The BBC and other news outlets are reporting that 27 Jewish community centers in 17 states have received phoned-in bomb threats, a “second wave” following a similar series of threats called in to 16 centers on January 9. The calls have been hoaxes – no bombs were found – and the FBI and the justice department are investigating.
From the BBC:
Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, an organisation that advises Jewish groups on security, said the sheer volume of threats was startling.
“These are individuals or groups that want to disrupt our way of life,” Mr Goldenberg said.
“We’re not going to shut down institutions because of this.”
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-bigotry organisation, said that though the threats did not appear credible, they should still be taken seriously.
The ADL says it has received reports of threats in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Delaware, Connecticut, Alabama, California, Maine, Tennessee, South Carolina, Missouri, Texas and Kansas.
From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
In many cases Wednesday the callers were live, Goldenberg said, as opposed to the previous threat, when calls were recorded. He said the caller in most cases was a woman, who kept the call brief: leveling the threat and then hanging up.
In some cases, calls to communities near one another came within minutes. News 10 in upstate New York reported that a call came into the Albany just a minute after a similar threat was called into the JCC in the Town of DeWitt, near Syracuse, about a two-hour drive from Albany.
Goldenberg said his organization was consulting with federal authorities, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. He said there was no information as to the perpetrator, but noted an increase in social media threats, particularly from the far right.
“The neo-Nazi or white supremacist hate groups seem to be becoming much more vocal,” he said. “Their threats are much more specific, in some cases they’re calling for armed marches,” citing as an example a march in Whitefish, Montana, that was planned and then canceled. “In some cases, leaving very specific threats against Jewish communities — bombing threats, harassment.”
From the New York Times:
Jewish community centers “have prepared for situations like this,” said David Posner, a vice president with the J.C.C. Association who helps local centers refine their security protocols. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s necessary.”
In Birmingham, Ala., where a call about a bomb led to an evacuation on Wednesday, Betzy W. Lynch said the wave of threats “reinforces the importance of the work” of the centers across the country.
“We are required to look at these things and take these threats very, very seriously, but at the same time, our goal is to improve the world and build relationships with people,” said Ms. Lynch, the executive director of the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham.
Photo: from JTA report; caption: The Albany JCC closed briefly due to a bomb scare, Jan. 18, 2017. (Screenshot from Twitter)