Leadership from more than 100 Jewish community centers around the nation signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday expressing frustration over the lack of progress in the investigation into a spate of bomb threats Jewish institutions have received since January. The letter urged the attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice to take immediate action to advance the investigation.
“[W]e are frustrated with the progress in resolving this situation,” the letter, sent by JCC Association of North America, reads. “We insist that all relevant federal agencies, including your own, apply all the resources available to identify and bring the perpetrator or perpetrators, who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in communities across the country, to justice.”
The letter arrives as numerous waves of bomb threats have rocked Jewish community centers and schools around the nation since the start of the new year, with the the latest wave of threats made again this week.
The letter praised efforts of local law enforcement in the communities affected by the threats, calling them “a beacon of responsiveness and professionalism.” It also requested that federal agencies, including the DOJ, make the same effort. The DOJ, along with other federal and local law enforcement agencies and Congress, have a “responsibility to speak out ― and speak out forcefully ― against the threats impacting communities across the country,” the JCC leaders write.
There have now been at least 110 threats made to over 80 Jewish community centers in more than 30 states since January. The Huffington Post is tracking the threats here.
The majority of the threats have arrived via phone, often featuring a disguised, robotic voice. One of those calls warned of “slaughter” by explosion. This week, threats also arrived via email. So far, no explosive devices have been discovered at any of the facilities targeted.
The FBI and the Department of Justice are currently investigating the threats.
Offices for the Anti-Defamation League in various cities have also been targeted in the threats. Along with the threats, Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and New York have also been vandalized. In St. Louis, up to 100 tombstones were toppled. More than a dozen were desecrated in Rochester.
It remains unclear who is making the threats and if it’s one person or a group, but they have rattled communities around the U.S. Last week, the FBI arrested Juan Thompson, a disgraced former journalist, who is accused of making eight of the bomb threats. Police allege he committed the first offense on Jan. 18 ― nine days after the first series of bomb threats around the country.
Earlier this week, a letter signed by every U.S. senator and sent to law enforcement officials in the Trump administration, including Sessions, demanded that more action be taken in response to the threats.
“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,” the senators wrote. “This is completely unacceptable and un-American.”
The letter was also addressed to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and FBI Director James Comey. Kelly has pledged to provide heightened security support for the Jewish community, and Comey met with Jewish community leaders last week to discuss the threats.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes make up the largest portion of religiously motivated attacks in the U.S. These threat incidents are part an uptick in anti-Semitism around the nation that began in 2015. And although the number of Americans who directly support hardened hate groups remains far lower than in prior decades, a recent report from the SPLC indicates that the number of hate groups in America is rising.
President Donald Trump spoke out against the bomb threats, as well as the shooting of two Indian men in Kansas, in his address to Congress last week, saying that the incidents “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
But prior to his speech, Trump reportedly questioned who was behind the waves of anti-Semitic acts, suggesting that they could be made “in reverse” to make “others look bad.” The remarks, which echoed previous statements he’d made saying anti-Semitism was coming from “the other side,” troubled some some government officials and Jewish leaders.
When asked about the reported remarks, a White House spokeswoman told The Hill that “any act of violence against people of the Jewish faith is condemned by this administration. Full stop.”
Wednesday’s letter to Sessions requested a meeting with the attorney general as soon as possible. “The potential ripple effect of these threats locally and nationally cannot be understated,” the letter said.