A new wave of anti-Semitic bomb threats targeted at least six Jewish community centers nationwide Sunday, forcing evacuations of many of these venues, including one in Houston.
The threats came on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which tells the story of the Jewish people triumphing over an evil man who sought their annihilation in ancient Persia.
Staff at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center (JCC) in southwest Houston called police after receiving the threat by email. They evacuated staff, students and members. Officers said the threat claimed a device would explode on the premises at 2:30 p.m., KHOU reported. Bomb sniffing dogs and law enforcement swept the building but nothing suspicious was found.
In response to Sunday’s anti-Semitic incident, Joel Dinkin, executive vice president of the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, said community members and staff were “disturbed” by the threat. “You can’t prepare for it,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “You can only continue to review your protocols and respond accordingly.”
Other bomb threats occurred on Sunday at Jewish community centers in New York, Rochester, Indianapolis, and one outside of Milwaukee. No suspicious materials were found in any of these facilities either. An affiliated Canadian JCC in Vancouver, British Columbia, also received a threat later deemed “non-credible,” according to the Jewish Press. Reportedly, more than 150 bomb threats have targeted Jewish venues since the beginning of the year.
This was also the second bomb threat the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC received in 2017. On February 20, this facility was among at least 10 other Jewish community centers across the country to get a bomb threat by phone, according to the JCC Association of North America. At the time, parents were alerted and the staff and students inside were evacuated to a separate building while Houston police and bomb sniffing dogs combed the facility, KPRC reported. They found nothing suspicious in this incident either.
In a March 8 letter, more than 140 leaders affiliated with the JCC Association of North America, including Dinkin, asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to beef up federal resources to find and bring to justice the perpetrator(s) “who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in communities across the country.”
JCC leadership pointed out these centers serve millions of Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who rely on them for early child education, senior programs, recreational, fitness, cultural, and other learning social opportunities.
“While we are relieved that no one has been hurt, and all calls have been hoaxes, anti-Semitism of this nature should not, and must not, be allowed to endure in our communities or to metastasize into something worse,” the letter stated.
Earlier in March, U.S. Jewish groups hailed President Donald Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism in opening remarks to his first address to Congress, Breitbart Jerusalem reported.
On Friday, vandals defaced Seattle synagogue Temple De Hirsch Sinai by spray painting Holocaust-denying graffiti onto an exterior wall. It read: “The Holocaust is fake news.” An off-duty police officer discovered it on the façade of the old sanctuary. KING reported the temple decided to keep the graffiti uncovered so people could see what happened. The Seattle Police Bias Crimes unit continues to investigate the anti-Semitic rhetoric on the synagogue and add patrol units in the area. Founded in 1899, the temple has the largest Reform congregation in the Pacific Northwest.
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