BY SHANNON McLAUGHLIN
OF PASCACK PRESS
NORTHERN VALLEY - Anti-Semitism is being addressed at the presidential level after 11 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) reported phoned-in bomb threats on Monday, Feb. 20, creating the fourth wave of similar threats to reach JCCs this year.
These threats, which have occurred on an international scale, have also taken place closer to home. In Tenafly, the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades reported receiving bomb threats on Jan. 9 and Jan. 31. Local police did not report any threat during the Feb. 20 incidents.
In total, 68 incidents have been reported at 53 JCCs in 26 states and one Canada province, according to the JCC Association of North America. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that fights anti-Semitism, received a bomb threat on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at its national headquarters in New York City and was evacuated, according to a statement made by the organization’s CEO.
The incidents have thrust anti-Semitism issues into the national spotlight, with activists calling on the president for action. During a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 16, a Jewish journalist asked President Trump about the bomb threats targeting JCCs.
“What we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” said the reporter, Jake Turx of Ami, a news magazine with an Orthodox Jewish audience.
Trump responded by calling himself the “least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life” and the “least racist person.”
After the president finished speaking, Ami stood up to argue over the president’s lack of a clear response on the issue.
Trump readdressed the JCC bomb threats following a recent visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. The museum is “devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, history and culture,” according to its website and details historic figures including Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks and students involved in the Greensboro sit-ins, a milestone of the Civil Rights Movement.
After his visit, Trump said, “Today and every day of my presidency, I pledge to do everything I can to continue that promise of freedom for African-Americans and for every American. So important – nothing more important.”
His speech then touched on hatred against the Jewish community.
“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” the president said. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
The executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, Steven Goldstein, responded to the president’s statement, calling it a “band-aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism.”
“[Trump’s] statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record.”
“There’s no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism,” the vice president said. He also joined in the cemetery’s clean up efforts.
Goldstein made another statement after this, thanking Pence and calling him the “ultimate mensch.”
“We have been critical of President Trump for his gross insensitivity to anti-Semitism... But through the vice president’s visit to St. Louis today, this administration finally showed America the kind of response our nation was waiting for all along – a response filled with proactive heart,” Goldstein’s statement read.
According to JCC Association of North America, all bomb threats this year “proved to be hoaxes.”
“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, said in a statement.
Posner said the organization is in “regular communication with the FBI, which is investigating these threats” and they “hope to hear updates from the FBI on progress very soon.”