Connecticut Synagogue Evacuated Amid Bomb Threats Ahead of Pittsburgh Massacre Anniversary

Reform Congregation B’nai Israel has signed up to participate in #ShowUpforShabbat campaign, an initiative launched last year following the Tree of Life attack

Reform Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport, Connecticut, December 2016.

NEW YORK - A synagogue in Connecticut was evacuated after it received two bomb threats on Friday afternoon, hours before holding Shabbat services commemorating the anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting attack. 

Congregation B’nai Israel, a Reform congregation in Bridgeport, was evacuated after it received the threatening calls, local police said.  

The incident comes as the American Jewish community is marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in which a gunman killed 11 people.

After evacuating and searching the building, the Bridgeport Police declared the area as safe, but additional police forces were assigned to protect the synagogue over the weekend.    

“Our first priority was to evacuate all of the students and employees from the building,” B’nai Israel Rabbi Evan Schultz and the synagogue President Shari Nerreau wrote in a statement on Facebook. “Everyone is safe. [...] We will hold Shabbat services as scheduled tonight.”

The Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs said that the incident was“deeply troubling”. 

“This Shabbat, as we commemorate one year since the deadly attack on Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA, we must yet again reckon with hate and intimidation against the Jewish community and our houses of worship,” the rabbi said. 

“We must come together as one to confront the roots of anti-Semitism in order to bring these senseless acts to an end,” Jacobs added. “On this Shabbat and each one to come, we join with all people of good conscience who remain committed and steadfast in unity and solidarity.”

Synagogues across the United States will be hosting masses this weekend, as Jews and non-Jews attend Shabbat services to protest anti-Semitism as part of #ShowUpforShabbat, an American Jewish Committee initiative launched last year following the Pittsburg attack.

AJC is urging people to attend synagogue this Shabbat to show solidarity with Jews in light of the anniversary. The group said that the Bridgeport synagogue had signed up to participate in the campaign.

"Thankful that no one has been hurt, we pray for the community's safety," AJC wrote on Twitter. 

JTA contributed to this report.