One week to the day after the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg was vandalized, hundreds gathered on Thursday to say no to anti-Semitism and stand up for the Jewish community.

It was back on May 27 that graffiti, including a swastika and the words “The Jews are guilty,” was discovered painted on the outside of the museum. It came amid an upswing in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide—many related to Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip—and St. Petersburg Police are still searching for the suspect or suspects.

The June 3 rally was a community response to show their support for the Jews of St. Petersburg and beyond.

Among speakers at the event was Toni Rinde, a Holocaust survivor who said, “I once asked my parents why is it that people hate us. Can you explain hate to a 7-year-old little child? We in our museum try to explain hate. We teach how to be an upstander. When you see wrong being done, we teach: Fix that wrong.”

The city’s mayor, Rick Kriseman, also addressed the crowd, as did local faith and community leaders.

A letter sent to the museum by White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond was read aloud by museum executive director, Elizabeth Gelman.

It said, in part, “As the museum has recognized, this cowardly act of hate demonstrates that its work is more important than ever. We are grateful for the witness that you provide regarding the lessons of the Holocaust, especially during such challenging times and we pledge to continue working with you to ensure that every life is valued and that no one has to fear because of who they are or how they worship.”

Crowd members at a rally against anti-Semitism in Florida hold up books they brought to the event on June 3, 2021. Credit: Courtesy.

Attendees were asked to bring a book that is meaningful to them. During the event, Michael Igel, the museum’s board chair, held up his personal copy of Elie Wiesel’s Night, signed by the author.

“As we gather to unite against hate, we ask everyone to hold up our books together, to remind the world that education is the solution to stopping anti-Semitism,” said Igel. “Please hold up your book together with me as a symbol of tonight’s message. Unity and education will always stamp out hate.”


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