Jewish groups, including those targeted, welcome arrest of bomb threat suspect

The American-Israeli teenager arrested on suspicion of making over 100 bomb threats to American JCCs leaving court in Rishon Lezion, Israel, March 23, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

The American-Israeli teenager arrested on suspicion of making over 100 bomb threats to American JCCs leaving court in Rishon Lezion, Israel, March 23, 2017. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) – Organizations targeted by recent bomb threats and other U.S. Jewish groups welcomed news of the arrest of a suspect – an Israeli with American citizenship who reportedly is Jewish.

The Anti-Defamation League, whose headquarters in New York and at least three satellite offices across the country received called-in threats, said in a statement issued Thursday – the day the 19-year-old suspect was arrested in Israel – that it was “relieved” that an arrest has been made in the majority of the bomb threats.

CEO Jonathan Greenblatt expressed gratitude to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and state and local law officials for making the investigation “the highest priority.”

“While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism,” he said in the statement. “These threats targeting Jewish institutions were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert.”

Greenblatt added that “anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern. No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”

The suspect, who lives in southern Israel, also is accused of a series of threats made in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Israel, in the past six months. He reportedly used advanced technology and voice-altering equipment to call in the threats. He is believed to have mental stability issues, according to reports.

“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish community centres, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all – is reportedly Jewish,” Doron Krakow, president of the JCC Association of North America, said in a statement.

More than 100 of the threats made since the beginning of the year have been to JCCs across the United States and Canada.

Krakow praised the “remarkable support” that the JCCs have received from “communities and community leaders across North America, including civic, political and faith community leaders.” He added that “JCCs have had the opportunity to review and assess our security protocols and procedures, and we are confident that JCCs are safer today than ever before.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, an independent U.S. national organization that fights prejudice, said in a statement that it had received several of what it called anti-Semitic messages on Thursday since the announcement of the arrest.

“We will not tolerate using today’s arrests as a pretext for more anti-Semitism or other hate,” said Steven Goldstein, the centre’s executive director. “To point to the religion of one depraved individual, and use that as a pretext for hate against an entire religion, is immoral and unacceptable, and those who engage in such arguments should be ashamed of their own prejudice.”

Jerry Silverman, president of The Jewish Federations of North America, said it was “heartbreaking” to read reports that the prime suspect is Jewish. He praised law enforcement officials in the United States and Israel for their commitment of time and resources to the investigation – as well as the Secure Community Network, which co-ordinates security across Jewish organizations in North America – for making and keeping the connections between Jewish groups and law enforcement.

“As a community and a society, we must remain vigilant in our effort to counter anti-Semitism and other hate crimes as they appear,” Silverman said. “We are fortunate to know we have partners in law enforcement who will do whatever it takes to bring these perpetrators to justice.”

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington said in a statement that the threats “have in fact united the Jewish community in its determination to provide services and live proud Jewish lives.”

The statement added: “We also recognize that this one arrest does not necessarily mean the end to the bomb threats, or that all the perpetrators are now in custody. We are confident that law enforcement will continue to seek perpetrators of other acts of anti-Semitism and racism, and must continue our own vigilance.”

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