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Broward's Jewish Leaders Gather In Davie, Demand Peace After Pittsburgh Shooting

Caitie Switalski
Eleven Yahrzeit, or Jewish memorial candles, were lit at the Jewish Community Campus in Davie Monday morning.

It was supposed to be a press conference but ended up being a time to remember the victims. 

"May God bless the memory of those who were assassinated," Rabbi Hector Epelbaum said. "May God bless and heal those who were injured and traumatized, members of the congregation and their families. And may God bless all of us to always remember, to never forget. Amen."

U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutch organized what was supposed to be a press conference with local faith leaders - however, several rabbis and pastors from across Broward County made time to pray and remember the victims.

The conference room inside of the David Posnack Jewish Community Center (JCC) was packed with people on Monday morning. Many had tears streaming down their faces. 

Wasserman Schultz herself held back tears, and called for more oversight over how social media platforms monitor user content - including getting the government involved if private companies do not make security changes.

She cited the anti-semitic social media comments from the accused Pittsburgh gunman. 

"The people who run Twitter and other social media outlets have to make sure that they have standards in place that can take down the modern-day equivalent of shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater," she said. 

She also acknowledged other recent violence in the news: 

"The assault on this synagogue comes against a backdrop of a surge in hate speech and crimes across America... a man was arrested for allegedly sending more than a dozen pipe-bombs to CNN and several high-profile Trump critics, including my own office," she said. "This must stop! It must stop!"

Read More: 'Wonderful People, Good Souls': The Victims Of The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

The press conference was also a renewed call to create gun control legislation, which both Wasserman Schultz and Deutch said they are working on writing. 

"We have to come together to fight anti-semitism...and we also have to come together to end gun violence," Deutch said. 

There's been a renewed focus on a report, out earlier this year, from the national Anti-Defamation League. The organization tracks hate crimes across the U.S.

The Florida Regional Director, Sheri Zvi, said the ADL has seen a 57 percent rise in anti-semitic incidents since 2016. That's a spike of about 2,000 recorded incidents.

"It's the highest spike that we have ever seen," Svi said. "Our institutions need to be prepared and security needs to be at the top of our minds all the time.”

Rabbi Epelbaum recalled for the crowd an instance, from years ago, when he felt like he was only looked at as Jewish, and not as a citizen of his home country, Argentina. He said, he hopes people don't remember the Pittsburgh victims that way. 

"That's what I’m afraid may happen here in our country: That those 11 people who were killed, and those who are injured and those who are traumatized with a terrorist attack, will not be considered American - will be considered only Jews," he said. "Because it was an attack against freedom, against our country, against the ideals of this blessed Country by God."

Vigils Taking Place in South Florida Monday:

On Tuesday Oct. 30:

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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