ORLANDO, Fla. – More hateful words targeting the Jewish community showed up on the side of a building on New Year’s Eve, this time in downtown Orlando.
Cell phone video showed the words “vax the Jews” scrolling across the top of an office building on Orange Avenue at Washington Street.
During the brief video, no one in the crowd reacted to the act of antisemitism.
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Keith Dvorchik, CEO of Shalom Orlando, a merger of the Roth Family Jewish Community Center and Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, reacted strongly — yet again.
“We’ve talked about this far too many times,” Dvorchik said. “Jewish people remain the only group that is OK to hate.”
Dvorchik was hoping for a new start in this new year after so much antisemitism last year, even here in Central Florida. Hate groups protesting on an overpass and at a shopping center, a famous rapper tweeting Jewish hate and Anti-Semitic words shining on a football stadium in Jacksonville.
“You continue to see this and you feel less safe,” Dvorchik said. “As someone who’s very publicly Jewish, I have concerns all the time, what if someone decides they want to target me.”
Dvorchik said a Rabbi brought safety to the forefront during a recent Saturday service.
“In the middle of a sermon, the Rabbi asked the congregation, ‘Be honest, how many of you have thought about where you’re going to live,’ meaning leaving the United States, and three-quarters of the congregation raised their hands that they’d already been thinking about where they were going to have to go because the United States was going to no longer be safe for them,” Dvorchik said. “It is sad, it’s disappointing, but I hope that most people are watching this also find it incredibly offensive.”
The owner of a restaurant on the bottom floor of the building where the hateful words were displayed suspected they were projected from a nearby parking garage. Orlando Police said they are investigating.
“And if you think, ‘Oh they’re just targeting the Jews, we don’t have anything to be worried about,’ they’ll come for you next,” Dvorchik said. “That’s the way hatred goes. Get one and they move on to the next unless we decide together to put an end to it now.”
On Tuesday, nearly three days after the antisemitic display, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer released a statement condemning the incident.
“After learning about a recent display of antisemitism in our city, I want to clearly state that prejudice and hate aren’t welcome in Orlando and should always be condemned,” the mayor posted on Twitter. “To the members of Orlando’s Jewish community: we stand with you, united against antisemitism and hatred.”
After learning about a recent display of antisemitism in our city, I want to clearly state that prejudice and hate aren't welcome in Orlando and should always be condemned. To the members of Orlando's Jewish community: we stand with you, united against antisemitism and hatred.— Mayor Buddy Dyer (@orlandomayor) January 3, 2023
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, also released a statement Tuesday about the incident.
“It’s absolutely disgusting and those who espouse antisemitism are the scum of the Earth. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise of antisemitism, there were even Nazis protesting the recent drag show too,” Eskamani said in her statement.
“I assume the lack of response from other elected officials may be due to the holiday break. Unfortunately, acts of hate never stop, so we must be vigilant in the face of such rhetoric and I encourage folks to support our local Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center as a means of taking action for a more peaceful and just world,” she added.
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