Jewish Press of Pinellas County

Jewish community advocacy organizations form regional coalition for stronger voice

With the meteoric rise in antisemitic acts during the last year, Jewish Community Relations Councils from across central and west Florida have begun to coordinate efforts, identify ways to combat antisemitism, and work more effectively with elected officials.

The Tampa JCCs & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast have had very active Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs) for years as well as a history of working together to address common issues.

Other activities of a JCRC are to provide a unified voice in defense of the Jewish community’s civil rights and promote better understanding between the local Jewish community and the community at large.

Over the past months, the Tampa Bay area leadership has reached out to the Jewish communities of Sarasota/Manatee, Orlando, Lee and Charlotte counties, Naples and Jacksonville to coalesce.

The new organization has been named the Coalition of Florida JCRCs. The group currently meets via Zoom every other week. Representatives include JCRC chairs and directors as well as Federation officers and directors.

The group initially convened in August 2023. Together they developed plans for addressing concerns already occurring and those seen as potential issues.

The coalition has identified priority issues:

• security and civic participation;

• support for strong and effective Holocaust education in schools and cities

• monitoring antisemitism and discriminatory practices and policies.

The October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel accelerated some of the group’s activities. In November, with considerable support from the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, the region’s federations collaborated to send more than 175 people to Washington, D.C. for the March for Israel.

“There has never been a more important time to bring organizations like this together so we can have the influence we desperately need to deal with seriously growing antisemitism and coordinated disinformation efforts around the war in Israel and Israel in general,” said Mark Segel, executive director of Combating Antisemitism for the Tampa JCCs & Federation.

Added Stuart Berger, director of the Gulf Coast Jewish Federation’s JCRC, “So many of the issues we are dealing with are regional. There is power in acting as one.”

Efforts by the group have included voicing concerns regarding antisemitism on Florida’s college campuses.

The endeavors have already yielded positive changes at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “Communication is much improved and Hillel is receiving extra attention from the USF police department,” Segel said.

The group continues to monitor the situation in Israel closely, as well as the impacts of antisemitism closer to home in Florida.

For more information, contact Mark Segel, executive director of combating antisemitism, Tampa JCCs & Federation, at mark.segel@JewishTampa.com.

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