A bomb threat sent by email on Thursday morning resulted in the evacuation of the Jewish Children’s museum in Crown Heights. Police and FBI are on the scene.
The threat, sent by email at 9:15, was received by Devorah Halberstam, a political activist and one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Jewish Children’s Museum, the largest Jewish children’s museum in the country.
Halberstam’s son Ari was killed by a Lebanese national who fired shots into a van of young Jewish men on the Brooklyn Bridge. According to the website collive.com, the threat is believed to be in part, related to or in response to a column by Halberstam published last night in The Daily News addressing the topic of immigration.
Thursday afternoon the museum remained closed to visitors, but was open to the press, police and politicians — including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio, who both made appearances.
Asked by a reporter whether she wanted to send a message to the person who made the threat, Halberstam said “This is who we are. This is my pride and joy. My son [Ari] lives in this building. Ari is here with us today his spirit is with us. And we are just gonna keep building, we’re gonna keep growing, we’re gonna keep standing up, we’re not cowards.”
Nearby, a local Chabad resident who asked that we only use his first name, David, expressed exasperation rather than fear. “It’s just so frustrating, that it [an email threat] could do so much damage.” He said he wouldn’t hesitate to bring his family to the museum. He added that he doesn’t blame President Donald Trump for the rise in recent anti-Semitic incidents. Rather, it’s the people who have tried to paint him as anti-Semitic, whose remarks have emboldened real anti-Semites. “The whole world is telling everybody that Trump is an anti-Semite, which there’s absolutely no basis for, but they’re convincing everybody that we have an anti-Semitic president.”
Egon Levy, a math teacher who lives in Crown Heights, said that giving the bomb threats so much attention only serves to gratify those who make the threats. “At the risk of seeming callous,” he said, “by reacting to it the way we do, we actually just give them what they want.” He said that none of the threats “seem to be credible.”
“Half of these people [making the threats] are anti-Semites … and the other half are attention seekers who can be discouraged by ignoring them.”
Levy, the father of a four-month son, said the bomb threats have not made him feel any less safe. “I would happily go and visit the museum right now,” he said.
The Jewish Children’s Museum threat comes at a time when Jewish community centers across the country are on high alert after a substantial increase in similar threats nationwide. Jewish institutions, including community centers and Anti-Defamation League offices, have been hit with more than 100 bomb threats so far this year, all of them hoaxes. Tuesday and Wednesday saw the sixth wave of threats, with 21 Jewish sites targeted in the United States and Canada. Last week, the New York Police Department said that anti-Semitic incidents were up 94 percent in New York City over this time last year.
On Tuesday all 100 U.S. senators sent letters to FBI Director James Comey, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express their concern that “the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”
The building is located at the intersection of Kingston Avenue and Eastern Parkway, just across from 770 Eastern Parkway, Chabad-Lubavitch’s world headquarters. That building was not affected.