Third Wave of Bomb Threats: At Least 17 Jewish Centers Across U.S., Canada Receive Bomb Alerts

Threats have been called into in centers in California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada.

A police officer from Overland Park, Kansas, guarding the entrance to the scene of a shooting at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, April 13, 2014.
Reuters

At least 17 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats in the third wave of such mass disruption this month.

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks — an affiliate of the Jewish federations of North America, which advises Jewish groups and institutions on security — said the threats were called in late Tuesday morning. Some of the messages were live, he confirmed.

“[I]n the past we know that the numbers can grow exponentially,” he said, adding that perpetrators have been “leveraging technologies to make mass calls.”

David Posner, the director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, confirmed that threats had been called into JCCs in California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada.

The JCC in New Haven, Connecticut, received a live call at 11:45 A.M. on Tuesday threatening violence. The JCC is housed in several locations following a December 5 fire, and evacuated about 100 people from those places following the call. After law enforcement determined that the threat was not credible, the evacuees returned. The New Haven JCC was also targeted in a wave of bomb threats about two weeks ago.

“We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe,” said New Haven JCC CEO Judy Diamondstein. “While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this.”

Diamondstein said the JCC has drilled safety protocols extensively in order to be prepared for a situation like this. Diamondstein had a previously scheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon with an FBI officer to sharpen procedures for dealing with an active shooter.

“We have been diligent in looking at our security for a while now,” she said.

Goldenberg said his organization was instructing the JCCs to be in touch with local police to determine if they should evacuate. The JCC MetroWest in West Orange, New Jersey announced an evacuation at 11:42 A.M.

“In light of the newest bomb threats, we must remain a resilient community, and we need to ensure that we are back at our JCCs as soon as local police advise the all-clear,” Goldenberg said.

He added: “Our Jewish community centers are focusing on security today more than ever before, and in spite of these continuous bomb threats I’m confident that our institutions are taking security seriously — and in many cases Jewish institutions are more secure than institutions frequented by the general public.”

Posner, whose role involves advising local JCCs on security policies and practices, expressed concern "about the anti-Semitism behind these threats."

"Safety is our top priority," Posner said in a statement. "JCC Association is coordinating security trainings for JCC executives and staff, to ensure that our community of professionals across the country is prepared with critical tools, resources and contacts."

A Jewish day camp near Chicago was also threatened. The Lake County sheriff received a call from Apachi day camp that the site had received a bomb threat by telephone.

"Students in attendance at the camp were transported to a different location," the JCC said of the facility which serves as a daycare center during the school year.

The Anti-Defamation League said it will organize security trainings in partnership with the FBI in response to the series of bomb threats.

“Unfortunately, threats like this are nothing new for the Jewish community,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL's CEO, said in a statement. “Still, it is vitally important to take these threats seriously and to ensure that every institution is prepared to respond to this type of security emergency."

IfNotNow, an anti-occupation group, said in a statement, "The bomb threats on Jewish community centers across the country, and recent destruction of a mosque in Texas, are direct results of the culture fomented by Trump’s violent rhetoric and recent policies."

The group added that "This is another signal to the Jewish community that we are not safe in a Trump Administration and another wake-up call to Jewish institutions to leverage their resources and political power, and join forces with other marginalized groups to resist Trump at every opportunity."

On January 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On January 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds.