New Orleans JCC briefly evacuated over bomb threat

Police respond to hoax scare in Louisiana city, days after 11 Jewish community centers, ADL received similar threats

The New Orleans Jewish Community Center (Wikimedia Commons)
The New Orleans Jewish Community Center (Wikimedia Commons)

The Jewish community center in New Orleans was evacuated on Thursday after receiving a bomb threat, the latest JCC to be targeted, capping a week of similar scares at other US Jewish institutions.

A phone call threatening a bomb attack was made to the JCC at 9:15 a.m., Katie Steiner of WWL-TV in New Orleans reported in a Twitter post. People were allowed back into the building about two hours after they were evacuated.

JCC staffers told another WWL reporter, Lyons Yellin, who was working out at the facility, that the bomb threat was a recording.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu tweeted Thursday that “anti-Semitism will not be tolerated” in the city and said the FBI was investigating.

On Monday, bomb threats were called in to JCCs in Albuquerque, Whitefish Bay, Birmingham, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, St. Paul and Tampa, in the fourth such wave since January. All were found to be hoaxes.

A day later, the Lawrence Family JCC in La Jolla in San Diego was evacuated after receiving an emailed bomb threat.

Since January 9, there have been at least 69 bomb-threat incidents at 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province.

On Wednesday, the Anti-Defamation League also received a bomb threat that law enforcement found to be “not credible.”

“This is not the first time the ADL has been targeted, and it will not deter us in our efforts to combat anti-Semitism and hate against people of all races and religions,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement.

This week also saw the desecration of more than 170 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis.

The ADL and many other Jewish-American groups had called on US President Donald Trump to condemn the bomb threats and anti-Semitism in general, which has seen a spike in incidents since his upset victory in November.

The US president faced growing criticism for failing to explicitly renounce anti-Jewish sentiment, and on Tuesday, after months of silence, issued a long-awaited statement, saying: “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

The statement was welcomed by the ADL, while others have asked for a specific plan for tackling the phenomenon.

The FBI last month stated it has opened an official probe into the bomb scares, which, the bureau said, it was treating as hate crimes and not terrorism.

On Wednesday, more than 150 members of Congress signed a letter urging federal law enforcement officials to investigate.

The bipartisan letter, initiated by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Florida), urged the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Attorney General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to “approach this issue with a sense of urgency, and to work in partnership with state and territory governments, local law enforcement officials, JCC Association of North America, individual JCCs, and Jewish community institutions and leaders to address the threat in a holistic manner.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has been supportive of Trump, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to establish a task force to track down the perpetrator of bomb threats against Jewish community centers, and said Trump must “outline his administration’s plan to combat surging anti-Semitism.”

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