US President Donald Trump said Monday he was “disappointed and concerned” by ongoing incidents of anti-Semitism throughout the country, while Jewish groups demanded decisive action and two state governors said they had ordered concerted efforts to capture those responsible.
In the latest in a series of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country, bomb threats were called in Monday to JCCs in North Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, New Jersey and Delaware.
And on Sunday, hundreds of gravestones were toppled in at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia — days after similar vandalism occurred at a St. Louis, Missouri graveyard.
Speaking Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president “continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned over reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.
“The cowardly destruction in Philadelphia this weekend comes on top of similar accounts from Missouri and threats against Jewish community centers,” he said.
Spicer said Trump “continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms. No one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly.”
Two governors of states affected by the bomb threats — Andrew Cuomo of New York and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania — said they had already taken personal action to bring the culprits to justice.
“I am ordering the state police to work with our federal and local law enforcement partners to investigate these threats and apprehend those responsible,” Cuomo said.
“We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York. The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts and these perpetrators will be punished.”
Wolf said he would “not take these threats and acts lightly” and had “asked the Pennsylvania State Police and Office of Homeland Security to offer their full resources towards protecting these institutions and finding those responsible.”
The JCC Association of North America called for “swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture” the perpetrators.
“Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities,” the JCC Association added. “The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out — and speak out forcefully — against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country.”
B’nai B’rith International, meanwhile, called for the Justice Department to “appoint a special coordinator on domestic anti-Semitism.”
The group explained that “the sheer volume of threats and attacks on Jewish institutions in recent months has reached alarming levels that require swift action at the highest levels of government.
“It is time for the government to use its considerable resources to investigate, prosecute and educate.”
Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, told JTA shortly after reports of the bomb threats began coming in that his organization was working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to identify the perpetrators and stop the threats. SCN is an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish groups and institutions on security. SCN also is working closely with the Anti-Defamation League, Goldenberg said.
No actual bombs have been found at any of the dozens of institutions that have received bomb threats in recent weeks.
“The goal of these people is to wear us down,” Goldenberg said. “But we are back in our schools, we are back in our JCCs.”
On Monday, a week ago, 11 JCCs across the country received bomb threats from callers, the fourth such wave of threats in five weeks. In all, several dozen JCCs have received bomb threats, some multiple times.
Earlier Monday, Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to establish an “emergency national program” to prepare for a “waves” of Jewish immigration following a series of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and France.