It is a rare day when the entire U.S. Senate speaks with one voice. That day was March 6, when a sixth wave of bomb threats were phoned in and emailed to Jewish institutions across the country. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and FBI director James Comey, all 100 senators called for “swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats.”
The senators reflected the anxiety of those who have watched the threats made again and again, seemingly with impunity: “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs,” they said.
The letter called on the men responsible for keeping Americans safe to help “JCCs, Jewish day schools and synagogues improve their physical security, deterring threats from being made, and investigating and prosecuting those making these threats or who may seek to act on these threats on the future.”
We applaud the statement. It brings the seriousness of the threats front and center without parsing, denying, changing the subject or trying to score political points. And we hope that similar, forthright support will come when other faith or ethnic groups are threatened in these or more violent ways.
But we also hope that the senators’ unifying declaration isn’t a signal for everyone to go home, simply because the threats have been denounced. What is needed now is concrete, visible action to match the words and the sentiment in the statement. We will not know who is committing these crimes until they are caught. And we need to know that the pursuit of the offenders is vigorous and unrelenting.
Hate and anti-Semitism are nothing new. Rather, it is the frequency and visibility of what we have been witnessing since January that is so alarming. Juan Thompson’s goal may not have been to terrorize Jews when he allegedly called in eight bomb threats to JCCs and the ADL, but he is accused of using the cover of earlier bomb threats to harass an ex-girlfriend.
Although the focus of our discussion has been the Jewish community, the response needed is much broader. We need our leaders to denounce hate at all levels and to address the security of all minorities, including our Jewish community. And while they are at it, it wouldn’t hurt for our leaders to express acceptance of minorities and the vulnerable, no matter their ethnicity. Because even when those who are making bomb threats are caught, this last need will still be just as strong.