Terrorism

JCCs Across U.S. Targeted by Bomb Threats For Third Time This Month

At least 17 Jewish community centers across the United States received bomb threats on Tuesday, the third time this month that a wave of JCCs has received such threats on the same day.

Among the JCCs targeted were those in Boulder, Colo.; Albany and Syracuse, N.Y.; West Orange, N.J.; Milwaukee, San Diego, and Salt Lake City.

Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network, a group affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America that advises Jewish institutions on security, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that most of the calls came in late Tuesday morning.

“In the past we know that the numbers can grow exponentially,” Goldenberg noted, adding that those making the threats have been “leveraging technologies to make mass calls.” Goldenberg told the Chicago Tribune that in this case, the culprit “is a live person telling people, or describing what kind of bomb or devices have been hidden.”

The JCC in New Haven, Conn., which is currently housed in several locations due to a fire last month, evacuated people from all of its facilities after receiving a live call just before noon. The New Haven JCC was one of the more than 30 that was similarly threatened on January 18.

“We recognize that we live under a new set of circumstances that we have to be responsive to, and take every possible precaution to keep our people safe,” said New Haven JCC CEO Judy Diamondstein. She said that routines were “disrupted” but that the community refused to be daunted.

According to Diamondstein, the New Haven JCC has been having safety drills to prepare for potential emergencies and had previously scheduled a session with an FBI agent to improve readiness in case of an active shooter.

“Our Jewish community centers are focusing on security today more than ever before, and in spite of these continuous bomb threats I’m confident that our institutions are taking security seriously — and in many cases Jewish institutions are more secure than institutions frequented by the general public,” Goldenberg told the JTA.

“The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country,” FBI spokeswoman Sandra Barker said in a statement. “The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner. As this is matter is ongoing, we are not able to comment further at this time.”

In addition to the January 18 threats, at least 16 JCCs had their operations disrupted due to a rash of threats on January 9.

[Photo: San Diego JCC / YouTube ]