A sheriff in Central Florida made it loud and clear that white supremacists are not welcome following a series of antisemitic incidents in Volusia County and adjacent areas.

“When you are trying to crush a radical group of cowardly scumbags, unity and sunshine destroy it,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood of Volusia County in Central Florida on the eastern coast, which includes the popular resort cities of Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach, at a press conference on Feb. 27. “We stand beside one another in this county. We stand beside our Jewish neighbors.”

In recent days, someone threw hate-filled fliers on people’s driveways, projected “Expel the Jews” on a bulletin board at the Daytona Speedway and harassed worshippers at a Chabad House in nearby South Orlando.

Much of the hate is the work of the antisemitic Goyim Defense League, said Chitwood. And that group’s membership extends into his district.

“This isn’t about free speech,” he said. “It is about violence.”

Rob Lennick, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties. Credit: Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties.

Randy Fine, a Republican state representative from Brevard County in Central Florida near Orlando, said at the press conference that he has the distinction of being the only member of Florida’s state legislature to receive a death threat, for which the offender was arrested, prosecuted and convicted.

“There is a reason for that,” he said. “It’s because I’m Jewish.”

Fine said he introduced legislation that “provides enhanced criminal penalties for persons who commit violations while evidencing religious or ethnic animus” in an effort to ensure that hate-crime offenders are punished.

Other speakers at the press conference included local politicians, faith leaders and a representative from the Anti-Defamation League representatives.

Rob Lennick, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties who is also a rabbi, said that the “rash” of antisemitism and hatred does not reflect the community.

“It was brought here by outsiders. It is an affront to our Jewish community and our general community,” he said. “Our community is built on love, respect, charity and compassion, and there can be no greater demonstration of that than what you see in this room.”

Pinchas Ezagui, a rabbi and director of Chabad of Greater Daytona, said a non-Jewish man picked up hateful fliers from driveways before Jewish homeowners saw them.

“That is what Ormond Beach is,” he said. “The whole Bible is built on ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The rest is commentary.”


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