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Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Orleans JCC bomb threat follows wave of anti-Semitism in U.S.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 6:00 PM

click image The Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue in 2011. - INFROGMATION
  • The Jewish Community Center on St. Charles Avenue in 2011.

Young children, seniors and staff were ordered to leave the Jewish Community Center (JCC) on St. Charles Avenue following a bomb threat called into the center this morning. The threat is among more than 60 similar threats at Jewish centers across the U.S. in 2017.

"The reported bomb threat at JCC deemed non-credible, is clear. FBI is investigating," Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote on Twitter. "Be clear, anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in NOLA."

While the bombs themselves are "hoaxes," the threats and waves of anti-Semitism across the U.S., as the Jewish Community Center Association of North America has said, are very real. In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Director John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, Florida U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy and New York U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley — along with dozens of members of Congress and Jewish-led groups — demanded swift federal action.

"Federal law enforcement agencies must do everything within their power to punish those responsible for the threats that have already taken place, to prevent future threats from occurring, and to ensure these threats are never converted into action," Murphy said. "These phone calls have a severe economic, as well as emotional, impact."

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in 2016, there was "one anti-Semitic assault reported in this country every week, and at least two anti-Jewish incidents on average every single day." The ADL's Task Force on Harassment and Journalism counted — from August 2015 to July 2016 — nearly 3 million anti-Semitic tweets.

Over the last month, 53 centers in 26 states and one center in Canada received 68 calls, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center counted 11 bomb threats on Feb. 20.

The administration of President Donald Trump delayed responding to the attacks and sidestepped questions about it during a Feb. 16 press conference. Trump cut off a question from Jake Turx, a reporter for Ami Magazine and the first Hasidic Jewish member of the White House press corps, who asked Trump how he plans to address the "uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government plans to take care of it." Trump responded to the question as a personal attack.

"Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life," Trump responded. "Number two: racism. I am the least racist person ... I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question."

Another reporter later asked the same question; Trump suggested his opponents were responsible.

Finally, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Trump called the threats "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." By then there had already been dozens of threats delivered to JCCs around the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.

Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans (JVP), which helped organize a week of actions and presented a list of demands to city and state officials in the wake of Trump's immigration order, said the administration is "flirting with anti-Semitism at the highest levels" in failing to name targets of the Nazi Holocaust and for defecting questions about anti-semitism in the U.S. by echoing Trump's support for Israel.

"The Trump administration is proving, yet again, that it is quite possible to be anti-Semitic and support the Israeli government," JVP's statement reads. "It bears repeating, once again, that not all Jews support the Israeli government, and that Israel does not represent all Jews. ... It is also of note the executive order targeting Muslims and refugees was signed on International Holocaust Memorial day. In doing so, the administration reminds us that fights against anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia must go hand in hand."

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