Officials of Jewish organizations, while praising law enforcement officials in the United States for identifying the person allegedly responsible for a recent series of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in this country, today stressed that anti-Semitism is still an ongoing threat in this country.
“Anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern,” although the teen arrested in Israel for the crimes is apparently a Jew with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement.
“While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear,” Greenblatt said. “These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”
Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said “we have to separate” between the phoned-in bomb threats across the U.S., and vandalism at several cemeteries, anti-Semitic messages that have appeared on synagogues, and anti-Semitic leaflets distributed on many college campuses. “They’re all physical manifestations of a national threat.”
“These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”
“This guy [in Israel] could not have done the physical acts that were committed,” Weitzman told the Jewish Week, adding that he “can’t speculate on the [arrested person’s] motives.”
The arrest in southern Israel by Israeli police today of a teenager, whose identity was not revealed, followed a months-long investigation by the FBI and Israel’s Lahav 433 cyber unit. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the suspect allegedly placed dozens of threatening phone calls to Jewish community centers, synagogue and other Jewish institutions in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. “He’s the guy who was behind the JCC threats.”
Rosenfeld said the teen used advanced technologies to mask the origin of his calls. He said a police search of his home turned up antennas and satellite equipment.
The suspect, who was exempted from army service in Israel, faces charges of extortion, and of “sowing widespread fear and panic,” and the Times of Israel reported. The U.S. is likely to seek his extradition, according to the paper.
Greenblatt of the ADL cited “the Department of Homeland Security, and the state and local law enforcement officials who made this investigation the highest priority. We appreciate the support of so many community and organizational leaders, both within and outside the Jewish community, who spoke out and condemned these threats. They understood not only how disruptive they were, but also how they traumatized the people affected, especially young children and senior citizens who were evacuated as a result of these threats.”
Doron Krakowm CEO of the JCC Association of North America, said that while the organization is “troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats … is reportedly Jewish,” the series of threats gave JCCs “the opportunity to review and assess our security protocols and procedures, and we are confident that JCCs are safer today than ever before.”