Jewish cen­tres cope with bomb threats

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - MICHAEL RUBINKAM

Jewish cen­tres and schools across the U.S. coped with an­other wave of bomb threats Mon­day as of­fi­cials in Philadel­phia be­gan rais­ing money to re­pair and re­store van­dal­ized head­stones at a Jewish ceme­tery.

Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ters and day schools in at least a dozen states re­ceived threats, ac­cord­ing to the JCC As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica. No bombs were found. Many of the build­ings were cleared by early Mon­day af­ter­noon and had re­sumed nor­mal op­er­a­tions.

It was the fifth round of bomb threats against Jewish in­sti­tu­tions since Jan­uary, prompt­ing out­rage and ex­as­per­a­tion among Jewish lead­ers as well as calls for an ag­gres­sive fed­eral re­sponse to put a stop to it.

“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,” said David Pos­ner, an of­fi­cial with JCC As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica. “Mem­bers of our com­mu­nity must see swift and con­certed ac­tion from fed­eral of­fi­cials to iden­tify and capture the per­pe­tra­tor or per­pe­tra­tors who are try­ing to in­stil anx­i­ety and fear in our com­mu­ni­ties.”

The FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Civil Rights Di­vi­sion are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the threats.

In Philadel­phia, po­lice in­ves­ti­gated what they called an “abom­inable crime” af­ter sev­eral hun­dred head­stones were top­pled dur­ing the week­end at Mount Carmel Ceme­tery, a Jewish ceme­tery dat­ing to the late 1800s.

Po­lice said the van­dal­ism ap­peared to be tar­geted at the Jewish com­mu­nity, though they cau­tioned they had not con­firmed the mo­tive. Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney said au­thor­i­ties were do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to find those “who des­e­crated this fi­nal rest­ing place.”

The dam­age comes less than a week af­ter a Jewish ceme­tery in sub­ur­ban St. Louis re­ported more than 150 head­stones van­dal­ized, many of them tipped over.

“I’m hop­ing it was maybe just some drunk kids,” said Aaron Mallin, who dis­cov­ered the dam­age at the Philadel­phia ceme­tery dur­ing a visit to his fa­ther’s grave. “But the fact that there’s so many, it leads one to think it could have been tar­geted,” he told WPVI-TV.

Well-in­ten­tioned vol­un­teers rushed to the ceme­tery af­ter the dam­age was dis­cov­ered Sun­day to be­gin putting the head­stones back up, com­pli­cat­ing ef­forts to tally the dam­age and per­haps in­ves­ti­gate the crime, said Steven Rosen­berg, chief marketing of­fi­cer of the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Greater Philadel­phia.

A day later, Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ters in nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware, and a day school in the Philadel­phia sub­urbs were among those get­ting bomb threats that Rosen­berg called a “com­plete nui­sance.”

“There’s plenty of peo­ple who are scared,” said Rosen­berg, who de­nounced the hoaxsters as “an em­bar­rass­ment to civ­i­lized so­ci­ety.”

Some 200 peo­ple were evac­u­ated from a Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in York, Penn­syl­va­nia, af­ter a caller told the front desk there was a bomb in the build­ing, said Melissa Plotkin, the York JCC’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and di­ver­sity. Po­lice en­tered the build­ing and cleared it, she said.

Jewish cen­tres and schools in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, In­di­ana, Mary­land, Michi­gan, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Is­land and Vir­ginia also were threat­ened, ac­cord­ing to the JCC As­so­ci­a­tion of North Amer­ica.

Paul Gold­en­berg, di­rec­tor of the Se­cure Com­mu­nity Net­work, a non-profit founded by sev­eral na­tional Jewish groups to bol­ster se­cu­rity in the Jewish com­mu­nity, said Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ters and other Jewish in­sti­tu­tions have ex­ten­sive se­cu­rity pro­to­cols in place. Af­ter deal­ing with Mon­day’s threats, he said, the “Jewish com­mu­nity is back in business.”

JAC­QUE­LINE LARMA, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rabbi Joshua Bolton of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Hil­lel Cen­ter sur­veys dam­aged head­stones at Mount Carmel ceme­tery Mon­day in Philadel­phia. More than 100 head­stones have been van­dal­ized at the Jewish ceme­tery.

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