Central Florida Jewish community continues to receive threats, protects itself

‘Hear Dr. King’s words, treat each other with dignity and respect:’ Jewish Community Center CEO said on Monday

MAITLAND, Fla. – On Saturday, the security director of the Roth Family Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Maitland was in touch with federal law enforcement while monitoring the hostage standoff at a synagogue in Texas, trying to determine if the attack was isolated or a larger threat to Jewish people.

On any given day, the security detail at the JCC is something you might see in front of a federal building - guards with guns in military-style uniforms.

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JCC CEO and Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando Executive Director Keith Dvorchik said the visual deterrent is intentional and necessary.

“We hate it but it’s not unexpected,” Dvorchik said. “It’s why we have security at our facilities. It’s why we have to be so vigilant.”

Dvorchik said the JCC has gotten bomb threats, protestors and banners of hate speech. Several years ago, headstones at a Central Florida Jewish cemetery were vandalized.

Dvorchik said there’s been an uptick in threats against Jews in Central Florida and around the country over the past several years.

“Nationwide it continues to get worse year after year after year,” Dvorchik said. “And the number of hate crimes against the Jewish community continues to increase and be one of the largest if not the largest of any community. Historically the Jewish people have always been targets for hatred.”

A gunman holding four people hostage, including a Rabbi, at a Texas synagogue this weekend prompted a promise from the president.

“Synagogues and places of worship, we’re not going to tolerate this,” President Joe Biden said. “We have this capacity and particularly to deal with the antisemitism that has grown up.

Dvorchik said Monday is a day to dwell on Dr. King’s words.

“I think that especially today of all days, as we celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it needs to be about love,” Dvorchik said. “We need to embrace each other, we need to reach out to each other, we need to listen and hear Dr. King’s words that we treat each other with dignity and respect. The only way to fight hatred is with love. And I think especially today is critical to really read Dr. King and listen to his words to take them to heal and take them to heart. And we defeat hate with love, not with other hatred. To me, that’s the lesson particularly for today.”


About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.