Three bomb threats in early January left parents being served by the Roth Family Jewish Community Center in Maitland torn between their appreciation for the center and the safety of the children.
Should they stay or should the leave?
The bomb threats led to no physical harm and the March arrest in Israel of the suspect led to the conclusion the threats were more harassment than terrorist in nature. But it wasn’t as if the wake-up call wasn’t seen as serious and critical. The Roth JCC had received a bomb threat last year, too, and stands as always as a potential target for waves of anti-Semitic hatred, even though almost half the children served there are not Jewish.
U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy recognized that already when she authored a letter signed by 150 other members of Congress in February urging federal authorities to take swift and sure action and to assure the safety and security of Jewish centers nationwide.
On Monday the Democrat from next-door Winter Park got a chance to tour the Roth Family JCC, through the pre-school and school programs, the athletic, arts and other facilities, and hear first-hand some of the parents’ stories about the fear and terrible dilemma they went through deciding whether to stay when someone was threatening to murder the children there.
The Roth Family JCC and affiliated offices and facilities are undergoing major security changes, some completed, some in the works, some still needing money. And officials there sought to impress upon the congresswoman that the threats remain real, the need for stronger security measures prudent, and anything more Murphy can do to help would be beneficial to a community far greater than the Jewish community.
Keith Dvorchik, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, said the community was able to come together swiftly and strongly to upgrade a number of security issues. However, consultations with the Maitland Police Department and others has led to a few more and the center remains about $200,000 short of the minimum it needs, and much more than that for some broader precautions being considered.
“To me, I always call that a hidden tax of being Jewish. Because you don’t see the YMCA having the security costs … let alone having police and armed security,” Dvorchik said.
Murphy, whose Florida’s 7th Congressional District includes Maitland, pledged that her office would do whatever it could to help.
“The threat has always been very personal for me because I also a mom of two small kids and I drop my children off. And I know there is not a more important decision than who’s taking care of your children when they’re not in your company,” she said. “And so seeing this was wonderful because I get an opportunity to see what an incredible asset the JCC is to this community. But I think the human piece has always been there.”
Murphy has joined fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings’ effort to pursue more Homeland Security anti-terrorism money for cities such as Orlando.
“Our office is committing to assure that everyone in the community feels safe and secure. We stand by to be ready to ensure that’s the kind of community we all live in,” she said.