Homeland Security offers support to Jewish communities amid bomb threats
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Homeland Security offers support to Jewish communities amid bomb threats

DHS head John Kelly says agency advisors to provide expertise on 'protective measures, threat reporting and security awareness'

Children evacuating from a Jewish school in Davie Florida, on February 27, 2017. (screen capture: WPLGLocal10/Facebook)
Children evacuating from a Jewish school in Davie Florida, on February 27, 2017. (screen capture: WPLGLocal10/Facebook)

US authorities on Wednesday offered support to Jewish communities across the United States in the wake of a series of bomb threats made to Jewish community centers and a wave of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries in recent months.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is advising Jewish communities and offering protective measures, DHS Secretary John Kelly said in a statement issued late in the day.

“In light of the nature of the threats to Jewish Community Centers, I have directed DHS to heighten our outreach and support to enhance public safety,” Kelly said.

“DHS has Protective Security Advisors in all 50 states who serve as liaisons to government, industry and community leaders, and who provide expertise on protective measures, threat reporting and security awareness,” he said.

The advisors will offer support “in terms of training, protective measures, exercises and information sharing.”

Counterterrorism experts have also provided Jewish communities information about available federal help, Kelly added.

US Homeland Security chief John Kelly speaks during a joint press conference with Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong (out of frame), at the Foreign Ministry building in Mexico City on February 23, 2017. (AFP / Ronaldo SCHEMIDT)
US Homeland Security chief John Kelly speaks during a joint press conference with Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong (out of frame), at the Foreign Ministry building in Mexico City on February 23, 2017. (AFP / Ronaldo SCHEMIDT)

It includes “facility vulnerability assessments, as well as assistance to connect organizations with active shooter preparedness and bombing prevention training and guidance, tabletop exercises, protective measures, guides and other tools to strengthen security,” he said.

“The right to worship and commune within and across faiths is fundamental to the American experience and our way of life. DHS will continue to support communities across the country to preserve these fundamental freedoms,” Kelly said in his statement.

At least 100 Jewish community centers and schools in 33 states have reported bomb and other threats since the start of the year.

Last weekend, vandals broke and overturned more than 500 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.

Melanie Steinhardt comforts Becca Richman at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)
Melanie Steinhardt comforts Becca Richman at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)

The attack came a week after more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri. The incident prompted a visit by Vice President Mike Pence.

After remaining silent on the Missouri attack for several days, Trump decried the anti-Semitic threats as “horrible” and “painful” last week.

However, concern is rising about his embrace by white supremacist groups and an “alt-right” movement given a platform on Breitbart, the online news outlet once headed by Trump’s chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

The White House also raised eyebrows on International Holocaust Remembrance Day late last month by issuing a statement that made no mention of the six million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide.

During a speech to Congress on Tuesday, Trump criticized the recent threats against Jewish community centers and condemned the apparently racially motivated killing of an Indian immigrant in Kansas City last week.

“Recent threats,” Trump told Congress, “targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

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