JCCs to Sessions: Frustration with probe of bomb threats
(JTA) – Executives from 141 Jewish community centers including Tampa signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing frustration with efforts combating a rash of bomb threats.
The letter, sent Wednesday, March 8 by the JCC Association of North America, the national organization of Jewish community centers, requested a meeting with Sessions and urged the Justice Department to do more to stop the threats.
It also praised local law enforcement’s response to the incidents and recognized President Donald Trump’s condemnation of them.
Heidi Shimberg, chief operation officer of programs and services for the Tampa JCCs, was among the signatories.
More than 100 bomb threats have hit JCCs and other Jewish sites across the country since the beginning of the year.
The Department of Homeland Security has made its regional experts available to JCCs, and leaders of major Jewish groups met with FBI Director James Comey on March 3. Local JCC directors have repeatedly praised the response of area law enforcement.
Authorities have yet to identify the person or people behind most of the threats. Juan Thompson, a St. Louis resident charged with making eight of the threats to avenge a former romantic partner, appears to have been a copycat.
The text of the letter from the JCC executives follows:
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
Since the beginning of January, Jewish Community Centers, schools and other Jewish institutions in more than 30 states have been threatened over 100 times, forcing evacuations and bomb searches, and creating disruption and fear. While we are relieved that no one has been hurt, and all calls have been hoaxes, anti- Semitism of this nature should not, and must not, be allowed to endure in our communities or to metastasize into something worse.
President Trump forcefully condemned the situation at the outset of a speech to Congress, DHS has promised heightened support to JCCs through its protective security advisors, and our leadership had the chance to meet with FBI Director Comey.
Still, we are frustrated with the progress in resolving this situation. We insist that all relevant federal agencies, including your own, apply all the resources available to identify and bring the perpetrator or perpetrators, who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in communities across the country, to justice.
Representing the millions of Americans – both Jewish and non-Jewish – who rely on Jewish Community Centers for early childhood education, senior programming, afterschool and teen activities, safe places for community discussion, and a variety of recreational, fitness, cultural and educational activities, we, leaders of JCCs across the continent and of JCC Association of North America, ask that you meet with us to discuss specific steps that will be taken to deter further threats, discuss security needs, and seek justice.
Local law enforcement have represented a beacon of responsiveness and professionalism as our communities have endured dozens of anti-Semitic threats in past weeks. We respectfully ask that federal agencies, including your own, do the same.
Our nation’s JCCs are vibrant community gathering places, not just for the Jewish Americans who founded them, but also for many members of the wider public. More than two million people pass through our doors each year to take part in our programs, and the JCC Movement has been a part of North America’s landscape for the last century. As we celebrate our centennial, we draw strength from our mission to enhance not only Jewish life, but also community life as a whole, and we will not allow anti-Semitism to get in our way. But the Justice Department, alongside fellow federal and local agencies and officials, and Congress, have a responsibility to speak out – and speak out forcefully – against the threats impacting communities across the country.
The potential ripple effect of these threats locally and nationally cannot be understated.
We respectfully request a meeting with you as soon as possible. We know that you will want to treat this case with the utmost urgency it deserves.