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American Jews Confront a Wave of Bomb Threats

Jewish Community Centers around the country have been bombarded by menacing phone calls. For the most part, people are sad, not scared.
The Nashville Jewish Community Center has now gotten so many telephone bomb threats that the dates run together, said Leslie Sax, the executive director. The first call came on January 9, when Nashville was one of the first 15 JCCs to get threats. The next call was January 18, accompanying yet another national wave. The latest was just this weekend, on Presidents’ Day, when 11 JCCs around the country were threatened, according to a spokesperson for the national organization. The Nashville facility, more full than usual with people exercising on the holiday weekend, was evacuated before security gave the all-clear.
“Most people just feel sadness—they’re sad that this is happening,” Sax said. “Everyone keeps saying they’re disheartened and frustrated.” But even though people are upset, they don’t seem to be scared. “I haven’t heard fear,” she said.
Across the United States, Jewish communities are struggling to deal with this new wave of threats. While none of the bomb threats have led to violence, Monday’s calls came around the same time as another attack : Roughly 170 Jewish graves in a Missouri cemetery were desecrated over the weekend, according to The Washington Post. The calls may be a novel form of intimidation, but the context around them is not. American Jews are victims of more reported hate crimes than any other group in the United States, and have been subject to the majority of religiously motivated offenses every year since 1995, when the FBI first started reporting these statistics. The phone calls may not result in violence, but they contribute to an atmosphere of anti-Semitism already well-established in the United States.
In total, the national JCC has tallied calls to 53 JCCs in 26 states in the last two months. On Monday, the calls came in to a wide range of locations : Albuquerque, Birmingham, two locations in Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, St. Paul, Tampa, and Tulsa, according to a list compiled by a national JCC spokesperson. “We are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” said David Posner, the director of strategic performance at the JCC Association of North America, in an emailed statement.
The calls seem to be connected : They are coordinated in timing and message, and often contain generic promises of violence. In one recording, posted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the caller threatens, “In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to ... blown off from the shrapnel.” Sax would not share exact details about the calls Nashville has been receiving, but confirmed that theirs have been similar to those recorded elsewhere.
On Monday night, President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, condemned the attacks on Twitter.

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