New wave of bomb threats at Jewish centers across US
For fourth time in five weeks, JCCs evacuated, after phone calls threaten attacks in Minnesota, Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama and other states
At least 10 Jewish community centers across the United States were targeted with bomb threats on Monday, for the fourth time in five weeks.
The threats have been called in to JCCs across the country, according to Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network — an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security.
News reports indicated that threats were received by JCCs in St. Paul, Minnesota; Houston, Texas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Birmingham, Alabama.
The threats were called in on Monday morning. It is not known if they were live calls or recorded.
“It appears to be the same serial caller” as in the prior incidents, Goldenberg told JTA.
Goldenberg said that some of the JCCs were evacuated and others were not.
“The JCCs are very well equipped to handle this,” he said.
Goldenberg did not confirm where any of the threats occurred, saying they took place across the country and that his office “is monitoring the situation.”
Goldenberg said the fact that the threats were made on Presidents Day, when more people might be in the buildings during the daytime, does not appear to be a factor in the threats.
Last week, President Donald Trump shouted down a Jewish reporter who asked him what he planned to do about rising anti-Semitism in America, and who cited the series of bomb threats to JCCs.
Trump, towards the end of a contentious news conference on Thursday and fielding questions about the multiple scandals and mishaps afflicting his young administration, said he wanted to take a question from a friendly reporter.
Jake Turx, an ultra-Orthodox reporter for Ami Magazine, volunteered, saying “I’m friendly,” and prefaced his question by saying that his community did not regard Trump as anti-Semitic.
“I haven’t seen anyone in my community accuse you or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic,” Turx said. “We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren, you are their zayde,” or grandfather in Yiddish.
Trump appeared to understand what Turx was saying, thanking him.
“What we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” Turx continued, citing the dozens of bomb threats called into Jewish community centers in recent weeks.
Trump interrupted and accused Turx of dishonesty. “It’s not a simple question, not a fair question,” the president said. “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life.” He also said he was the “least racist person.”
Turx interrupted, saying he did not believe Trump was anti-Semitic, and Trump shouted him down, “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”
The Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, was evacuated at about 10:30 a.m. on Monday, and reopened at about 3 p.m., an hour after police and FBI officers said that everything was clear, according to local reports. A message on the JCC’s website read: “The JCC is currently closed and safely evacuated.” It was the second time in recent weeks that the JCC was evacuated due to a bomb threat.
The Jewish Community Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, including an early childhood program, was also evacuated on Monday morning, according to Minnesota Public Radio. The students at the center were moved to a nearby fire station while police cleared the building and investigated.
The Jewish Community Ctr. in Highland Park was evacuated due to a bomb threat. Students moved to nearby fire station while building cleared.
— Saint Paul Police Department (@sppdmn) February 20, 2017
A total of 48 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province received nearly 60 bomb threats during January. On Jan 31, some 17 JCCs across the United States were targeted with bomb threats. On Jan. 18, some 30 Jewish institutions in at least 17 states received bomb threats. On Jan. 9, such threats were called into 16 JCCs across the Northwest and South, forcing the evacuation of hundreds. All the threats were false.