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'We need people to speak out': Special Envoy speaks in Broward as antisemitism increases

People of different faiths wear the Jewish kippah during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Germany in April.
Jens Meyer
People of different faiths wear the Jewish kippah during a demonstration against anti-Semitism in Germany in April.

One of the nation's leading voices on preventing antisemitism — Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt — spoke today in Broward County, calling the rise in hate against Jewish people "very frightening."

She also singled out the "normalization" of hatred as a "major concern," blaming the discourse of some stars of sports and music, as well as media personalities.

As the country and state see a rise in antisemitism, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz held a summit to hear from religious, political and community leaders about how to curb the hatred.

The event took place Wednesday at the David Posnack Jewish Day school in Broward County. Speakers included Ambassador Lipstadt, the Biden administration's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

“Contemporary anti-Semitism, in many respects, is like the old longstanding form of anti-Semitism, the tropes, the stereotypes are the same. But today, we have a delivery system in social media which allows things to grow and to fester,” she told WLRN.

As Special Envoy, Lipstadt leads efforts to advance U.S. foreign policy to counter antisemitism internationally.

In Florida, Antisemitic incidents surged to historic levels in 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League, who track these incidents. Florida saw a total of 269 incidents recorded — a 42% increase from 2021, and an all-time high.

READ MORE: The first national strategy for fighting antisemitism is finally here. What's in it?

“What is a major concern, and there's limited amounts that government can really do about this particular issue, is the normalization of anti-Semitism,” Lipstadt said. “So when you get rap stars or sports stars or media personalities engaging in that kind of thing, it makes it all right, and it trickles down.”

Last week the White House released its first everplan to combat antisemitism. The strategy outlines more than 100 actions that federal agencies have committed to take in order to counter antisemitism – all of which will be completed within a year, the President said in a statement announcing the plan.

The strategy also calls on Congress to enact legislation that would help counter antisemitism.

State and local governments, civil society, schools and academic institutions, the tech sector, businesses, and diverse religious communities are all called to mobilize against the “age-old hatred,” according to the statement.

Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt
State Department
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt

NPR reports that President Joe Biden called the plan the "most ambitious and comprehensive U.S. government-led effort to fight antisemitism in American history," last Thursday.

"It sends a clear and forceful message," Biden said. "In America, evil will not win. Hate will not prevail. The venom and violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time."

The strategy's main objectives include:

  • increasing awareness and understanding of both antisemitism and Jewish American heritage;
  • improving safety and security for Jewish communities;
  • reversing the normalization of antisemitism; and
  • building coalitions across communities to fight hate.

The Anti-Defamation League tracked 3,697 antisemetic incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault in 2022, according to a report released in March. That's a 36% increase from the 2021.

“This battle against anti-Semitism and similarly against other prejudices, calls for a whole of society approach. We need people to speak out,” Lipstadt said. “When you hear something, you have to say something. The time to sit silently by has passed.”

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
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