Bal Harbour implements law addressing anti-Semitic crime

BAL HARBOUR, FLA. (WSVN) - Officials at one South Florida municipality launched an all-out effort to police anti-Semitism, the first effort of its kind in the United States.

When it comes to less obvious examples of hate, police departments don’t always have specific examples of what anti-Semitism is.

At a council meeting, Wednesday night, the Village of Bal Harbour aimed to change that.

“Tonight we become the first in the nation to codify the State Department’s 2010 working definition of anti-Semitism,” said Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman.

During the meeting, an amendment to a village ordinance adds the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.

It’s a big step that, Groisman said, is much easier for municipalities to handle. “It’s our role to do something to combat the rise of anti-Semitism,” he said. “Year over year, it’s growing exponentially, and we shouldn’t wait for the federal government, or even the state government, to do something. We can do it at the city levels.”

The measure takes place weeks after a man was caught on cellphone video shouting anti-Semitic threats outside a synagogue in Surfside, Thanksgiving morning.

It’s one of several acts of anti-Semitism in various forms that have taken place across South Florida in 2017.

Wednesday’s move by Bal Harbour was supported by the local chapter of the Zionist Organization of America. “What’s great about this amendment is my hope that similar ordinances can be adopted by cities across the country, so that we can really have a proactive role,” said Sharona Whisler, executive director of the Florida Chapter of the Zionist Organization.

Surfside and Miami Beach are among local municipalities that are looking at the new law.

Bal Harbour also received letters of support from local Democratic and Republican legislators.

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