Jewish centers around US face wave of bomb threats

In the third such wave of threats this month, more than a dozen Jewish community centers around the United States and one in Canada have been anonymously threatened.

Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP
Police officers stand by as adults and children return to St. Louis Jewish Community Center on Jan. 18 in St. Louis, Mo., after canine units cleared the building. According to St. Louis County Police, someone called the front desk claiming a device was inside.

Thirteen Jewish community centers across the United States and one in Canada received bomb threats via telephone on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, most of the centers had been searched by police and returned to normal operations.

Tuesday’s scare came after two previous waves of bomb threats against Jewish centers on Jan. 9 and 18. While the motives behind the most recent threats are not yet known, many observers see them as part of a recent rise in hate crimes. Whatever the cause, US Jewish groups say they are vigilant but not intimidated.

“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,” Judy Diamondstein, the chief executive officer of the New Haven Jewish Community Center, said on Tuesday, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports. “While we are disrupted, we refuse to be daunted by this.”

While the exact numbers vary because of different reporting methods, both the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League have noted a rise in anti-Semitic acts since 2014. Most of these incidents involved swastika graffiti and similar acts of vandalism, but some – like these bomb threats – pose a direct threat to Jewish people's safety.

The recent presidential election season, in particular, saw a surge in hostility toward religious and racial minorities, which some observers link to the rise of the so-called 'alt-right' movement. President Trump has disavowed the movement, and his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are Orthodox Jews, have come to his defense against claims of anti-Semitic bias.

In the ten days following Nov. 8, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 100 anti-Semitic incidents. In all of 2015, the ADL recorded a total of 941 anti-Semitic incidents, a 3 percent increase from 2014 but far lower than the peak of 1,554 seen in 2006.

"The Jewish community has been dealing with security for decades, and they remain safe institutions. American Jewish citizens are part of the fabric of the United States and these centers are open to everyone," Secure Community Networks’ Paul Goldenberg told the Lake County News-Sun after one center in Lake Zurich, Ill., received an all-clear.

Addie Goodman, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Center of Chicago, agreed. "We're happy to get the all clear and get the students and staff back on campus.... We were able to get back in quickly and that is the good news of the day."

This report contains material from Reuters.

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