Anti-Defamation League Offices, Jewish Community Centers Targeted In New Round Of Bomb Threats

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Anti-Defamation League says it received bomb threats at four of its offices Tuesday, the same day more Jewish Community Centers across the country were also targeted in a new round of threats.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the list of Jewish groups receiving threats on Tuesday is unfortunately long – also including six Jewish Community Centers and three day schools in six states.

Just before 10 a.m., the ADL headquarters on the corner of East 39th Street and Third Avenue received an anonymous phone call saying there was a bomb in the building and it will go off in 20 minutes, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.

Police were called to the scene and while the building was not evacuated, some people voluntarily left the building on their own.

After a search of the building, police say there were no explosive devices found.

But late Tuesday, police officers were still surrounding the ADL building, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported. Some were wearing tactical gear and holding long guns.

The NYPD has promised an increased police presence at Jewish centers around the city.

“It’s disconcerting and it’s not something that is a normal way of doing business during the day,” ADL New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “It’s difficult for staff to have to contend with it.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised an “aggressive” NYPD response to all acts of hate.

De Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill met with New York Jewish leaders at a Staten Island JCC that received a bomb threat last week.

“Forces of hate have been unleashed, and it is exceedingly unsettling to people who are the victims,” de Blasio said.

In a statement on Twitter, ADL chief executive officer Jonathan Greenblatt said offices in Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C. also received telephoned bomb threats Tuesday morning.

“We call on @POTUS to take concrete steps to catch those threatening the Jewish community,” he said in his tweet.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer condemned the latest wave of anti-Semitic attacks.

“We denounce these latest anti-Semitic and hateful threats in the strongest terms,” Spicer said.

The Chicago Jewish Day School, a private school in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, was also evacuated due to a bomb threat Tuesday morning, CBS Chicago reported.

Coverage From CBS Chicago — Jeremy Ross Reports:

Greenblatt said Jewish Community Centers and day schools in Oregon, Wisconsin, upstate New York, Florida and Maryland were also targeted.

David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Florida, about 25 miles north of Miami, was evacuated around 10 a.m. Tuesday, after a second bomb threat in the past eight days. Police searched the grounds and gave the all-clear about two hours later.

“All of a sudden, it’s escalated. Kids are being targeted simply because they are Jewish and that’s the only reason,” said Maggie Fischer, whose children attend the school. “In this day in age, this shouldn’t be happening.”

Coverage From CBS Miami — Carey Codd Reports:

The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, was closed for about two hours Tuesday morning, after receiving an emailed bomb threat overnight, CBS Chicago reported. The center reopened around 9 a.m. It was at least the third bomb threat at the center since Jan. 31.

The Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center in upstate Brighton, just south of Rochester, also was evacuated Tuesday. The building was re-opened after police determined there was no bomb.

“We’ll look to work with the FBI to see if ours is similar or different than the other threats that have been received,” Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson told 1010 WINS’ Steve Kastenbaum.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a bomb threat was also received at a DeWitt JCC outside of Syracuse.

“State Police are on the scene at all three incidents and are continuing to assist federal and local officials as well as JCC membership and staff and ADL local affiliates,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The JCC Association of North America also released a statement, saying “several JCCs have received either emailed or phoned-in bomb threats overnight and this morning.”

Last week, 20 bomb threats were called into JCCs in 12 separate states during the day, including multiple locations in New York and New Jersey.

Cuomo said he is directing state police to work with federal and local law enforcement to launch a full investigation into the latest incidents.

“New York has always stood as a beacon of diversity and inclusion, and we will continue to stand united in the face of this virulent strain of hatred and anti-Semitism,” he said. “These incidents go against every tenet of our state’s tradition, and we will continue to send a strong message that New York has zero tolerance for intolerance.”

The Federal Communications Commission has also granted a request from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) allowing Jewish facilities to trace calls from blocked numbers.

Federal officials have now been investigating more than 120 bomb threats called into Jewish organizations since January. Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized.

Meanwhile, New York City officials said there has been an unprecedented 113 percent increase in hate crimes so far this year. There have been 100 hate crimes reported in New York City since Jan. 1, compared with 47 for the same period in 2016. A total of 55 of the hate crimes reported in the city have been anti-Semitic, compared with 19 last year.

“This issue is not just an issue for members of the Jewish faith. It’s an attack on everybody in New York City,” O’Neill said. “I’ve been in the Police Department for 35 years, and I don’t think there’s anything wer take more seriously than hate crimes.”

Police sources said the recent spate of hate crimes has been particularly ugly.

Two days ago, for example, an employee of the East Midwood Jewish Center received a voicemail stating: “Oy vey, we are coming to spray your synagogue with pigs blood, the goyim. That’s right you (slur). Take a hike.”

“We don’t take any of it lightly. People have every reason to be concerned,” de Blasio said. “But we’re going to go right at any acts of hate. We’re going to crack down on any movement that purveys hate as a way of showing that we’re not going to let it happen here.”

On Friday, authorities said they arrested Juan Thompson, 31, in St. Louis and charged him in connection with a bomb threat to the ADL’s national headquarters last month.

Authorities said he’s also charged in connection with at least eight threats against JCCs nationwide. Prosecutors said the threats were made in an effort to harass and vilify his former girlfriend.

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