Florida budget framework increases Jewish day school security funding 25%

Florida budget framework increases Jewish day school security funding 25%

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed $5 million be allocated to secure Jewish day schools in the sunshine state as part of a $114.8 billion “Framework for Freedom” budget for fiscal year 2023-24.

“Governor DeSantis has always been a steadfast friend of the Jewish people and a defender of the State of Israel,” Jeremy Redfern, the governor’s deputy press secretary, told JNS. “He has stood with Florida’s Jewish community not only in his words, but also in his actions.”

The governor has repeatedly allocated state funds to protect Jewish schools, signed legislation that leading rabbis supported for a daily moment of silence in public schools, enacted legislation allowing Hatzalah ambulances to operate in state and created a state-wide, Holocaust curriculum that is required in schools, Redfern added.

The new budget framework comes after incidents of Jew-hatred in the state in recent months, including antisemitic fliers left outside of homes and a swastika and other antisemitic messaging projected onto the side of a Jacksonville building. Just last week, someone wrote antisemitic statements in chalk on sidewalks around the University of Florida in Gainesville.

The $5 million is an increase of $1 million from the previous budget. Schools could use the monies “to hire school safety officers, enhance safety measures, upgrade safety equipment, facilities and technology, and increase security services to ensure children at Florida Jewish day schools can learn in a safe environment.”

Moshe Matz, an Orthodox rabbi and executive director of Agudath Israel of Florida, said the allocation request shows the state “is taking the threat of rising antisemitism seriously.”

“The recent public displays of antisemitism and distribution of antisemitic materials is deeply concerning to our community,” he stated. “We are heartened to see that Florida is taking action to respond.”

There were 190 antisemitic instances in Florida in 2021, a nearly 300% increase over the 48 in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in 2021 the most recent year with available data.

Florida was also the state with the fourth-highest number of antisemitic incidents, behind New York, New Jersey and California. California is the largest state by population in the country and Florida the third, per the U.S. Census Bureau.