Anti-Semitic displays in Jacksonville cause community concern

By David Mark

By Sydny Pepper

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In the fall of 2022, on the anniversary of Sept. 11, another kind of hatred emerged in the city of Jacksonville through an increase in the physical appearances of hate speech.

First, there were flyers and banners flung over bridges by major highways spewing antisemitism. Then came the Florida-Georgia game, arguably the most important game for Floridians. It seemed like the entire state was at TIAA Bank Field that day when a projection appeared on the neighboring buildings with the promotion of Kanye West’s antisemitic comments.

Then at yet another Jaguars game, there was the banner flown overhead with the message condoning the confederate monuments’ place in Jacksonville followed at the Jags’ playoff game with the projection of a swastika and a cross.

Hundreds of images were shared, sparking the discussion on whether or not the images were a hoax.

A few weeks ago, Clay County Public Information Officer, Deputy Ford “regretfully” confirmed that flyers were distributed to communities in Clay County with these same messages.

This has members of the First Coast wondering what can be done about this, and how to protect the community.

Clover Nations, a member of the Jewish community and a Jacksonville native, said that they were there while this was all happening.

“There was a very traditional synagogue where I watched people walk to church every day,” said Nations “There was a good week where a large group of protesters stood against the church. It really stung because it really made it feel like even after decades from the Holocaust, there is still hate, which means there is still fear, and that itself is terrifying. But then again, no one was doing anything to stop the torment. That was even worse.”

Mariam Feist, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northeast Florida, knows what needs to be done, and emphasized the importance of their most recent mission.

The Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida has been working with interfaith and civic groups such as Florida Blue and even the Jacksonville Jaguars to find the route of bias and hate in order to combat these hate groups.  The goal is to transform not just Jacksonville, but all of Northeast Florida and stop the spread of hate.

In doing so, they have been the most key components in the investigations by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and other law enforcement.

These organizations stress the need to report these events in order to precisely track hate crime rates. Accurate data is extremely effective in the movement to combat the spread. According to the FBI’s Crime Date Explorer, there were 7,262 reported hate crimes as of 2021, and 8,263 in 2020. 

Although it may be difficult, one of the most important things to remember is to report it and, “not unknowingly spread hate by re-posting,” said Feist.  

Above all, she says the most effective method to combat hate is to advocate for living in a city of tolerance and inclusion.

“You don’t know what you don’t know. Go out and seek conversations and get to know people from different backgrounds,” said Feist. “Don’t take what you read and see for truth, it’s not enough. Go out and start dialogue … talk to the people who live it.”  

She said these conversations will help to stop the spread of hate because we can learn to understand one another and see just how many commonalities we all share.

Part of the Jewish Federation’s movement is to spark these kinds of conversations. Through donations they have been able to work with interfaith groups to become a common voice to drown out the hate.

“The goal is not to reach the haters; but the masses and the residents of the community … Jacksonville is better than this,” said Feist.  

Feist also wanted to give a shout out to the Jacksonville City Council and their fast action on passing new city ordinances to make the projection of hate speech onto private buildings without consent illegal.

This way, JSO no longer has their hands tied. Officers can now arrest these hate group members without the First Amendment hinderance, as was the case before. In doing so, the city has rendered a deadly blow the ability of the hate groups to spread their propaganda.

“That’s another thing we can do, go out and vote,” said Feist. Voting for the city council members who can do these things and who will be able to protect our community ideals, as well as ensure more bills will continue to be passed effectively.

Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Anti-Semitic displays in Jacksonville cause community concern"

Leave a comment