Scrawled across sidewalks and public bathroom walls in the manicured community in Broward County's westernmost city were large swastikas and the phrase "kill Jews." Residents quickly took to consoling each other in a state of disgust and confusion: Who would do this? Was this one of our neighbors?
Weeks later, on Oct. 30, it happened again. Nearly identical graffiti was found on entrance signs and around a children's playground in the same Weston neighborhood.
The recurring anti-Semitic vandalism has galvanized leaders in Weston's sizable Jewish community around a message of resilience and unity.
“To the perpetrators of these racist and anti-Semitic crimes, all of us collectively tell you, you will not win," Rabbi Adam Watstein from Weston temple B'nai Aviv said during a press conference on Oct. 31. “We are united together as a faith-based community to remind everyone in Weston that anti-Semitism, racism, and hate has no place in our city."
The incidents come amid a worrying rise of anti-Semitism across the country.
I am disgusted & dismayed by the hateful messages graffitied in Weston. There is a rise in anti-semitism & racism not only in our state, but across the country. We, as a community, must collectively condemn these acts and the cowards who did this. It’s time to act and speak up. pic.twitter.com/0dp54makFa— Lauren Book (@LeaderBookFL) October 30, 2022
On October 22, an anti-Semitic hate group hung a banner over a buzzing Los Angeles freeway with the words "Kanye is right," referencing remarks recently made by rapper Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), who said he would go "Deathcon 3 on Jewish people." Last weekend, a message that read "Kanye was right about the Jews" was projected on TIAA Bank Field's exterior during a Florida-Georgia football game in Jacksonville.
Rabbi Marci Bloch, who leads Temple Dor Dorim in Weston, says the recent incidents have left her "heartbroken." She notes that the Jewish tradition teaches its followers to see others in the image of God.
"Hate anytime is never okay," Bloch tells New Times. "We need to be beyond this."
Weston city officials and residents have also condemned the incidents on social media in recent days.
"It is extremely upsetting, disturbing, and disappointing to see this continuing to happen in our community," city manager Don Decker wrote on Facebook in response to the incident. "This is not Weston. Hatred is chipping away at what makes Weston special, our diversity."
Others were more to the point.
"Vile," one Weston resident wrote in response to a photo of the vandalism.
"Pardon my French but WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK," another replied.
Florida has seen an "alarming rise" in extremist activity driven by online misinformation and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, according to a report released in September by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The report, "Hate in the Sunshine State: Extremism and Antisemitism in Florida," found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents documented by the ADL in Florida rose to 190 in 2021, a 50 percent year-over-year increase.
Nationwide, the ADL says that it received more reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 than it had in any prior year since it began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979. The organization logged 2,717 reports of assault, harassment, and vandalism in 2021.
As of 2018, Broward County had the biggest Jewish community in Florida and one of the largest in the United States.