Two new laws to fight antisemitism in Florida

The changes come into effect tomorrow


The Supreme Court of Florida building in Tallahassee, Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed two pieces of legislation last week  that will help provide security for the Jewish community there.

One will provide funding for security enhancements at Jewish day schools and preschools and the other codifies a definition of antisemitism. The laws go into effect tomorrow.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, there more than 460 incidents of antisemitism in Florida in 2023, the most recent numbers available.

Under the new legislation, the Florida Department of Education will be required to create a program that will provide ongoing funds to Jewish day schools and preschools for specific security purposes.

To be eligible for the aid, schools must undergo a risk assessment with the funds being used to address any deficiencies found by security officials.

Among the items state funds can be used for the purchase and installation of security cameras, perimeter lighting, fencing and shatter-resistant windows; the hiring of licenced security personnel and expenses related to provide safe transportation of students and staff.

Earlier this year, Florida distributed $25 million to help some 130 Jewish day schools and preschools fund security measures in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and rapid escalation of antisemitism worldwide. The new law will keep funding ongoing, though no dollar amount has been listed.

“Agudath Israel commends Governor DeSantis for continuing to provide support for Florida’s Jewish communities,” said Rabbi Moshe Matz, director of Agudath Israel’s Florida office. “Since October 7 and throughout his career in government Gov. De Santis has stood by the Jewish community with words and actions in the fight against antisemitism, we thank him for signing these important bills and for his unwavering support.”

The legislation was introduced by Republican State Representative Randy Fine, who was in Israel and meeting with members of the Knesset on the same day that DeSantis signed it into the law. Fine posted his thoughts on the signing saying, “It wouldn’t be a trip to Israel without one of my antisemitism bills becoming law!”

Fine is hoping to become the Republican nominee for the 19th District in the Florida State Senate. He is facing a primary challenge for the Republican slot from Charles “Chuck” Sheridan.

Governor DeSantis also signed legislation that officially adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance IHRA working definition of antisemitism to “assist in the monitoring and reporting of antisemitic hate crimes and discrimination and to make residents aware of and to combat such incidents in this state.”

The need for a formal definition comes as antisemitism continues to rise across the United States.

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