Westchester Jewish Community Centers were included in numerous bomb threats against similar centers in New York and across the country on Monday.
At least five bomb threats were received at JCCs in the New York metro area and eight more in other states according to media reports.
Children were evacuated from the Jewish Community Center nursery school on South Broadway in Tarrytown while Tarrytown and Westchester County Police responded to the phoned-in threat. The building was later cleared.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, the Westchester Jewish Council said the JCC of Mid-Westchester, Scarsdale and The Shames JCC on the Hudson received threatening phone calls Monday; “the same calls as many JCCs and Jewish day schools around the country have received in the past month. Thus far, in all cases, these threats have proved to be baseless.”
The Westchester Jewish Council further said it “condemns these heinous acts of anti-Semitism and hate which impact all of Westchester and especially our Jewish community. We commend our member organizations for their swift response using established safety protocols to ensure the safety of all patrons.”
“We take these threats seriously, and are grateful to our Westchester elected officials and law enforcement personnel for their swift attention to this matter. By working together, we will apprehend those responsible for spreading hatred across our country and county,” said Paul Warhit, President, Westchester Jewish Council.
Warhit continued, “We would also like to thank our fellow Westchester residents from all ethnic and religious background who have stepped up to show their support in fighting anti-Semitism, bias crime, terror and hatred. We look forward to continuing to stand side by side with all our neighbors in making Westchester a free and inclusive county. Finally, we want to thank the Westchester Jewish Council security committee and security roundtable, chaired by Harry Mamaysky and Elizabeth Lampert for all their efforts and hard work to ensure our community is fully aware of and prepared for these kinds of acts. We also thank our main funder, UJA-Federation of New York, for their financial support of this initiative.”
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said, “The bomb threats made today against two Jewish community centers in Westchester are hate crimes that will not be tolerated in our county. We will not stand silent in the face of anti-Semitic acts or any other bias crimes. I join with all people of good will in condemning the bomb threats that occurred here and around the country. I have directed our Department of Public Safety to work with federal and local law enforcement agencies in every way possible to bring those responsible to justice.”
Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Michael B. Kaplowitz also released a statement: “I condemn in the strongest terms these acts of hatred and intimidation. I’m hopeful that our public safety officials will identify and prosecute the individuals responsible for these threats. Here in Westchester County, we will not allow threats of violence to divide us.”
By late Monday afternoon members of Congress had moved to relaunch the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combatting Anti-Semitism. Representatives Nita Lowey (D-New York), Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), Eliot Engel (D-New York), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Marc Veasey (D-Texas), and Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) had announced the re-launch of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism in the House of Representatives for the 115th Congress.
According to the latest available FBI statistics, the number of anti-Semitic criminal offenses rose from 635 in 2014 to 695 in 2015. Since January 2017, over 60 Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have been targeted by telephonic bomb threats, including those received this Monday morning. Over the last week, an estimated 170 Jewish graves were found toppled at a cemetery in Missouri and an estimated 100 headstones were toppled at a cemetery in Philadelphia.
As co-Chairs of the Taskforce, the Members issued the following statement:
“At home and abroad, we continue to witness anti-Semitism that is both dangerous and complex. The recent desecration of Jewish grave sites and bomb threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and Jewish day schools across the country are deplorable. And overseas, the anti-Semitic threats, vandalism, and violence aimed at Jewish schools, synagogues, kosher supermarkets, homes and property are unacceptable. In light of recent events, it is more important than ever that Democrats and Republicans work together to root out hatred and racism in all its ugly forms. We look forward to working with our colleagues in Congress to find innovative solutions that match the 21st century face of this ancient bigotry.”
Reinstated in the 114th Congress with over 100 Republicans and Democrats, the Taskforce works to ensure that Congress plays an integral role in condemning anti-Semitism and spearheading initiatives that promote tolerance worldwide. The Taskforce serves as a forum for education of members of Congress on this distinct form of intolerance and to engage with the Administration, foreign leaders and civil society organizations to share best practices and collaborate on solutions to rebuff this systemic problem. It also promotes Holocaust remembrance in concert with exploring innovative ways to teach tolerance and confront hate.