Jewish Leaders Encouraged After Meeting Sessions to Discuss Hate Crimes

'Encouraging and important' meeting takes place in Washington as attorney general reassures community heads that appropriate steps are being taken to tackle anti-Semitic incidents.

Jeff Sessions, U.S. attorney general, speaks during a White House briefing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 27, 2017.
Bloomberg/ Andrew Harrer

A group of leaders from Jewish American organizations met on Thursday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Washington to receive updates about investigations into recent anti-Semitic hate crimes and to discuss ways to tackle that phenomenon going forward.

The meeting came at the request of the Jewish leaders in the wake of events such as bomb threats against Jewish centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.

Sessions told the group, which included representatives from the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, the Jewish Federations, the Anti-Defamation League and others, that the administration was devoted to supporting the Jewish community and will work towards increasing their safety.

Richard Stone, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who attended the meeting, said afterwards that Sessions was "extraordinarily sensitive to the growing threat of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and expressed a serious intention to do everything the Justice Department can do to ensure both the safety and the quality of the American Jewish community. Stone said the meeting had been "encouraging and important.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that has been vocally critical of the Trump administration on issues related to the Jewish community in recent months, also made positive comments after the meeting. "We thank the Attorney General for meeting with us. We shared our gratitude for his work and the efforts of the Department of Justice and the FBI in response to recent bomb threats," Greenblatt said. "We were very encouraged to hear the Attorney General commit to the enforcement of existing hate crimes laws in light of ongoing incidents targeting Jews and other minorities." 

Two suspects are currently being held over waves of bomb threats made to Jewish centers around the country, one in Israel and one in the United States.

An American-Israeli teenager is being held on suspicion of being behind a large number of the of fake bomb threats, though the exact number is as yet unclear. On Thursday it was decided that he will remain in detention for at least one more week as the investigation continues. The defense team of the 18-year old suspect has claimed that he suffers severe medical difficulties that may have impaired his cognitive function.

A second suspect, Juan Thompson of St. Louis, was arrested on charges related to making threats to at least eight American Jewish organizations, and will remain in custody until his hearing on April 10.

According to a report released last week by the Anti-Defamation League, there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools in 37 states and two Canadian provinces since the beginning of the year.