Fourth Wave of Bomb Threats Targets 10 Jewish Community Centers in at Least Six U.S. States

New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, New Mexico and Alabama centers affected, according to local news reports. Trump's racist remarks empowered anti-Semites to act, Alabama rabbi says.

The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Google Street View

At least 10 Jewish community centers in at least five U.S. states were targeted with bomb threats on Monday, the fourth such mass disruption in less than two months. 

According to local news reports, centers in New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Mexico,Texas and Alabama were targeted. 

The threats have been called in to JCCs across the country, according to Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network — an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security. “It appears to be the same serial caller” as in the prior incidents, Goldenberg told JTA.

Goldenberg said that some of the JCCs were evacuated and others were not.

“The JCCs are very well-equipped to handle this,” he said.

Goldenberg did not confirm where any of the threats occurred, saying they took place across the country and that his office “is monitoring the situation.”

Goldenberg said the fact that the threats were made on Presidents Day, when more people might be in the buildings during the daytime, does not appear to be a factor in the threats.

Last week, President Donald Trump was asked during a news conference about the prior JCC bomb threats and what the government’s response would be to “an uptick in anti-Semitism.” Although the reporter did not suggest Trump was anti-Semitic, the president answered by denying he is an anti-Semite and called the question “insulting.”

The Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Alabama was briefly evacuated Monday morning after receiving a bomb threat. Rabbi Barry Leff of Temple Beth-El in Birmingham told Haaretz that President Donald Trump's racist remarks had empowered anti-Semites to act, "so far, with threats." "Racism and anti-Semitism have become more socially acceptable now."

"There's a saying, 'Perception is reality.' Some people are more frightened.  There has even been a case of a family that suspended activities at the synagogue, but mostly, people are on edge, stressed."

Betsy Lynch, Director Levite JCC said that the community center was briefly evacuated after a telephone was received stating with "There's a bomb in the building." Lynch said it was unclear whether the call was recorded or live. A similar incident took place a month ago.

"Anti-Semitism comes and goes in cycles, and this is a cycle.  There are acts of anti-Semitism throughout the United States," Lynch said. "Alabama is a very red state, indeed, but we have received tremendous support from the greater Birmingham community. In fact, a non-Jew came into the office to join the JCC just after we resumed normal operations because he wanted to show his support."

"Clearly, someone is invoking fear against Jews, but we are not going to let them."

The Anti-Defamation League also responded to the incidents. “We are confident that JCCs around the country are taking the necessary security protections, and that law enforcement officials are making their investigation of these threats a high priority,” said ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt.

“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,” he added.

The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, Milwaukee was evacuated Monday morning after receiving  threatening phone calls, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Two Jewish Community Centers in Buffalo, New York were also evacuated Monday morning following bomb threats, the Buffalo News reported.

The St. Paul Jewish Community Center in Minnesota was evacuated Monday morning after a bomb threat, the Star Tribune reported citing local police.

The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center in Houston, Texas was also evacuated following a bomb threat received by phone, a local NBC affiliate reported.

A Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico was also evacuated following a bomb threat Monday morning, local broadcaster KOB4 reported.

A total of 48 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January. On Jan 31, some 17 JCCs across the United States were targeted with bomb threats. On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds. All the threats were false.

After each wave of threats, evacuations and the “all clear” from the police, the community centers resume activity, leading some to dismiss the bomb threats as merely a hoax. And yet, while no bombs were found at any of the JCCs, those who regularly attend the schools, community centers, and day cares that are evacuated are shaken and fearful after each set of calls directed at the Jewish community.