A number of Jewish Community Centers (JCC) in the U.S. and the United Kingdom received bomb threats on Jan. 9, prompting evacuations.
Marla Cohen, the communications manager of the JCC Association of North America (JCCA), said 16 JCCs in nine different states got threats, including Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, South Carolina and Delaware. (Early reports that Pennsylvania JCCs got bomb threats seem to be, for now, unsubstantiated.)
A security advisory released by the Anti-Defamation League today noted: “While each of these threats must be taken seriously, and investigated by law enforcement, bomb threats are usually used as scare tactics in order to disrupt an institution’s operations, and cause fear and panic.”
Operations were, in fact, disrupted at the Siegel Jewish Community Center north of Wilmington, Del., according to Delaware Online, where four facilities — the JCC, the Jewish Federation of Delaware, the Albert Einstein Academy and Jewish Family Services of Delaware — had to be evacuated.
Disruptions were likewise felt at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville, Md., which reopened at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 9 after the building was evacuated following a mid-morning phone call.
Parents of the Bender JCC’s preschool children were texted to pick up their children at Charles E Smith Jewish Day School, located across E. Jefferson Street from the JCC.
Last week, bomb threats were called into Jewish institutions in Florida, Georgia and New Jersey. The string of threats included a combination of robo-calls and actual people calling, all of which were intended to put a scare into Jewish communities according to Paul Goldenberg, who serves as the director for the Secure Community Network (SCN). SCN works with the Jewish Federations of North America and oversees the safety of Jewish institutions in communities across the United States.
“We have seen over the past 18 months an uptick in domestic terrorism and that people will use tactics with regard to terrifying communities,” Goldenberg said. “They are looking to instill fear and that’s their primary goal.”
Goldenberg said the FBI is investigating the incidents, and that people should never hesitate to contact local and national authorities. The most important piece of advice he has for now is for people in Jewish communities across the country to go on with their lives as normal.
“We cannot change the way we work [and] we should not be changing whether we attend a Jewish community center or not because that’s exactly what they want,” he said.
David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, who works closely with local JCCs on security, issued the below statement this afternoon:
“JCC Association thanks federal and local law enforcement for their quick and thorough response today. JCCs continue to work with them, as they do all year long, to ensure the continued safety of JCC members and all those who participate in JCC activities, as well as the safety of JCC buildings. As of 4:30 p.m. today, local authorities’ investigations in areas impacted have resulted in the all-clear, with most of our JCCs resuming regular operations. We are hopeful that all of the JCCs in our vibrant network across the country will resume regular operations by the end of the day.
“We are proud of our JCCs and grateful for their professional staff, who in the face of threatened violence today, responded quickly, calmly and professionally by implementing well-practiced evacuation procedures and ensuring that no one was harmed.
“Our first priority is safety. JCC Association’s role is to support all Jewish community centers and their members across the continent, as together, we ensure that JCCs remain inclusive, engaging community gathering places and safe spaces.”
Additional reporting by Daniel Schere, Washington Jewish Week