Florida Gov Ron DeSantis Delivers Powerful Pro-Israel Address at Surfside Synagogue; Signs 2 Bills into Law - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Florida Gov Ron DeSantis Delivers Powerful Pro-Israel Address at Surfside Synagogue; Signs 2 Bills into Law

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By: Fern Sidman

South Florida’s Jewish community was the focus of attention on Monday afternoon when the Sunshine State’s popular governor appeared at a Surfside synagogue. Governor Ron DeSantis delivered a passionate address to over 300 people at the Shul of Bal Harbour on Collins Avenue.

Governor DeSantis seemed to blush when Rabbi Sholom Lipskar introduced him as a “great governor and future world leader.” It has been speculated that the governor, who is running for reelection next year, might run for president in 2024, according to an AP report.

Governor DeSantis took the opportunity to sign into law two bills of particular importance to the South Florida Jewish community, according to a Miami Herald report. One of the bills grants official state authorization for the Hatzolah South Florida branch to operate as an official private ambulance service.

Pictured here is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (left) and Jewish Voice special correspondent at large, Ken Abramowitz at the Shul in Bal Harbour on Monday. Mr. Abramowitz conducted an exclusive interview with Governor DeSantis which will be presented to readers in the next issue.

The Herald reported that Hatzolah is a Jewish-led emergency medical services volunteer network that is part of a larger EMT organization with branches across the nation and in Israel. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Zalman Cohen, the operations manager for Hatzolah of South Florida said, that in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Hatzalah has 70 volunteers, including paramedics and first responders, who work to answer 30 to 150 emergency calls each week including for tourists and non-Jews in the neighborhood.

The new law, known as HB 805, grants authorization for the use of sirens and red lights on privately owned vehicles of volunteer staff in groups like Hatzalah, as was reported by the Miami Herald. This allows for faster response time and transportation of patients to hospitals, according to the bill’s proponents. The bill prohibits the use of sirens and lights when not responding to an emergency.

Hatzalah, meaning “rescue” in Hebrew and founded by a Brooklyn rabbi in 1965 as a volunteer service for the city’s Orthodox neighborhoods, according to the report in the Miami Herald. On Monday, Hatzolah became the first private and faith-based EMT response group in Florida.

“Hatzalah serves Jewish communities with religious sensitivities,” said Representative Mike Caruso. “Many of their community members follow strict Jewish guidelines, only speak Yiddish or Hebrew, and some are Holocaust survivors whose religious beliefs mean that their preference is to be transported and treated by a member of their own community; someone they know. This bill simply allows orthodox Jewish paramedics and EMT’s to serve and treat orthodox Jewish members of their own community under the Jewish laws of life.”

The ambulance bill was championed in the state Senate by Democrat Jason Pizzo, the only elected Democrat to take the stage with the governor during the bill signings, as was reported by the AP.

“Hatzalah provides invaluable emergency service to our community, so I’m delighted that Governor DeSantis has taken the time to sign this bill here with the organization,” said Senator Pizzo.

The second bill that Governor DeSantis signed into law that would require public schools in Florida to hold at least one minute of silence to allow students to meditate or pray. The bill known as HB 529 directs the principal of each public school to require teachers in first-period classrooms in all grades to set aside 1 to 2 minutes daily for a moment of silence to allow students to meditate or pray. During these moments, students may not interfere with other students’ participation. This is an expansion of current law which only “encourages” a moment of “silent prayer.” The new law also provides that it is incumbent upon teachers to encourage parents to discuss the moment of silence with their children and to make suggestions as to the best use of this time. Teachers may not make suggestions as to the nature of any reflection that a student may engage in during the moment of silence.

“Every family in our state should be able to send their children to school and know that they will be protected from harm and be able to practice their faith,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I’m proud to sign these bills today to help protect religious freedom in Florida and increase the safety and security of our Jewish communities. I will continue to make sure that in Florida we root out anti-semitism, and that every day we show our support for Israel and our Jewish communities.”

He added that, “It’s something that’s important to be able to provide each student the ability, every day, to be able to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit. The idea that you can just push God out of every institution, and be successful — I’m sorry, our founding fathers did not believe that.”

“We know that many children struggle with mental health issues, which impact them, their families, and their schools most of all,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “HB 529 empowers families to begin those ongoing conversations with their child on what they might reflect on during the moment of silence, and help them use this time as an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming day.”

“In this often times frantic pace of modern life, students need a moment to gather themselves in a quiet moment of reflection,” said Senator Dennis Baxley. “Who knows how much a moment of silence and reflection may direct their day?”

“In this world of technological, media-driven, and societal turmoil, our children desperately need time for quiet reflection,” said Representative Randy Fine. “Because it is in those fleeting moments that we find our higher purpose. That’s why I was so proud to sponsor HB 529, to ensure that each child gets a minute at the beginning of the school day — without a TV on or a cellphone blaring — to think about the world and their place in it. It is my hope that these small moments to become emotionally centered will have a big impact on their days — and their lives.”

As the most decidedly pro-Israel governor in America, Governor DeSantis also highlighted initiatives included in the Florida Leads Budget to support Florida’s Jewish community and Israel, including:

$4 million in security funding for Florida’s Jewish Day Schools, including for the first time ever funding for professional security

$1.35 million for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Pete

$400,000 for the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach

$100,000 for the Holocaust Task Force

$250,000 for the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator

$1 million in recurring funds for collaborative research, development, and commercialization of projects related to aerospace and other technology through a memorandum of understanding which Space Florida has entered into with Israel

AP reported that during his speech, Governor DeSantis referred to the United Nations as corrupt, saying the world body does more to sanction Israel than castigate China, which he lumped with what he referred to as “rogue regimes.”

As DeSantis began speaking, authorities forcibly removed a heckler from the hall. It was unclear what message the man was making as police pulled him away, most of his words inaudible to those watching a broadcast of the rally.

Next week, the Jewish Voice will present an exclusive one-on-one interview with Governor DeSantis that was conducted by special correspondent, Kenneth Abramowitz.

Subsequent to Governor DeSantis’ address, Abramowitz remarked: “There was huge excitement in the air as the audience of all ages appreciated everything that the Governor has done for the Jewish community. He highlighted his new legislation curbing anti-Semitism in Florida and another bill authorizing the ambulance services of Hatzalah to be officially recognized. He also highlighted the new moment of silence for all school kids. He is determined to return G-d to our schools. G-d bless this great public servant!!”

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