Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Statement on congressional letter on JCC threats action

Monday, February 27, 2017 by The Press in Opinion

Dear Editor:

The Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley is thankful for the support of Congressman Charlie Dent and Congressman Matt Cartwright, who were among 150 bipartisan members of Congress to sign a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General of the United States and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and address the unprecedented number of anonymous telephone bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the nation. Over the past month, at least 54 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province have received over 68 bomb threat incidents forcing many to be evacuated. Several additional bomb threats have been phoned into other Jewish communal institutions.

JCCs across the nation provide a range of educational and community services for Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and families with a particular focus on children and youth. The Congressional letter recognizes the bomb threats as a futile attempt to disrupt activities and create anxiety among Jewish organizations. The full efforts of Federal law enforcement agencies are necessary to bring these “telephone terrorists” to justice.

We would like to thank our elected officials for recognizing the gravity of this unprecedented situation and for urging all investigative agencies to work in partnership with state and territory governments, local law enforcement officials, the JCC Association of North America, individual JCCs and Jewish community institutions and leaders to address the threat in a holistic manner and bring to justice those who are responsible.

Full text of the letter signed by 150 bipartisan members of Congress:

Dear Secretary Kelly, Attorney General Sessions, and Director Comey,

We write to express our deep concern regarding the recent spate of anonymous bomb threats made via telephone against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the nation. We urge the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to swiftly assess the situation and to advise Congress on what specific steps are being taken, or will be taken, to deter such threats from being made, to identify and prosecute the perpetrators for violations of federal criminal laws, and to enable JCCs to enhance security measures such as physical barriers and guards, in the event that an individual seeks to act upon these threats.

This is not an idle concern, given that there have been at least three casualty-causing attacks at JCCs or other Jewish institutions in the last two decades —in 2014 at a Kansas JCC, in 2006 at the Jewish Federation of Seattle, and in 1999 at a California JCC. This is a national problem and, as such, it requires a national solution.

In the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been 68 incidents targeting 53 JCCs in 26 states, according to JCC Association of North America. A number of JCCs, such as the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, have received multiple threats.

These phone calls have an immediate emotional impact, of course, but they also have an economic impact. JCCs provide a range of educational and community services for Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and families, with a particular focus on children and youth. The individuals who make these calls no doubt recognize that bomb threats, particularly when repeated, can compromise and even destroy a JCC’s financial future.

We urge you to approach this issue with a sense of urgency, and to work in partnership with state and territory governments, local law enforcement officials, JCC Association of North America, individual JCCs, and Jewish community institutions and leaders to address the threat in a holistic manner. We look forward to your response regarding the specific steps being taken to prevent and respond to this threat.

Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley