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South Floridians honor Tel Aviv hate crime victims at vigil

by Joseph Erbentraut
Contributor
Monday Aug 31, 2009
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Almost a month has passed since a masked gunman killed two people and wounded 11 others at an LGBT youth center in Tel Aviv, but the events of Aug. 1 continue to weigh heavy on the minds of South Florida’s LGBT Jews.

A group of more than 100 local residents and activists gathered at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of South Florida in Fort Lauderdale on Aug. 25 to remember the victims. Gay American Heroes Foundation sponsored the vigil in collaboration with Congregation Etz Chaim of Wilton Manors, a synagogue that specifically caters to the area’s LGBT Jews.

Rabbi Noah Kitty of Congregation Etz Chaim, spearheaded the organization of the vigil when she noted no other group in the area had done so. Kitty told EDGE she was pleased with the turnout in spite of the fact the event had been organized with one week’s notice.

"When a tragedy happens like this, it is heartening to know how many friends and allies you do have, otherwise you can just feel alone," Kitty said. "It’s a tragedy that this happened, but it did have the force of bringing us all closer together. [The turnout] demonstrated to me that this was something that a lot of different people felt they really wanted to support."

Featured speakers at the vigil included Israeli Consulate deputy general Paul Herson, activist Stuart Milk, GLCC executive director Paul Hyman and Lisa Enfield, a member of the Jewish Federation of Broward County.

"When a tragedy happens like this, it is heartening to know how many friends and allies you do have, otherwise you can just feel alone."

Scott Hall, executive director of the GAHF, also spoke. He told EDGE when Kitty approached him regarding co-sponsoring the vigil, his answer was obvious.

"When a gay person is murdered anywhere in the world, it affects all of us," Hall said. "As long as our government dehumanizes us with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and all the other discriminatory acts, we all will be continually dehumanized and attacked."

Both Kitty and Hall said they hoped the event would both raise public awareness of acts of "sinat hinam" (baseless hatred) toward LGBT people, in addition to sending a message to perpetrators of anti-LGBT violence and politicians around the world.

"[The vigil] showed the general community that people do care and shows the people who speak against us that we’re not just going to sit back and take it," Kitty said. "These tragedies can be traced back to years of incendiary speech from politicians and religious leaders. What they’re saying gives haters permission to act on their hate. We need to stand up and be counted as saying that is not okay."

Tel Aviv is Israel’s most cosmopolitan and progressive city. And an estimated 70,000 took took part in a rally in Yitzhak Rabin Square on Aug. 8 to protest the attack.

Other vigils also took place in Washington, Atlanta, New York and other cities across the United States. Similar events took place in Buenos Aires, London and Montreal.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.

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