Sixth Wave

Jewish Community Centers Across U.S., ADL Evacuated After Bomb Threats

More than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year.

The Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center in Rochester, New York.
The Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center in Rochester, New York. Google Street View

At least 11 Jewish community centers and institutions across North America and four Anti-Defamation League offices have received threats of lethal attack, the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year.

As of midday Tuesday, threats had been reported at Jewish institutions in Massachusetts, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, Oregon, Florida, Alabama and at least two community centers in New York, according to Secure Community Network, the security arm of the Jewish Federations of North America. In addition, two threats were directed at Canadian JCCs, in Toronto and London, Ontario.

Some threats were called in over the phone, while others were emailed.

Chicago5, NBC’s Chicago affiliate, reported a bomb threat at the Chicago Jewish Day School on the city’s North Side. The MetroWest Daily News reported that a day school housed in Temple Beth Shalom in Framingham, Massachusetts was also evacuated.

Several of the targeted institutions were evacuated following the threats, but the JCC in Syracuse, New York, was different in nature from the other threats. Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, would not elaborate. On Twitter, the Syracuse JCC said people inside had sheltered in place before the all-clear.

Meanwhile, the ADL said its national office in New York, its office in Washington, D.C., and its regional offices in Atlanta and Boston had been threatened.

“This is not ‘normal.’ We will not be deterred or intimidated,” ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, 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 Portland, Oregon threat came in Monday evening by email, and the JCC alerted local police and the FBI and closed early for a sweep.

In Rochester, the evacuation of members and staff on Tuesday was ordered shortly before 6 A.M., the local ABC affiliate 13WHAM reported. About 75 people were evacuated from the building. Parents whose children attend the JCC day care were notified and asked to make alternate child care arrangements for the day, according to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper.

Local and state police officers and FBI agents reportedly were on the scene to sweep the building.

The bomb threat comes less than a week after at least five headstones were toppled at the Waad Hakolel Cemetery, also known as the Stone Road Cemetery, in Rochester.

A JCC Toronto patron posted photos on Facebook of the downtown building being evacuated. “We are huddled inside the Second Cup where they are giving out free coffee and tea,” she said, referring to the Canadian coffee shop chain.

Ron Halber, the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said a threat to the JCC in Rockville, Maryland, was emailed late Monday night, and necessitated an additional sweep of the premises with bomb-sniffing dogs, in addition to the routine daily sweep the JCC undergoes. There was no evacuation, he said.

“The person who is doing this will fail,” Halber said. “If anything, it’s bringing people together. It makes people want to stand up more. This is being a catalyst for greater Jewish involvement and pride.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the latest threats "incredibly saddening" and said the Trump administration would continue to denounce them and work towards ending them. In a rare display of bipartisan cooperation, all U.S. Senators joined forces to call on the Trump administration to offer support and assistance to the U.S. Jewish community

Goldenberg, the SCN director, said that in every instance, procedures were followed and things went smoothly.

“The protocols and processes that these institutions have in place have gone smoothly,” he said. “Our constituents and members have remained safe.”

More than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in Philadephia, St. Louis and Rochester, as well as two other waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.