More than two dozen Jewish community centers were evacuated on January 18th after a series of bomb threats. This makes for a troubling trend, as this wave of bomb threats followed closely after 16 more Jewish centers were targeted on January 9th.
In both waves of threats, no bombs were found. Though physically safe, the bomb threats left many in the Jewish community shaken and terrified.
27 Jewish Centers Evacuated After Bomb Threats
The network of Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the U.S. offer religious and cultural programming, but they are also home to child care, preschool, and after-school programs.
This is not the first time JCCs have come under threats of violence. In recent years, threats and attacks include a shooting at a JCC in Seattle, a shooting at a JCC in Kansas, a planned terrorist attack at a JCC in Arizona, and a number of other bomb threats and hate crimes against the Jewish community.
According to the JTA, this latest wave of bomb threats came from live callers, mostly female. The calls were brief and to the point and all came pretty closely together. At this time, neither the FBI nor local law enforcement has identified any suspects.
After evacuations and a clearing of the area by the authorities, many JCCs reopened and continued their work providing “inclusive, engaging community gathering places and safe spaces.” The responses to the threats at JCCs across the country went as planned by security protocols. Leaders in the community remained calm and law enforcement acted quickly.
Despite the smoothness of the response, though, many of the people who were evacuated found the experience to be viscerally traumatizing. For children old enough to be aware of the gravity of the situation, in particular, the experience was likely scary and confusing.
Jewish Community Remains on Alert
Although so far these threats do not appear to be credible, we are recommending that Jewish communal institutions review their security procedures. Even if no one was hurt in this latest round of threats, the sheer magnitude of threats paints a troubling portrait of how devastating a successful attack could be.
Adam Chaskin, the Executive Director of Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center in Albany, NY, says that they are reviewing all safety protocols to ensure they are prepared for any future threats or attacks.
Other JCCs across the country are doing the same. David Posner of the JCC Association of North America put out a statement expressing concern about the anti-Semitism at play in the situation, saying that “while the bombs in question are hoaxes, the calls are not.”
Many in the Jewish American community are worried about what they see as a surge in anti-Semitism, particularly after the divisive election cycle that ended with the election of Donald Trump. Parents, understandably, are particularly worried after these threats to the places their children go for education and childcare.
What We Can Expect
The rise of anti-Semitic behavior and hateful rhetoric doesn’t show any signs of subsiding. Despite this, leaders in the Jewish community and allies across the religious and political spectrums are holding firm to the values they hold dear.
Rather than giving in to fear, JCCs are committed to remaining safe and welcoming spaces. The leaders are adamant that they will do everything in their powers to keep the people safe. If the next round of bomb threats ends up not being a hoax, the deep resolve and faith of this community, along with the swift action and skill of law enforcement, will be put to the test.
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