Bal Harbour, Fla., is best known as a popular destination for snowbirds. With a population ranging from 2,500 to 8,000, depending on the time of the year, it’s hard to believe that this small oceanside village, 30 minutes north of Miami, is now a national leader in combating anti-Semitism.
On Nov. 21 in front of a packed room, Bal Harbour’s Village Council unanimously passed a measure that adopted the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism—creating a village code that will permit law enforcement to consider anti-Semitism as a “motivation for criminal offenses in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its Jewish community.”
This is not the first resolution Bal Harbour has issued against anti-Semitism. In 2015, it passed a first-of-its-kind measure “prohibiting the Village from entering into agreements with businesses that boycott a person or entity based in or doing business with an Open Trade Jurisdiction such as Israel, and requiring businesses to pledge not to engage in such a boycott during agreements with the Village.”
“Because of our leadership on this issue, over three dozen cities, estimated, across the country have passed similar ordinances,” said Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman.
Groisman, who introduced what is unofficially referred to as the “Anti-Semitism Definition Act,” told the Haym Salomon Center that the issue of anti-Semitism is too important to wait on federal lawmakers to take action.
“As a local municipality we can do things more efficiently and faster than a state or federal bureaucracy,” he said. “We may be a small municipality, but we now represent an important voice,” added Groisman.
The State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism acknowledges “the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel,” including through demonization, delegitimization and the application of double standards.
Before the Nov. 21 vote, the Bal Harbour Village Council received letters of support for the measure from two members of Congress from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo.
“The increased presence of anti-Semitism around the world has caused Jewish communities everywhere to be on high alert,” Curbelo wrote. “It is time we take a tougher stand on anti-Semitism at all levels of government.”
Sara Gold Rafel, Southeast U.S. director for StandWithUs, said the Florida legislation “will clarify what anti-Semitism is and thereby help combat it. The bill doesn’t regulate anti-Semitic speech, or any form of speech. It relates only to unprotected behavior, such as vandalism. It is definitely a crucial step in the right direction.”
According to village rules, a second reading of the legislation is scheduled for Dec. 13. The measure is expected to become law at that time.
“We hope that cities and states across the country will follow, and our nation will continue to reject all forms of hate and discrimination,” Groisman said