Bomb threats forced Jewish Community Centers at least five states in the U.S. and one in Vancouver, British Columbia to evacuate or go to alert Sunday, on the Jewish holiday of Purim. This brings the count to 156 Jewish institutions that have received bomb threats since the start of 2017.
New York Governor Cuomo called the threat against the Brighton Jewish Community Center “a despicable and cowardly act,” adding that it would not be tolerated.
The new bomb threat against Brighton JCC is despicable, and it will not be tolerated. It is especially repugnant that it took place on Purim pic.twitter.com/7pitvxQLT1
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 12, 2017
For the second time in a week, the Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester was evacuated and temporarily closed in Brighton, in upper New York State. Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson told the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper in a phone interview, “This is larger than the town of Brighton,” and he was absolutely right. The JCC, which reopened by mid-afternoon is doubling as a warming station for anyone who still has no electricity after a massive wind storm that roared through the north last week.
But in addition to the Rochester JCC, others in Houston, Indianapolis, outside Milwaukee and in Vancouver were also threatened on Sunday.
The Whitefish Bay Jewish Community Center in Wisconsin was evacuated for the fourth time in a month after another threat, WISN reported.
A Jewish Community Center in Chicago also received a bomb threat on Sunday.
Houston Police were called to check out the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center after an email threat claimed a bomb would detonate at the center at 2:30 pm — the second such threat in less than a month. This time, JCC officials kept the center open while a K-9 unit from Houston PD searched the building with bomb-sniffing dogs. Nothing was found.
— Stephanie Whitfield (@KHOUStephanie) March 12, 2017
The Indianapolis Jewish Community Center shut its doors briefly after it, too, received a bomb threat, the second in less than two weeks. But Todd Landwehr, senior vice president of health and fitness services said the center would not let the threats get in the way of day-to-day functioning.
“It’s sad that there are people out there causing all of these threats and intimidation,” he told the Indy Star. “I just wish they could find the help they need to come to peace with themselves.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett tweeted Sunday night, “It is disheartening to see neighbors & friends, threatened & fearful.
“In the coming days, IMPD will work with federal partners to identify the source of this threat and hold those involved accountable.”
Indiana remains one of five states across the country that remains without a hate crimes law. Legislation targeting hate crimes failed to pass the state legislature again last month. the bill would have allowed judges to sentence those guilty of crimes motivated by race, religious, sex, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation to heavier penalties.
In addition, a synagogue in Seattle was defaced as well. Temple DeHirsch Sinai was spray-painted with graffiti that said the “HOLOCAUST I$ FAKE HI$TORY!” Seattle police told Fox 61 TV that an off-duty police officer discovered the anti-Semitic graffiti Friday morning on the wall of the old sanctuary of the temple, and contacted the staff.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee condemned the vandalism, saying “It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to condemn any and all acts of hate and intolerance.”
Rabbi Daniel Weiner wrote in a post on the temple’s Facebook page the congregation had upgraded its security. “And as we take all of these precautions, we are also adamant in our conviction that we will not allow the toxicity of intolerance and growing climate of hate to define who we are, how we live and what our nation can be,” he wrote.
“We take courage from the upcoming celebration of Purim and its story in the Book of Esther, as our people triumphed over the evil plans of those who seek to diminish and destroy us, and as we stand shoulder to shoulder with all who are vulnerable and in need, placing our faith in God to inspire us to perfect a broken world.”