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Bomb threats

19 Jewish community centers in 12 states rattled by bomb threats in one day

19 Jewish community centers in 12 states rattled by bomb threats in one day

Bomb threats rattled at least 19 Jewish community centers and day schools across 12 U.S. states in the South and the Northeast on Monday — the latest in a recent uptick of anti-Semitic violence.

Threats were called in at centers in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia, according to local media reports and police. There were no reports of injuries at any of the locations. It’s the fifth such round of threats to prompt evacuations at Jewish centers since the beginning of the year.

Monday’s bomb threats follow an incident over the weekend where 100 tombstones in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were knocked over, in what local and state officials have described as an act of vandalism. A similar incident took place at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis the previous weekend.

Since the start of 2017, more than 60 Jewish centers in the U.S. had received a total of nearly 170 bomb threats, compared with just a single isolated incident in that same time period in 2016, the Jewish Community Center Association told VICE News last week. In 2015 there were no reported incidents.

State lawmakers on Monday condemned the threats. “Now there’s been a bomb threat at @KatzJCC & another cemetery desecrated, I urge everyone to stand up & speak out against anti-Semitism,” wrote New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez on Twitter. “Any [Jewish community center] targeted, let alone half a dozen across NJ, is abhorrent and requires a full investigation to stamp out these frightening acts.”  

In New York, threats were directed at Jewish centers in Staten Island, Westchester, and Long Island, among other locations. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a statement saying he had directed state police to partner with federal and local law enforcement to investigate the threats. “Make no mistake: These reprehensible and cowardly acts are not limited to the Jewish community,” Cuomo wrote. “These are assaults on all New Yorkers, and I vow that we will do everything in our power to catch those responsible for this wave of hate crimes.”

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer condemned the threats, but President Donald Trump has yet to directly respond to this latest spate of violence directed at the Jewish community, and so far, his administration has been criticized for what some see as a lack of sensitivity toward anti-Semitism. For example, the White House made no mention of Jews in the statement it released on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January.

At a press conference earlier this month, a Jewish reporter from a conservative publication asked the president whether his administration felt any responsibility for the apparent uptick in hate crimes directed toward Jews since the election. Trump told the reporter to “sit down” before declaring, “I am the least anti-Semitic person.” In the days following that conference, Trump did denounce violence directed toward Jews, and Vice President Mike Pence was photographed helping to clean up the debris in the desecrated cemetery in St. Louis.

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center, called on Trump in a statement Monday: “Do something, Mr. President,” Goldstein wrote. “We are experiencing a national emergency of hatred against Jews and you must stop it immediately.”

“Rightly or wrongly, the most vicious anti-Semites in America are looking at you and your administration as a nationalistic movement granting them permission to attack Jews,” Goldstein said. “You cannot just say this is not your fault. Slow and inadequate responses can make it partly your fault. You must do more than belatedly condemn anti-Semitism.”

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