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Florida Jewish legislator ponders the future of Jews in the US

The state is "doing the best in America about fighting antisemitism but we still get a B. Nobody gets an A and there are lots of F’s,” says state Rep. Randy Fine.

Florida State Rep. Randy Fine at the site of the Supernova music festival massacre near Kibbutz Re'im, June 10, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.
Florida State Rep. Randy Fine at the site of the Supernova music festival massacre near Kibbutz Re'im, June 10, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

The lone Republican Jewish lawmaker in the Florida State legislature said Tuesday that he could never have imagined considering whether it was safe for Jews to live in the United States, even though the Sunshine State is the “gold standard” for fighting antisemitism.

Randy Fine spoke after months of often violent antisemitic protests across the U.S. that have shaken American Jewry in ways not seen since World War II.

“I would never have thought that I would live at a time when I would wonder if Jews are safe to live in America. We are in that time today,” Randy Fine told JNS in an interview in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Fine, a stalwart Israel supporter who has served eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, is running for state senator.

The conservative legislator, who represents the Orlando Beach area and has a record of fighting anti-Israel boycotts, recently proposed that Florida shun business with Spain, Ireland and Norway for their unilateral endorsement of a Palestinian state.

“A country that effectively endorses terrorism is not a country Florida should work with,” he said. “There should be consequences in Florida.”

The Republican politician noted that Florida, which is listed as one of the top 20 economies in the world by the state’s Chamber of Commerce, has the economic weight to successfully fight anti-Israel boycotts. The state has 23 million residents.

He cited successful campaigns against both the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Airbnb, whose largest market is in Florida, and which had at one point barred listings from Israel’s biblical heartland.

“We have the economic heft to influence behavior around the world,” Fine said.

In 2018, Fine demanded that venues in Miami and Tampa cancel concerts by New Zealand singer Lorde because she had canceled a concert in Israel after being urged to do so by BDS activists. Letting Lorde play would violate an anti-BDS law that the state enacted in 2016, he said. The venues did not comply.

Although the state legislature is not in session, other initiatives the lawmaker has in the works for next year, assuming he is elected, include banning Qatar from funding universities in Florida as well as students from countries “which hate America.”

“I don’t bluff; I have no tolerance for these things,” he said about his initiatives.

In years past, he said there has been “universal” support in the strongly pro-Israel state legislature for other such legislation among Republicans and “majority” support among Democrats.

“Florida is doing the best in America about fighting antisemitism but we still get a B,” he said. “Nobody gets an A and there are lots of F’s.”

Florida State Rep. Randy Fine at Kibbutz Be’eri, June 10, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

In Israel for the first time since the Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught, which killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw another approximately 250 abducted to Gaza, Fine joined a bipartisan mission of state legislators organized by the Combat Antisemitism Movement. He then took a private vacation with his two sons, who had never been to Israel.

One son, who attends a public high school, has had a “tough time” being Jewish this past year. “He is the son of a very outspoken conservative state legislator,” Fine noted.

A graduate of Harvard who went on to work in the gaming industry, Fine, 50, said that the “unbelievable” antisemitic protests at college campuses were the result of a liberal university mindset that agrees with them. The lawmaker said he would do away with funding for “silly, made-up, woke” subjects such as gender studies, arguing that no pro-Palestinian encampments have emerged at nursing colleges.

“We are not talking about engineering and pre-med students who are doing these things,” he said, “The taxpayer from Florida should not be subsidizing gender studies. We need to get rid of these degrees.”

Fine, who shifted his support to former president Donald Trump from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after the Hamas war broke out last year, opined that the outcome of the November elections will directly affect American Jews.

“If Trump wins a lot of this will come to an end very quickly,” he said. “If Trump loses, I don’t know how safe it will be for Jews in America.”

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