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Activists gather in Delray Beach to push back on governor's policies

Rabbi Barry Silver hosted the rally Wednesday night in Delray Beach.
Rabbi Barry Silver
Rabbi Barry Silver hosted the rally Wednesday night in Delray Beach.

Elections might feel far away, but activists gathered at a major political rally in Palm Beach County this week spoke out over a range of critical issues affecting their daily lives today.

Dozens of activists gathered at the South County Civic Center in Delray Beach on Wednesday night to rally against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ policies on abortion, the environment and gun control.

DeSantis, who launched his 2024 presidential campaign in late May, has framed himself as the nation’s conservative leader in fights over race, gender, abortion and other divisive issues. The Republican governor has promoted his policies in Floridaas a blueprint for the rest of the country.

Rabbi Barry Silver — a well-known activist and former state legislator — organized the event, which brought together group leaders from different causes.

“It can’t just be abortion rights people just talking to themselves, and environmentalists [talking] to themselves. We need all of us to join together in a mass movement and then we can make this world a much better place,” he told WLRN.

The event was one of the first major activist rallies in South Florida as the country inches closer to the presidential primaries in early 2024. That timetable has created urgency for local chapters of national groups, like the National Organization for Women and Sierra Club.

The rabbi, also a civil rights attorney, recently made headlines for his unsuccessful push to ban the bible in Palm Beach County schools. He claimed the book is “at the top of the list of every category established by the governor and Florida Legislature for banning books.”

That wasn’t Silver’s first high profile action in defiance of the current political climate: Last year he filed a lawsuit against the state claiming that the 15-week abortion ban directly targeted Jewish people.

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At the rally, Silver was joined by the members of Palm Beach County’s branch of the National Organization for Women, who spoke out against the state's 15-week abortion ban, which could change to six weeks if the state Supreme Court acts on a legal challenge to the current ban.

Deborah Cohn, who wore a shirt that said “access to abortion is a Jewish right,” said she has attended dozens of abortion rights rallies dating back to the 60’s.

“I have children, I have grandchildren. We have to leave the world a better place, we can’t leave it the way it is,” said Cohn, who belongs to Rabbi Silver’s L'Dor Va-Dor congregation.

Helene Braverman also attended the event. She quoted an old Jewish saying about the Holocaust that she feels applies to the civil rights she feels are being stripped away under the governor.

“We used to say that the train that came for us in the morning in Europe will be back for you in the afternoon. So nobody is safe under a dictatorship,” she said.

As for Silver's personal motivations — climate change is the issue he said is driving him the most at the moment. On the rally stage he was joined by members of the local Sierra Club, who worried about environmental issues facing Palm Beach County – most notably the development of the protected Agricultural Reserve.

"If we don't do something drastic now, our planet is in deep trouble. And it's not a spectator sport. There's no time for anyone to sit on the sidelines. We need to take strong, drastic action," he said.

Gerard Albert III covers Broward County. He is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University. He can be reached atgalbert@wlrnnews.org
Arianna Otero, a WLRN newsroom intern, is a senior studying Digital Journalism at Florida International University.
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