Lori Berman bill would add overarching definition of antisemitism to Florida Statutes
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 4/20/22-Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, speaks against the congressional redistricting map the Senate later approved, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

‘For all Florida Statutes, this would be the working definition.’

Florida law already has a definition for antisemitism, but it’s tucked away in an education-specific portion of state statutes.

A new bill by Boynton Beach Sen. Lori Berman would make the definition apply to all areas of policy and life in the Sunshine State.

The measure (SB 148) would see Florida adopt language the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance developed to assist in monitoring and reporting on antisemitic hate crimes and discrimination.

Under the bill’s language, antisemitism means “a certain perception of Jewish individuals which may be expressed as hatred toward such individuals.”

“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and their property and toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,” the bill says.

“For all Florida Statutes, this would be the working definition,” Berman told Florida Politics. “It could be for hate crimes or laws that are passed so that you don’t discriminate against Jewish individuals.”

Berman, who is Jewish, said she’d been inspired to bring forth the legislation after seeing Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin sign a similar measure in May.

Berman’s bill, filed Monday, offers 11 “contemporary examples” of antisemitism:

— Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing or stereotypical allegations about Jewish individuals as such or the power of Jewish people as a collective, such as, the myth of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy of Jewish individuals controlling the media, economy, government, or other societal institutions.

— Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jewish individuals in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of a religion.

— Accusing Jewish people as a collective of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group or for acts committed by non-Jewish individuals.

— Accusing Jewish people as a collective, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

— Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jewish individuals worldwide, than to the interests of their respective nations.

— Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, such as claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor.

— Applying double standards by requiring of the Jewish state of Israel a standard of behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

— Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism, such as claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel, to characterize Israel or Israelites.

Much of the bill’s language, including its definition of antisemitism and the above examples, is similar or identical to that of a measure (HB 741) Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in May 2019 designed to ban discrimination against Jews in Florida public schools.

The measure, now law, applies only to Florida K-20 public education institutions and added discrimination based on religion to the list of prohibited practices in schools, colleges and universities.

Its sponsors were Republican Reps. Mike Caruso of Delray Beach and Randy Fine of Palm Bay.

The measure, which Sarasota Republican Sen. Joe Gruters sponsored in the Legislature’s upper chamber, preceded a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents statewide. Through the end of last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, hate crimes against Jews has more than doubled in Florida since 2020.

Caruso and Fine this year successfully backed another measure increasing criminal penalties for spreading antisemitic messages and symbols in Florida.

Berman’s new bill, unintentionally and unfortunately, also comes just days after the worst attack on Israel soil in half a century. On Saturday, Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 900 civilians on the street, in their homes and at a nearby music festival, raping many, wounding nearly 2,400 and kidnapping about 150 more, including women and children.

Israel swiftly launched a counterattack, which by Tuesday led to a comparable number of dead and wounded Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Hamas has vowed to broadcast executions of civilian hostages if Israel targets Palestinians without warning.

According to President Joe Biden, at least 11 Americans were killed in the Hamas attacks, and others have likely been taken hostage.

SB 148, which Berman drew up before the Hamas onslaught, includes three additional examples of antisemitism to which questionable acts in Florida could be compared. One centers on the Holocaust, while the other two would broaden the state’s consideration of antisemitic acts as they relate to Israel.

The added examples in Berman’s bill include:

— Denying the fact, scope, and mechanisms, such as gas chambers, or the intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of Nazi Germany and its supporters and accomplices during the Holocaust.

— Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

— Holding Jewish individuals collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel.

If passed, SB 148 would become law July 1, 2024.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • My Take

    October 10, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    Many seem reasonable, if unfortunate.
    A couple do not.
    Important that they only apply to an infraction, and do not constitite an infraction alone*
    The fact that dirty Randy is involved sullies the effort of course.
    *-For examplè, can show that a crime was a hatè crime, but there has to be an actual crime.

  • Rick Whitaker

    October 11, 2023 at 6:42 am

    bermans law sounds like saying the n word, now you can’t say the j word. what about the z word. i use it in talking about a version of a right wing undemocratic political group . under her law is the z word now off limits? i use another n word ( nazi ) a lot when talking about white christian nationalists. like the z word i use it to describe a right wing undemocratic political group ( maga cult ) . i don’t disparage a race of people, but i do quite often disparage a political group, for example zionist . is the use of the word zionist restricted by her law? will desantis pass a law restricting the use of maga cult? i don’t say the j or n word. some zionist use the a word ( arab ) as a disparaging word. i’m a hillbilly, so don’t use the h word when talking about me. i’m o. k. with people using the pd word when talking about me, pd is progressive democrat of course.

  • Charger John

    October 12, 2023 at 10:48 am

    Last time I checked we still had the Constitution as Law of the Land.
    Americans are protected by the 1st Amendment to free speech.
    By my tape measure this bill is 100% Un-Constitutional.
    Florida is already on Un-Constitutional grounds with laws currently on the books. If passed there will be severe backlash and the bill will accomplish exactly the opposite it is intended to do.

  • It's Complicated

    October 12, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    This bill is fraught with 1st Amendment issues.

    Any person who ‘blames’ the Jews for killing Jesus does not understand the absolute necessity of Jesus’ death on the cross to Christian Theology. The Romans killed Jesus on the cross – their method of execution. The Jewish council of the day, the Sanhedrin (who were divided in their opinion of Jesus, BTW), arranged it as an act of political self preservation in a land occupied by a brutal oppressor. But scripture is clear and unambiguous that God authored ALL of those events – as a means for Jesus to overcome death, pay for sin (propitiation), and fulfill prophecy. The Romans, the Jews, and the crowds (“Crucify him!” & “Give us Barabbas”) were all instruments in carrying out God’s plan. If Jesus had not died on the cross and rose again, there would be NO basis for the Christian faith. Does Sen. Berman expect Christians to not read or teach the New Testament, where the Sanhedrin is mentioned 22 times?

    • Rick Whitaker

      October 12, 2023 at 2:20 pm

      to me, all of what you said is superstition. no one knows who said what or who did what, it’s all ” take it on faith ” with no proven fact at all. scriptures and ancient history was written, and re-written by the people that won wars, not the people that lost. popes, kings etc. wrote and left out what they wanted to. the opposing opinions were not considered.. the whole christian history is fiction used to oppress and control people. just ask any open minded historian, or atheist, and they will agree with me. when constantine the roman emperor turned christian he burnt the library in alexandria, egypt to the ground destroying centuries of ancient writings. christians can’t handle any competition so they destroy all opposing media.. i broke away from christian brainwashing 60 years ago when i was old enough to spot superstition from empirical truth. with christians in power there will always be wars. killing in the name of jesus is common. when the so-called colonists came to america they robbed and killed the natives and justified it by claiming that the natives were ungodly heathens.. so you can believe in that pile of superstition because we have a constitution that lets you, but a lot of us don’t believe in it so leave us to our constitutional freedoms. desantis would like to change things for power, but he will fail.

      • It's Complicated

        October 12, 2023 at 6:02 pm

        Believe what you want, Rick. But raging against God has nothing to do with Sen. Berman’s bill. The issue is the bill seeks to criminalize some of the narratives of the New Testament. Let me add that nowhere in the New Testament does it express or imply that Christians should harm Jews – or anyone else – for anything. Quite the opposite, actually.

        • Rick Whitaker

          October 13, 2023 at 9:20 am

          screw the pack of lies known as the new testament. you are a christian cultist that is blind to logic, science, or anything that is outside of your cult. it’s simple, not complicated as you claim

Comments are closed.


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