Nearly a dozen Jewish community centers across the United States received bomb threats that led to evacuations on Monday, in the latest wave of such attacks since Donald Trump became president a month ago.
The latest phoned-in threats, at 11 separate sites, bring to 69 the total number of such incidents – at 54 Jewish community centers in 27 US states and one Canadian province – according to the JCC Association of North America.
The group cautioned, however, that all bomb threats made on Monday, as well as on three others dates – January 9, 18 and 31 – turned out to be hoaxes and that each targeted community centre has resumed normal operations.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating the incidents.
Meanwhile, local media reported that more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis, Missouri.
“Over the past weekend, unknown persons knocked over multiple monument headstones within the cemetery,” University City police said in a statement.
Police staff declined to confirm the number of damaged headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery as they review video surveillance on the property and nearby businesses for the ongoing investigation.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a recent report that the number of hate groups is rising and now at near-historic highs, linking it to the surge in “right-wing populism” during a bitterly fought presidential election that “electrified the radical right” and ultimately elected Trump.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of the archconservative news website Breitbart, which has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as “the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists”.
But Trump’s daughter Ivanka, a convert to Judaism who has played a prominent role in his young administration along with her husband Jared Kushner, was quick to denounce the bomb threats on the Jewish community centers.
“America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC,” she wrote on Twitter.
Ivanka Trump, however, faced criticism from social media users who pointed to her failure to defend religious freedoms when her father attempted to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
This is absolutely true, but thought about asking dad and General Kelly to stop trying to ban some Muslims? https://t.co/DxIBDJPXCA
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) 21 февраля 2017 г.
The JCC Association of North America, vowed that it “will not be cowed by threats intended to disrupt people’s lives or the vital role Jewish community centers play as gathering places, schools, camps and fitness and recreation centers”.
“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” said the group’s director of strategic performance David Posner.
The bomb threats comes days after Jake Turx, who writes for the Jewish publication Ami Magazine, asked Trump to comment on the rise of anti-Semitic attacks taking place across the country.
“What we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard you address is the uptick in anti-Semitism and how you intend to take care of it,” Turx asked.
Trump, expressing indignation, dimissed Turx’s question.