Bomb Threat Targets Jewish Children’s Museum In Brooklyn

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Another bomb threat targeted a Jewish institution in the Tri-State Area Thursday.

This time, an email threat shut down the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, Brooklyn for hours, as the bomb squad investigated what turned out to be a sick and illegal joke.

Museum founder Devorah Halberstam said the threat came in from overseas to the museum on Eastern Parkway around 8:30 a.m.

“There was a threat that there were three pipe bombs planted in the museum,” said Halberstam, who founded the museum after her 16-year-old son Ari was killed in the 1994 Brooklyn Bridge shooting. “A person who would make a threat is a person who is full of hatred.”

Museum staffer David Sholom Pape building when it was evacuated He spoke Thursday with CBS2’s Jessica Moore.

“Thousands of Jews come here all the time,” Pape said. “And this is how (those issuing threats) work — they go for a soft spot, right?”

The 50,000 square-foot facility was evacuated and searched.

Once the all-clear was given the museum reopened for business.

Halberstam called it a horrible and sad event.

“It’s very unfortunate but this is the world we live in, we have good and bad,” Halberstam said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both visited the museum to show their support.

“I can’t tell you how personally upsetting it is to me,” Cuomo said. “It’s repugnant to everything we are and we believe as New Yorkers. It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.”

The governor spoke about the New York State Police task force that is designed to track down people terrorizing Jewish centers across New York.

“When we find you — and we will find you — you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Cuomo said. “That I can promise you.”

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer asked Cuomo, “If you could talk to the people making the threats, what would you say to them?”

“I wouldn’t say anything that you could show on that camera,” Cuomo replied.

As investigators work to find the people responsible, parents are dealing with the potential impact on their children.

“We say our Tanakh,” said Yichevet Lieba. “We have to pray. We need Hashem to protect everyone.”

“We do a lot of praying — a lot of prayer,” said Tikva Kolodny of Crown Heights.

While many parents in the Jewish community rely on a foundation of faith to help their kids cope, experts say there are tactical ways of helping them understand and process what is happening.

“It can be very traumatizing,” said psychotherapist Jennifer Abcug.

Abcug said kids look to their parents for how to react.

“For kids, it’s always reassurance; calmness, because they have wild imaginations,” she said.

Children’s imaginations can often surface in ordinary ways that parents should look for, according to Abcug.

“What’s going on in their closet; in their room? Who’s outside their window at night? Sometimes it’s good to start paying attention to what they’re drawing, or what they’re playing with, or how they’re playing with it,” she said. “They need to also see that we continue kind of doing the things we always do, even in the face of kind of strange, scary things happening.”

Earlier Thursday, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism John Miller said that investigators believe one man using a voice changer and phone spoofing device is behind a large number of the scores of threats made against U.S. Jewish institutions this year.

Miller appeared on the show “CBS This Morning,” describing the attacks as coordinated. The spoofing device makes it appear the call is not coming from the number the man is using, and makes it appear it’s coming from within the institution, he said.

“We have an offender with some technical prowess here,” Miller said.

The Anti-Defamation League says 148 threats targeting Jewish institutions have been received across the country since January.

One arrest has been made in the threats, a man accused of making eight of the calls in an effort to harass his ex-girlfriend.

Miller said the NYPD is working with federal officials who are the lead investigators on the case. He said he’s working with institutions in New York to help them manage responses to the threats.

“Most of the time, the person who’s legitimately trying to do harm doesn’t call ahead to diminish the amount of harm he or she is doing,” he said.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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