In just over a month, Jewish Community Centers across the country and abroad received anonymous bomb threats on five separate occasions.
Two Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) in Central Florida received threatening phone calls on January 4. A rabbi who answered one of those calls believes the person on the other end was using a voice-changing device. Both locations were determined to be safe after a search by law enforcement.
Less than a week later, on January 9, 16 JCCs in the United States and United Kingdom received live and robocall bomb threats. Individual who answered the robocalls heard the following:
“It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag (inaudible). In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go.”
On January 18, more than two dozen more JCCs received threats.
A third incident occurred on January 31, when 27 JCCs received calls, many of them for the second time. This includes Albany and DeWitt JCCs in New York and Greater New Haven JCC in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
One of the JCCs threatened that day was the London Jewish Community Centre located in Ontario, Canada, a country already on edge after a right wing extremist killed six people in a mass shooting at a Quebec mosque earlier in the month.
The last wave of threats occurred on February 20, Presidents' Day, when 11 JCCs in 10 cities received telephone bomb threats.
All centers, many of which house schools and adult day care centers, were evacuated. Police blocked off streets and brought in K-9s before ascertaining, in all cases, that the threats were not credible.
The Jewish Community Center Association of North America has expressed that “While the bombs in question are hoaxes, the calls are not”.
Anti-Semitism has been pervasive in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that in 2016, “there is one anti-Semitic assault reported in this country every week, and at least two anti-Jewish incidents on average every single day.”
ADL’s Task Force on Harassment and Journalism found that over the course of a year, from August 2015 to July 2016, 2.6 million tweets were sent containing language commonly found in anti-Semitic speech.
Unprotected printers were targeted by neo-Nazi hacker Andrew “weev” Auernheimer in 2016. Auernheimer exploited a software vulnerability in internet connected printers to send thousands of flyers to businesses and universities supporting the killing of Jewish and black children, asking white men if they were tired of Jews.
According to the Daily Stormer, the top hate website in the country, “The day is coming when we’re going to tear down the hoax [Holocaust] memorial in Berlin and replace it with a statue of Hitler 1,000 feet tall,” the website proclaims.
One well-known anti-Semitic attack was perpetrated by Frazier Glenn Miller, a Klan member who shot two people outside a Jewish Community Center and a third at a Jewish retirement complex in Kansas in 2014. After the shooting Miller yelled “Heil Hitler,” asked an officer how many Jews he killed, and later confessed that his biggest fear was to die without killing any Jews.
Miller’s attack is one reason why Jewish Community Centers have reason to be concerned about the recent wave of bomb threats.
Local police, the FBI, DHS and DOJ are all investigating.