Jewish community centers (JCCs) and schools in a dozen US states have reported waves of bomb threats. It was the fourth wave of nationwide bomb threats against JCCs in the last five weeks. In total, 69 threats have been reported against 54 Jewish Community Centers.
The JCC Association of North America reported that since the beginning of the year, there have been 69 incidents at 54 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province. Some of the centers that received threats are in Chicago, Buffalo, Houston, Tampa, Nashville, New Jersey, Manhattan and Long Island. All of the bomb threats were determined to be hoaxes.
At a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, the gravesites of 170 Jews were vandalized over the weekend. On President’s Day, the Nashville facility, more full than usual with people exercising on the holiday weekend, was evacuated before security gave the all-clear.
Across the United States, Jewish communities are struggling to deal with this new wave of threats. The calls may not have resulted in violence yet but the intimidation has been felt across the country. American Jews are victims of more reported hate crimes than any other group in the United States and have been subject to the majority of religiously motivated offenses every year since 1995, according to FBI statistics. The threats and vandalism contribute to an atmosphere of anti-Semitism already well-established in the United States.
Dave Simon, the executive director of the JCC in Albuquerque, which has received multiple recent threats said “ The JCCs are equipped to handle these kinds of threats. Some, like Nashville, have full-time security staff, and members seem to understand the need for security. People don’t seem to be staying home; they’re still showing up to community events, swimming classes, and pre-school, all of which are central parts of JCC life.”
Nashville has gotten letters and postcards of support from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Washington State. The neighboring Catholic parish and local Islamic center sent messages of support as well. The attacks have been widely denounced by Jewish organizations and political leaders alike.
President Trump received heavy criticism after he chastised a Jewish reporter and told him to “sit down” at his news conference when the reporter asked about the bomb threats. Reporter Jake Turx was cut off by Trump and chastised for not asking a simple question. Trump added, “So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
Jewish leaders were disappointed that the president didn’t take the opportunity to denounce the waves of attacks and anti-Semitism. Trump did finally speak out during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Tuesday when he said that the anti-Semitic threats are “horrible,” “painful,” and a “very sad reminder of the work that still must be done.”