In the wake of 11 new threats today against Jewish centers, from New York to New Mexico, the FBI said it is investigating, along with the Department of Justice, bomb threats to the centers across the country.
Federal authorities are looking into threats communicated to at least 60 Jewish centers around the country this year. The threats started in January and the FBI began investigating later that same month. The threats have come in “different waves,” with more threats phoned in to centers today, according to one source familiar with the matter.
The FBI said it is “investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers.”
“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner,” the FBI said in a statement. “As this is matter is ongoing, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
This year, a total of 69 threats to 54 JCCs have spanned 27 states and one Canadian province and came in four waves: Jan. 9, Jan. 18, Jan. 31 and then today, the JCC Association of North America said.
In today’s wave of threats 11 JCCs received bomb threats over the phone, the JCC Association of North America said. All threats were determined to be hoaxes, and all JCCs returned to normal operations, it said.
The threats today included a JCC in St. Paul, Minnesota, a JCC in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and two Jewish centers around Buffalo, New York.
The Department of Homeland Security has also been working on this matter. Almost immediately after the threats are reported to federal authorities, the DHS is informed and disseminates the information nationwide through the Homeland Security Information Network channel “so that others can see that these calls are going on and respond accordingly,” one source said.
David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, said that while the JCCs that received the threats have all resumed operations “with a heightened level of security,” he added, “we will not be cowed by threats intended to disrupt people’s lives.”
“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” Posner said. “Local JCCs serve not just the Jewish community but the entire community. Participants from all different backgrounds come to their local JCCs.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement today that the threats are “alarming, disruptive, and must always been taken seriously.”
“We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions, to make it clear that such actions are unacceptable and to pledge that they will work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those responsible will be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in the statement.
At a press conference last week, when a Jewish reporter started to ask President Trump about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., he said it wasn’t a fair question and told the reporter to sit down. Trump then said he is “the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
He later responded to questions about possible anti-Semitic activity saying, “As far as people, Jewish people … I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you’re going to see a lot of love.”
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said today, in response to the threats, “Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individuals freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”