Oct. 13, 2023— We’ve seen too much violence this week. For those of you who have friends and family in Israel, we hope they are safe and healthy. For those of you who do not, we thank you for caring. There’s an emotional cost to even being aware of Hamas’s atrocities, and the mutual support we’ve seen has been a beacon of hope in the darkness. Coming together, whether for vigils or just spending time with friends, reminds us of the therapeutic power of community.
We are not alone.
The Florida Holocaust Museum frequently emphasizes how tragedies can be opportunities to showcase the best of humanity; in fact, it is one of the most important lessons of the Holocaust, as our Chair, Mike Igel, told WFLA. As this long week comes to a close, we’d like to celebrate the allies who have defended our community and continue to find ways for us all to be Upstanders.
Yesterday, the St. Petersburg City Council voted 6-1 to adopt a resolution affirming Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism. A heartfelt thank you to Councilmember Ed Montanari for introducing the resolution, to Lisset Hanewicz and Gina Driscoll for speaking in favor of it, and to Councilmembers Montanari, Hanewicz, Driscoll, Brandi Gabbard, Deborah Figgs-Sanders, and Copley Gerdes for voting Yes.
We also applaud everyone from our community who came to speak in favor. Chair Igel was among the community members who exhorted the Council to pass the resolution; click here to see his presentation.
Outside the legislative arena, we’ve also seen powerful expressions of solidarity from large and small businesses across the country. Knowing your company is aware of the situation and will stand by you can make a huge difference, and the more entities that speak out, the better.
We’ve developed resources to help more businesses become Upstanders. If you’re an employer looking to craft messages of support to employees, please consider this template. If you’re an employee who’d like to ask your employer to deliver such a message, this template may help. We give special thanks to Cherie Silberman, Esq. at Empath Employment & HR Law for her partnership in the preparation of these templates. Cherie shows us that there are Upstanders in every industry.
To continue spreading light, the Museum has joined with Councilmember Hanewicz and Mayor Ken Welch to request that Janet Echelman’s sculpture at the St. Pete Pier, Bending Arc, be illuminated in Israeli blue and white. City administration is currently working out the logistics. As with this week’s Skyway Bridge illumination, this is a great opportunity to turn a symbol of Florida into a symbol of communal solidarity. Our letter of support is accessible here.
Upstanders are taking action throughout Tampa Bay. Last night, Tampa’s City Hall and Riverwalk were also illuminated in Israel’s colors, for which we thank Mayor Castor and the rest of city leadership.
Many people think of their elected officials only when things are going wrong, but positive reinforcement can be just as important. Please consider writing notes of appreciation to the leaders who have shown themselves to be Upstanders this week. The abovementioned Councilmembers can all be reached here; State Senator Nick DiCeglie, who was instrumental in the Skyway illumination, can be reached here. The allyship of leaders like these defines a welcoming community.
For those who do not live in St. Petersburg or Tampa, let our cities’ leadership be a guide. Whether you live in Sarasota or Manhattan, consider sending a note to your representative to thank them for their support – or to urge them to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism and issue a similar resolution in support of Israel.
Make today the day you call yourself an Upstander. If you’re looking for ways you can help, feel free to contact us. As we’ve noted, the Holocaust provided a blueprint for what happens when the world is silent, and also what happens when Upstanders take action. We will get through this together. Thank you for your support.