Anonymous bomb threats rattled at least 16 Jewish community centers in the United States on Monday, according to the JCC Association of North America.
The bomb threats were reportedly called into Jewish schools and centers in South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Local police evacuated some of the targeted buildings and conducted checks, finding no explosives. Many of the JCC centers resumed regular operations later that same day.
Barry A. Abels, executive director of a JCC in Columbia, South Carolina, told The New York Times that the threat was delivered by an anonymous woman who called their phone line and “in a loud screaming voice kept saying there’s a bomb.”
Richard Sandler, chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, told The Associated Press that some of the threats were made with prerecorded telephone calls.
Federal officials have not found a link between the incidents. Nevertheless, the calls have disturbed Jewish leaders across the country who have been on alert amid a recent rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and vandalism.
Jerry Silverman, JFNA president and chief executive, told The New York Times that he believed the threats reported on Monday were part of a “coordinated effort” to frighten Jews.
“We’ve seen this at Jewish community centers over the last year,” Silverman said. “We’ve seen it at Jewish day schools. We’ve seen it at synagogues.”
More recently, the Anti-Defamation League found a spike in anti-Semitic hate speech directed towards Jewish journalists on Twitter during the past election cycle. And in the weeks following President-elect Donald Trump’s victory, anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism was reported in several American schools and colleges.
After Monday’s incidents, the Anti-Defamation League urged Jewish institutions across the country to review their security policies and procedures.
“Unfortunately, such threats are not new to the Jewish community,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said in a press release. “While each of these threats must be taken seriously, and excellent preparation is key to a good response, bomb threats are most often not credible and are usually used as scare tactics in order to disrupt an institution’s operations, and to cause fear and panic.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated with more information from the JCC Association of North America about the geographic spread of the threats.