(JTA) — Wednesday, Jan. 18 — The Jewish Community Centers in Worcester and Newton, were among at least 18 Jewish institutions across the United States to receive bomb threats today, in the second wave of such mass disruption in two weeks, Jewish security officials said. Also receiving bomb threats were the Mandell JCC in West Hartford, Conn. and Greater New Haven JCC.
Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks — an affiliate of the Jewish federations of North America, which advises Jewish groups and institutions on security — said that, in addition to the two Connecticut JCCs, there were bomb threats called in Wednesday morning to Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions in Miami; Edison, New Jersey; Cincinnati; Alabama, Albany (NY), Nashville; suburban Boston and Detroit, the Orlando area, and the West Coast.
Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts, sent an email to Jewish organizations and Federation and JCC members on Wednesday.
“As many of you no doubt know, we were among the communities receiving a non-credible threatening phone call today, which comes only a week after similar threats were called into more than a dozen other Jewish institutions. We commend the JCC for their good work handling this difficult situation. The JCC and Jewish Federation worked with the proper authorities and followed all recommended procedures, ensuring the ongoing safety of our community. Jewish Federation has a department based out of the New York office dedicated to security and assisting us in these types of incidents. We have been in contact with that office and we are working with them to schedule a workshop for all of our Jewish institutions and synagogues in the very near future. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of everyone in our community. After receiving a similar phone threat from a woman caller at 9:30 a.m., the Mandell JCC also evacuated its facility on Bloomfield Ave. After a search by police, the building was deemed safe.”
On Jan. 9, bomb threats were called into 16 institutions across the Northeast and South, and hundreds of people were evacuated. All the alerts were false.
In many cases Wednesday the callers were live, Goldenberg said, as opposed to the previous threat, when calls were recorded.
This round of bomb threats is the latest incident in a recent wave of increased anti-Semitism in the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League documented rising anti-Semitic abuse on Twitter last year, as well as a spike in hate crimes following the presidential election. Elise Jarvis, associate director for communal security at the ADL, said she anticipates more incidents like this in the future.
“These things often come in cycles,” she told JTA Wednesday. “All these things, when you bring them together, it paints an intense picture.”
Jarvis said institutions need more training in how to deal with bomb threats, including which questions to ask the caller — where the bomb is, for example — and how to handle other threats like suspicious mail. If staff are aware of security procedures, she said, being prepared doesn’t have to be costly.
“We need to be providing a lot more training, specifically on how to respond to bomb threats,” Jarvis said. “The longer you can keep someone on the phone, the better.”
Secure Community Networks held a conference call later the same week with top FBI and Homeland Security officials for over a thousand callers from Jewish groups across the country.