Rockville JCC receives 2nd bomb threat

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The Bender JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville was one of 9 Jewish institutions to get a bomb threat Tuesday morning.

The message that bomb threats against Jewish institutions haven’t ended came Monday and Tuesday in a sixth wave of threats, which included the second bomb threat against the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville.

The JCC received a threatening email at 11:32 p.m. Monday — while the center was closed. JCC President and CEO Michael Feinstein said he discovered the email Tuesday morning and notified the FBI and Montgomery County Police.


The threat was among more than 12 reported Tuesday at Jewish institutions across six U.S states and Canada. On Jan. 9, the Bender JCC also received a bomb threat by phone. No bomb was discovered, and all of the more than 100 threats to date have been hoaxes.

Unlike the Bender JCC’s response to the threatening telephone call in January, which included evacuating the building, on Tuesday, business went on as usual.

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Building security had already conducted a sweep of the facility before the JCC opened at 5:30 a.m., a practice instituted after the first lethal threat.

“We were pretty confident nothing was in there,” Feinstein said. He declined to reveal the contents of the email and its sender.


Nevertheless, police arrived with bomb-sniffing dogs and performed a second search, Feinstein said. They found nothing.

The other threats were made to JCCs in Wisconsin, Oregon, New York, Florida and Alabama, along with Toronto and London, Ontario. In addition, bomb threats were reported at several regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League including its Washington regional office.

They came only four days after the FBI arrested Juan Thompson, 31, of St. Louis in connection with eight bomb threats to Jewish institutions since January that allegedly were made to intimidate an ex-girlfriend.

Thompson’s arrest on Friday helped quell the fears sparked by the growing number of threats, if only temporarily.

As news broke of Thompson’s arrest, clergy of several denominations and political leaders rallied at two JCCs in the Washington suburbs to denounce the bomb threats and vowed to support each other in the face of hatred. One rally site was the Bender JCC.

Friday’s events helped relieve anxiety over a growing number of threats against Jewish institutions, including religious schools.

But Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that anxiety won’t go away until the main culprit is “on the other side of a jail cell.”

He urged the Jewish community to remain calm amid uncertainty.

“The person who’s responsible for most of the calls is probably much more sophisticated than [Thompson],” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the person doing this was overseas.”

Thompson’s arrest alleviated some worry, said Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center. But it does not lessen the fear of future threats or stop the tide of what he described as a post-election period when hate speech from “extremists” on the political right has become legitimized.

“Law enforcement has a lot of threats still remaining,” he said. “It doesn’t so much matter where the threats are coming from.

People are finding something to do as a form of political expression.”

Ken Jacobson, deputy national director for the Anti-Defamation League, said to address the issue of anti-Semitism in the United States on a long-term basis, there needs to be a “multi-pronged” approach from the White House and other areas of government.

But that approach will not be simple, he said.

“If one is serious in dealing with issues of hate or anti-Semitism, you have to take a multitude of steps,” he said. “You have to use bully pulpits to speak out to say this is un-American. You have to have investigations by both local and state governments.”

While no bombs have been found in Jewish institutions that received the threats, no threat should be taken lightly. At the same time, people should keep the situation in perspective.

“One has to treat these calls seriously,” Jacobson said. “On the other hand, none of them so far have turned into action. The main purpose [of the calls] is to intimidate.”

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