Monday’s bomb threats – directed at more than a dozen Jewish community centers in the United States and some Jewish schools in London – have demonstrated several things. Hatred is alive and well, preventative security measures are important, and we are truly blessed when we have good neighbors.
Kaplen’s JCC at Tenafly Palisades, which received one of the threats, issued a statement following a thorough search of the building, in which no explosive device was found.
“A bomb threat was issued in the JCC around noon,” wrote Jordan Shenker, JCC chief executive, in a prepared statement. “Emergency response procedures were immediately initiated. The authorities reacted quickly, investigated, took appropriate security measures, found the threat not credible and the JCC safe. We understand this has happened in 16 other TCGs along the East Coast and in several other organizations across the country and in Europe today and we are grateful that all threats are hoaxes. ”
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Members, staff, preschool students and other visitors of the Tenafly JCC were evacuated to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Theologian, which is next to the JCC. The evacuation went well. It was a very cold day on Monday, barely reaching 20 degrees, and some of the kindergarten children were rushed so quickly that they had to leave their coats behind.
Tenafly Police Department Chief Robert Chamberlain also issued a statement.
“On Monday January 9, 2016 at around noon, the Tenafly Police Department received a report of a phone call made to the Kaplen Jewish Community Center over the palisades indicating that a bomb was in the building. Representatives of the Jewish Community Center as well as security personnel immediately launched emergency action plans. Tenafly police officers immediately responded to the call while Tenafly firefighters and members of the Tenafly Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded on hold. The Bergen County Sheriff’s Department bomb squad responded and searched the building with agents from Tenafly. After a thorough search of the facility did not locate any explosives, the building was deemed safe to resume operations…. The matter is under investigation and anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Tenafly Police Department Detective Office at 201-568. -5100.
The other JCCs in the United States that have faced bomb threats are in California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee. The London neighborhoods affected are Roehampton, Ilford and Brent. Nothing suspicious was found in any of these locations.
David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, which works closely with local JCCs on security, thanked federal and local law enforcement for their prompt and thorough response, noting that ” JCC continue to work with them, as they all do throughout the year, to ensure the continued safety of JCC members and all those involved in JCC activities, as well as the security of JCC buildings.
“We are proud of our JCCs and grateful to their professional staff who, in the face of today’s threats of violence, responded quickly, calmly and professionally by implementing well-established evacuation procedures and ensuring that no one gets hurt.
The JCC Association has a partnership with the Secure Community Network, which focuses on the security of Jewish institutions across North America and has an ongoing relationship with the Department of Homeland Security. The agencies are working together to determine the source of the calls the JCC received on Monday.
Joshua Cohen, ADL’s New Jersey region director, said his organization was deeply concerned about the bomb threats. “Monday’s incident struck very close to his home,” he said, adding that it followed a similar incident in Monmouth County last week, where a threatening appeal was made to a Jewish preschool.
“We are working closely with the Jewish community and the police,” he said. Noting that no explosives were found at the targeted sites, he said, “I commend New Jersey law enforcement for their swift response to these incidents. It is important to respond and investigate them.
“Such threats are not new to the Jewish community,” he added. “Excellent preparation is the key to a good response. Although bomb threats are not always credible – they are usually designed as a fear tactic, to cause fear, panic and disruption – “they must be taken seriously”.
Mr Cohen said that “security is a long-term process that can only be deployed when there is a bulletin or advisory alert.” Organizations, he said, need to regularly review their security guidelines and think about ways to improve them. “Every staff member should know the proper security procedure,” he said. “These incidents remind us to review [the guidelines] and make sure everyone knows them.
He said his office regularly contacted the JCC and other Jewish organizations in the community, providing them with resources and reminding them of best practices.
“The sad reality is that any religious institution can become a potential target,” he said. “They have a responsibility to protect themselves.” Although he is not aware of the specific security plan of the Tenafly JCC, “it appears that they followed their procedure, evacuating the building, calling the police and carrying out a search. There was clearly a plan. “
Mr Cohen said FBI hate crime statistics in 2015 showed Jews were still attacked more than any other religious group. Although there has been a spike in incidents of bias targeting Muslims, “Jews are still the number one target in the country.”
The ADL’s audit of anti-Semitic incidents for 2015 showed that New Jersey ranks third in attacks against Jews, behind New York and California. And, said Cohen, “we know that for every reported incident, many go unreported.” Anyone who wants the ADL to advocate for them in the face of anti-Semitic incidents must remember that “we can’t do anything if we don’t know,” he said.
Father Peter Zougras, religious leader of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Theologian, said when he received a phone call from the Jewish institution telling him there was an emergency and that they were to send people to shelter there, he told them to come immediately.
It was a cold day
“We only found out later what had happened,” he said, but noted that “the traffic was drastically slowed down” and the police were “very good, quick and helpful.
“We have a strong relationship with the JCC,” said Father Zougras. “They are wonderful people. We are all one family, the children of God. We didn’t ask what the problem was.
This was a case of a neighbor helping his neighbor, he added, pointing out that the two establishments often use each other’s facilities and have made a path between the two buildings so that anyone walking back and forth. returns do not have to go out on the street.
Father Zougras estimated that his church hosted some 300 people, including 200 children. They waited there until their parents arrived to take them home. The children, he said, were understandably confused, and at least one young child told his mother, “I was so scared,” he said.
“Children are smarter than we think,” he said. “They knew something was wrong. We welcomed them and tried to make them comfortable.
“Everyone did a great job,” he continued. “We have to help each other in this world. We should be filled with love, especially with children. This is really what we were put on earth for.
And the JCC “was extremely grateful,” he added. “People called and thanked us personally. They would do the same for us.