From the editor's desk: Staying strong in solidarity
By Christine DeSouza
As of this writing, there have been three bomb threats called in to the Maitland Jewish campus since Jan. 4. This campus was not singled out. Jewish community centers in 17 states also received threats the same day on Jan. 9. It is pretty obvious that some one or some group of people is actively seeking to intimidate Jewish communities across the United States.
Thank goodness all the threats were false. However, with each call, the police with their bomb-sniffing dogs came immediately. The streets were closed off. Twice the campus was evacuated, once put in lockdown and area businesses and residents were in lockdown. Definitely an inconvenience for everyone.
In addition to the federal and local law enforcement, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the JCC Association of North America, and the Secure Community Network are addressing the concerns and procedures.
But yes, it is an inconvenience for parents, staff, students, and everyone within the radius of the campus. But is this a reason to stop using the facilities at the JCC? Is this a reason to decide to withdraw children from the school or Early Childhood Center? No. It isn’t.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 133:1, “Hine(y) ma tov u’ma-nayim/ Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad”—“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” This is how the Orlando Jewish community must stand—in unity. Not allowing fear to control our actions. In the words of the African-American spiritual, “[We] shall not be moved. We will stand... together.”
It is understandable to want to protect our children, to keep them from harm’s way as best we can. But does that mean assimilating into the so-called safety of the surrounding non-Jewish community? Are we to run and hide the second an anti-Semite threatens us?
Kiryat Shmona is the northern-most city in Israel on the Lebanese border, near the Golan Heights. The Jewish families that settled there in 1949 knew the risks. They lived with major “inconveniences.” The residents dodged the Katyusha rockets that hurtled toward them from the Heights. The citizens of the town had suffered almost daily attacks from the mid-1970s until 2000, when the IDF left Lebanon. In fact, the children slept in bomb shelters. Then, during the Lebanon War of 2006, a total of 1,012 Katyusha rockets hit Kiryat Shmona. Through all this, the residents of this battered city stayed. It is now a thriving city with an airport and population (as of 2007) of 23,100.
The Roth Family JCC CEO, Keith Dvorchik, is fierce about protecting everyone who accesses the campus. In a recent email, sent to JCC members, he reiterated his position:
“The Jewish community is no stranger to being the subject of bigotry, hate and threats. Unlike other schools and institutions, we have always been forced to place supreme importance on the security of our classrooms and pubic gathering places. We’ve become experts at doing so.”
As a community, let’s chose to stay banded together and not allow any anti-Semitic acts to keep us from being a part of a Jewish community campus that bonds us together.
I am a Christian and not Jewish as many of you know, but I am standing with you, as are many other Christians.