Police line (illustration)
Police line (illustration)iStock

The JCC Association of North America on Monday applauded the staffs of Jewish community centers around the country for their actions after JCCs in several states across the U.S. received bomb threats.

“JCC Association thanks federal and local law enforcement for their quick and thorough response today,” said David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America.

“JCCs continue to work with them, as they do all year long, to ensure the continued safety of JCC members and all those who participate in JCC activities, as well as the safety of JCC buildings. As of 4:30 p.m. today, local authorities’ investigations in areas impacted have resulted in the all-clear, with most of our JCC’s resuming regular operations. We are hopeful that all of the JCCs in our vibrant network across the country will resume regular operations by the end of the day,” he added.

“We are proud of our JCCs and grateful for their professional staff, who in the face of threatened violence today, responded quickly, calmly and professionally by implementing well-practiced evacuation procedures and ensuring that no one was harmed,” said Posner.

“Our first priority is safety. JCC Association’s role is to support all Jewish community centers and their members across the continent, as together, we ensure that JCCs remain inclusive, engaging community gathering places and safe spaces.”

According to the JTA Jewish news agency, bomb threats were called in to at least 16 Jewish community centers and other institutions in seven states on Monday.

In Miami, two JCCs were evacuated following the bomb threats.

The calls with the bomb threats were prerecorded in some cases and live in others, with the caller using voice disguising technology, and likely came from a single source, said Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Network, the group affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America that coordinates security for the Jewish community.

The states were spread across the South and the Northeast. Only some of the JCCs were evacuated, according to JTA.

All the alerts were false, Goldenberg said, and designed to produce maximum disruption.

“In the Northeast it's 20 degrees outside and these individuals are doing everything they can to disrupt who we are and what we do,” he told JTA.

He did not name the states or JCCs, but in addition to Florida, media have reported bomb threats in Maryland, Tennessee, South Carolina and New Jersey.

Among the affected sites were the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly in northeast New Jersey, which evacuated the entire building, including a preschool, senior center and adult day care facility for people with disabilities, local media reported.

Other sites that were threatened included the Siegel JCC, north of Wilmington, Delaware; the preschools at the Tampa JCC and the Tampa Jewish Federation in central Florida; and the Jewish Community Alliance in Jacksonville, in northern Florida. All the facilities were searched and given the all-clear by authorities, according to JTA.

Goldenberg counseled an immediate call to local first responders in every instance, but also said live calls indicated a more acute risk than robocalls.

“If they’re taking the time to call, if it’s a live person, the concern rises,” he said.

He also recommended studying a 15-minute video that SCN has posted on its website outlining what to do in case of a bomb threat. Golden berg said SCN in the next few days would organize, through the JCC Association of North America, a conference call reviewing possible threats.