Jewish centers and schools in at least nine states and Washington, DC, received confirmed bomb threats on Tuesday, forcing evacuations and closures at facilities around the United States.
This latest wave of threats marks the sixth time this year that Jewish facilities have been targeted. Officials report that more than 100 threats have been made in 2017 to Jewish community centers and schools.
The Anti-Defamation League confirmed that it received bomb threats Tuesday at offices in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Washington, DC.
The NYPD confirmed a bomb threat was called in to the ADL’s New York office. “It was unfounded after a search by patrol and emergency service,” a spokesman said.
“This is not normal,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said in a statement. “It is time for action, and we call on the Administration and Congress to take concrete steps to catch those threatening the Jewish community.”
The JCC Association of America confirmed to BuzzFeed News “a developing situation in which several JCCs have received either emailed or phoned-in bomb threats overnight and this morning.”
“We’re still putting it all together,” said David Posner, JCCA Vice President of strategic performance.
Posner, who met with FBI and Homeland Security officials late last week, added that his sense was that discovering who is responsible for these threats is federal law enforcement’s “highest priority.”
The David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida, was evacuated due to a bomb threat that was phoned in Tuesday morning, Davie Police confirmed.
This is the third time this JCC has been evacuated so far this year, and the second time in two weeks, police said.
Bender JCC of Greater Washington, in Rockville, Maryland — another Jewish community center that stayed closed on Tuesday morning and also received prior threats — confirmed in an email to members that it received an emailed bomb threat late last night, calling it “a change in tactics from the previous phone threats.”
Portland, Oregon police confirmed a threat to Mittleman Jewish Community Center on Monday evening. They said the police department has “regularly been providing extra patrol to the community center and other facilities after reports of threats occurring across the United States.”
In addition, two JCCs in Toronto, Canada, also reported threats on Tuesday.
Wisconsin resident Emily Guy Birken told BuzzFeed News that Tuesday was the third time the JCC where her three-year-old son attends preschool, The Harry And Rose Samson JCC, in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, received a bomb threat this year.
“The first time he had no idea what was going on, thought it was a big field trip,” Birken told BuzzFeed News.
She said that her son evacuated the JCC when the first threat was called in on Jan. 31, during the third wave of bomb threats around the US.
“They took him to a Catholic school down the street where they had nap mats, toys, snacks,” Birken said.
The next time on Feb. 20, Birken said, officials took her son to another nearby school that was closed for President’s Day. She said it was a warmer day and the staff treated it like an “impromptu walk outside.”
“He’s pretty unaware of what’s going on,” Birken said.
On Tuesday, the JCC notified Birken and the other parents before school that the night before they had received a threat by email and the facility would be closed in the morning.
“I told him, ‘Your school is going to be open late today. Do you want to go get a donut?’” Birken said.
Asked about how she’s dealing with the persistent threats to her son’s school, Birken said, “I am at the point where I’m very angry. The first one was terrifying. The second one was scary. But at this point, I’m just angry.”
“The protocols and processes for handling these have been smooth,” Paul Goldenberg, national director for Secure Community Network, a homeland security initiative focused on the Jewish community, told BuzzFeed News. “Our staff, our volunteers, our administrators have been prepared. We are executing our emergency. We very much remain open for business.”
“These types of events are not going to stop us from carrying on. These people need to know that they’re not shutting us down,” Goldenberg added.
According to SCN, there have been 122 bomb threats into facilities in at least 36 states since the start of the year.
Days after a fifth wave of threats that saw 30 Jewish community centers and schools in at least 18 states targeted in one day, a former disgraced journalist, Juan Thompson, was arrested and charged in connection with threats in eight states. Federal officials claim Thompson made the threats as a hoax to get revenge on an ex-girlfriend.
Sources close to the investigation tell BuzzFeed News that no arrests have been made related to the more than 100 outstanding incidents from the past few weeks.
An FBI spokesman told BuzzFeed News that the bureau’s investigation into the threats continues and they had nothing new to add.
President Donald Trump, who was initially slow to address the waves of threats, condemned them during his first major address as president, calling for the country to stand “united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
All 100 US senators have signed a letter to the president calling for “swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats” from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.
“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” wrote the senators. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”
Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, also called out the president in a statement: “Lives are at stake — including the lives of Jewish children and Jewish grandchildren. Isn’t it time to do something to protect them?”
“We denounce these latest anti-Semitic and hateful threats in the strongest terms,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily briefing on Tuesday. “It’s incredibly saddening that I have to continue to share these disturbing reports with you, and I share the president’s thoughts that he vehemently hopes that we don’t have to continue to share these reports with you.”
“As long as they do continue, we’ll continue to condemn them and look at ways in which we can stop them,” Spicer added.
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