the Secure Community Network, a security organization from the Jewish Federation of North America. We are also grateful for our partnerships with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. We meet frequently and hold local training sessions and safety drills to ensure we are aligned and trained on proper safety protocols.
Our Nina Iser Jewish Cultural Center, currently under construction in North Naples and scheduled to open in January 2023, will have state-of-the-art enhanced security to help keep our community safe.
“I am proud to partner with the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples to ensure the new campus provides a safe environment,” Florida House of Representatives Representative Bob Rommel said at the center’s grand opening in April. November. “In today’s world, we must be vigilant and design facilities for all threats, while building a safe and welcoming cultural center for the fellowship.”
The Jewish Federation of Greater Naples is also proactive in stopping these actions at the root. Our annual Stand Up for Justice award recognizes a high school, middle school or elementary school teacher who demonstrates innovation in bringing respect for others’ differences to students in order to promote understanding, counter bigotry and bullying.
Incidents of hate and terrorism are not a Jewish problem. They are a problem for humanity.
As Congregation Beth Israel, Rabbi Charlie Cryton-Walker, credited with helping the hostages escape safely, told CNN, “I want people to understand, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a synagogue, if you’re Jewish, if you’re Muslim, if you’re Christian, if you’re religious, it can happen in a mall. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in.
It is more important than ever that we stand united against anti-Semitism and hatred.
Jeffrey Feld has served as President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples since 2014. His long career in Jewish community service includes roles as Executive Director of the Jewish Federations of Memphis and Savannah, numerous awards, and leadership positions. to the Jewish Federation of North America.