Jewish community centers in at least 17 states received bomb threats Wednesday, causing evacuations in numerous cases.
At least 32 Jewish institutions reported getting threats made via phone, mostly from a live caller with a woman’s voice. Two weeks ago, similar threats were issued at 16 locations but the call was usually a recording. Jewish institutions in seven states reportedly evacuated hundreds of people.
Security officials say live calls signal greater danger than a robocall. None of the threatened institutions found a bomb.
Some institutions who received threats Wednesday did not evacuate, depending upon local law enforcement protocol. The Anti-Defamation league issued a security advisory to Jewish institutions across the country, urging caution.
“Although so far these threats do not appear to be credible, we are recommending that Jewish communal institutions review their security procedures and remain in close contact with law enforcement,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said. “While each incident needs to be taken seriously and investigated closely, thus far we are not aware of any of these threats being substantiated.”
According to the ADL, threats were received at Jewish Community Centers in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Paul Goldenberg, the director of Secure Community Networks, which advises Jewish institutions on security, told JTA his organization is talking with federal authorities regarding the incidents. He said many groups have seen an increase in threats lately on multiple platforms, particularly on social media.
“The neo-Nazi or white supremacist hate groups seem to be becoming much more vocal,” Goldenberg said. “Their threats are much more specific, in some cases they’re calling for armed marches ... In some cases, leaving very specific threats against Jewish communities — bombing threats, harassment.”
The Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota was evacuated Wednesday following receipt of one of the threats. Students reported huddling outside amid snow cover, with some children having been forced to leave the building in the middle of swimming class. They were still wet in their swimming suits and shoeless, with older students reportedly giving them jackets to warm up.