BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s Jewish community remains concerned about security after nearly five dozen bomb threats have been reported at Jewish Community Associations across North America over the past month.
According to the JCC Association, 58 bomb threats were reported in three waves. The threats were reported on Jan. 9, 18 and 31, David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association of North America, said.
“Safety is our top priority,” Posner said in a statement. “JCC Association is coordinating security trainings for JCC executives and staff, to ensure that our community of professionals across the country is prepared with critical tools, resources and contacts.
“We applaud the JCC professionals on the ground who in light of this recent series of calls, have relied on established best practices, and continue to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to ensure the well-being of all who use and benefit from their facilities.”
So far, no bombs have been found and no injuries have been reported, but it has not made many in the Jewish community feel any less concerned.
The threats included several in Maryland, including ones at the Park Heights JCC on Jan. 9 and 18.
Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated, said the events over the past month have been unfortunate, as his organization is constantly assessing ways on ensuring Jewish facilities in Baltimore remain secure.
“While no one has been hurt, it doesn’t take away the hurt and the horror of the reality that there are people out there with so much hate that they would take the time to try and harm a specific group of people,” Terrill said.
Terrill said The Associated is in constant contact with Homeland Security and local law enforcement officials regarding any potential threats.
He said they work with local schools, synagogues and JCCs to go over ways to respond to any potential threat.
“We have a sophisticated and proactive security apparatus in place and are constantly conducting audits to refine and update security protocols to make certain the greatest number of people are safe,” Terrill said.
“At the same time, we are also developing ways of reaching out to others in the greater community to try and comprehend the hatred and address ways to reduce intolerance not just in the Jewish community, but the community at large,” Terrill continued. “It’s importance to find ways to stress acceptance of others to make this world a better place.”
Security threats within the Jewish community go far beyond the January bomb threats. According to FBI figures, there were 1,273 hate crime incidents combined in 2014 and 2015 that targeted Jews, the most of any religious group.
Locally, several anti-Semitic flyers with the swastika symbol were distributed in the Fountain Glen neighborhood in Bel Air.
The flyers were promoting the white supremacist news site, the Daily Stormer. The site’s founder, Andre Anglin, has been condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his neo-Nazi views.
“White man are you sick and tired of the Jews destroying your country through mass immigration and degeneracy? Join us in the struggle for global white supremacy at the Daily Stormer,” the flyer said.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman condemned the incident.
“I absolutely reject any kind of hateful and discriminatory messages directed against our Jewish community, law enforcement, or any citizens of Harford County,” Glassman said in a statement.
“We cherish all of our residents and want them to know they are welcome here, and these disgraceful fliers have no place in our home.”
Howard Libit, the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, is equally alarmed by the recent threats locally and nationally.
He said his organization has worked to obtain federal grants to help facilities like schools and synagogues with security upgrades like fencing and cameras.
The BJC also has a director of security, retired Baltimore police commander Keith Tiedmann, who works with law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the Jewish community.
Tiedmann also works with local Jewish facilities to obtain Department of Homeland Security grants and conducts security assessments as a part of the process.
In addition, Tiedmann participated with local law enforcement agencies to conduct active shooter and lockdown exercises at Jewish facilities.
“There is a great deal of coordination and collaboration when it comes to security,” Libit said. “Being located between New York and Washington while having such a large Jewish population requires us to be vigilant in terms of security. You can’t be too careful given the current climate.”
Those worried about a spike in anti-Semitism have taken their concerns all the way to the White House. However, in two news conferences this week, President Donald Trump would not offer a clear response.
During a joint appearance with Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Trump alluded to his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter, Ivanka, who converted to Judaism.
He then chastised an Orthodox Jewish reporter who tried to express similar concerns on Thursday.
“I think that you’re going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four or eight years,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.
“I think a lot of good things are happening. And you’re going to see a lot of love. You’re going to see a lot of love.”
Anti-Defamation League national chair Marvin D. Nathan and ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt voiced their concern over Trump’s responses.
“On two separate occasions over the past two days, President Trump has refused to say what he is going to do about rising anti-Semitism or to even condemn it,” the ADL said in a statement.
“It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction. This is not a partisan issue.
It’s a potentially lethal problem and it’s growing.
“In light of the bomb scares, online harassment, physical vandalism, death threats and other hate crimes, there is a simple question at hand that Americans of all faiths deserve an answer to – what is the Trump Administration going to do about the recent surge of anti-Semitism? What concrete steps will the White House take to address intolerance?
“We are going to keep asking these questions and urge others in the press and public to do so as well until we get a clear answer from our president.”