A Jewish family faced antisemitic abuse in Bal Harbour, Florida this week in the days before a ceasefire was agreed between Israel and Hamas after 11 days of violence.
Eric Orgen and his family arrived on May 12 and were visiting South Florida for a week’s vacation. They were staying with a friend and the incident occurred on Tuesday at around 8 pm, just as the Jewish holiday of Shavuot was coming to an end.
Four men in a car hurled antisemitic abuse and garbage at Orgen, his wife Karen and their 16-year-old daughter Jamie as well as their friend Mark J. Schwartz, who was accompanying them. The incident is currently being investigated by Bal Harbour police.
Schwartz and the Orgen family had just left a local synagogue, according to Fox News. Both men were wearing yarmulkes, a traditional Jewish head covering, at the time.
“About an hour ago while walking on Collins Ave in Bal Harbour, Florida with Mark J Schwartz, Karen and my daughter Jamie, a white SUV with 4 Middle eastern looking males in their early 20s pulled up alongside us and started screaming ‘f*** you Jew’ die jew’ and ‘free Palestine’ they then yelled they were going to rape Karen and Jamie,” Orgen wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
“They then threw garbage at us out the window as well as a water bottle. A man in an Audi right behind them who witnessed this pulled his gun to protect us and chased them as they drove away,” he said.
“So thankful that a total stranger stepped up to protect us!”
“They pulled up and started shouting, ‘Free Palestine, f*** you Jew, die Jew,” Orgen told The Miami Herald on Friday. “They also said, ‘We’re going to rape your daughter. We’re going to rape your wife.’ Who yells that?”
“I made sure my wife, my daughter and our friend were behind me so that if anything happened I would take the brunt of it,” said the business consultant, who is also a volunteer EMT.
“I was going to protect my family,”
“In my opinion, it’s a hate crime,” Orgen went on. “It’s a biased crime. The only way these crimes will stop is if we punish people appropriately.”
Bal Harbour Police Chief Raleigh Flowers told The Miami Herald his department has “very good investigative leads” and is working to identify the four men who made the abusive comments.
“We want all of our visitors and residents to be safe,” Flowers said. “It’s unfortunate in 2021 that we still have these kinds of incidents happening in our country.”
Bal Harbour’s mayor, Gabriel Groisman, said that it was important to “respond in a very strong fashion to these kinds of incidents because we don’t want South Florida to become New York or Los Angeles or anywhere else where these attacks are far worse.”
“We have to stop them in their tracks,” Groisman said. “There is no question that they were intentionally trying to intimidate and harass the Jewish community.”
There has been a recent increase in antisemitic incidents and vandalism across the U.S., according to NBC News. This has coincided with the recent violent clashes between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip.
Newsweek has asked the Bal Harbour police for comment.