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SWFL Jewish leaders meet with LCSO Sheriff to discuss rise in antisemitic crimes

Posted at 10:33 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 05:33:49-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — “We are seeing in the last five years some of the highest trends of antisemitic incidents - vandalism, harassment, assaults - that we’ve seen since we started tracking in 1979," says Lonny Wilk, ADL Florida Regional Director.

It's that spike of antisemitic incidents that led to Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno meeting with Fort Myers Police, the FBI, and local rabbis to talk about how to stop it.

“I reached out to Sheriff Marceno and said I think it’s time to meet," explains Rabbi Marc Sack, on how the meeting came about.

It was the first meeting of it's kind, coming after antisemitic pamphlets were left on people's lawns last week in Fort Myers - just weeks after a rabbi had his driveway vandalized with spray paint in Bonita Springs.

Two teens were arrested in that case.

“We were grateful to hear about increased patrols around local area synagogues and as well as other resources that we could call upon when we have larger events," Rabbi Nicole Luna with Temple Beth El.

Lonny Wilk with the Florida Anti-Defamation League says that the Southwest Florida community must also play a role in the fight against antisemitism in all of its form.

“If you hear of an incident of antisemitism or bigotry and it comes from a group that you identify with…we need you to speak out," he says.

Speaking out, and continuing to speak out, is how Southwest Floridians make sure acts of hate don't become the norm.

“I can tell you from being at the meeting - and I knew it before, but I’m happy I went again to be reassured. You can sleep with both eyes closed," adds Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz, Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Florida.

Wilk says they have identified the group leaving those fliers in Fort Myers and other parts of the country.

And if you see or experience an incident of antisemitism yourself, the ADL says you can report it by going to their website here.