Senate Calls for Federal Action Against Anti-Semitic Threats

Senate

In a powerful moment of unanimity on Tuesday, the Senate called upon the Trump administration to support the Jewish community, in light of recent security threats to Jewish community centers (JCCs) across the nation. All 100 Senators signed a letter urging the administration to actively address the upsurge in bomb threats against Jewish institutions. The letter asks the administration to reach out to JCCs, schools, and temples and help to “enhance security measures and improve preparedness.” The Senators specifically suggest “victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance” for Jewish centers.

The Senate’s plea expresses deep concern about the increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide. Over 100 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers and institutions this year, according to the FBI. The Secure Community Network of the Jewish Federations of North America reported nearly two dozen threats this week alone. In Missouri, Juan Thompson of St. Louis was arrested by the FBI and charged with issuing eight threats to Jewish schools, museums and activist groups, including the Manhattan office of the Anti-Defamation League. Thomson allegedly contacted Jewish institutions in New York City, Michigan, San Diego, and Dallas, claiming to know of bombs on their grounds.

These “cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve,” the Senate letter reads. It is of utmost importance to the Senators that the administration takes swift and pointed action to combat this issue. They warn that “failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs.”

The Senators commend federal action taken thus far and hope to remain informed about further plans to address the threats. The letter was penned by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and sent to US Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey.

 

The full text of the letter can be found below, and at this link:

 

Dear Secretary Kelly, Attorney General Sessions, and Director Comey:

We write to underscore the need for swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other buildings affiliated with Jewish organizations or institutions across the country. We thank you for your recent efforts and ask that you inform us of the actions that your Departments plan to take to address threats against these and other religious institutions. We stand ready to work with you to ensure that these centers can continue to serve their communities free from violence and intimidation.

It has become clear that threats of violence against individual JCCs are not isolated incidents. According to the Jewish Federations of North America, in the first two months of 2017 alone, at least 98 incidents against JCCs and Jewish Day Schools at 81 locations in 33 states have been reported. These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states. In addition to reports of incidents at JCCs and Jewish Day Schools, there have been incidents at cemeteries in both St. Louis and Philadelphia involving the desecration of Jewish headstones. This is completely unacceptable and un-American.

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, many of which are institutions in their communities. Your Departments can provide crucial assistance by helping 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 in the future. We encourage you to communicate with individual JCCs, the JCC Association of North America, Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other Jewish community institutions regarding victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance that may be available to enhance security measures and improve preparedness. We also recognize the anti-Semitic sentiment behind this spate of threats and encourage your Departments to continue to inform state and local law enforcement organizations of their obligations under the Hate Crime Statistics Act and other federal laws.

We are ready to work with you to address this pressing issue, and we look forward to your responses about the actions you intend to take to address, deter, and prevent this threat.


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