Bomb threat triggers evacuation of Jewish center in Birmingham

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From Alabama to Michigan, bomb threats across the country have forced evacuations at Jewish schools and community centers in 2017.

On Monday morning, the Levite Jewish Community Center (LJCC) in Birmingham, Ala. received its third threat of the year. According to the FBI’s Birmingham division, the FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division will investigate as part of a nationwide probe into threats against Jewish community centers.

The LJCC received similar bomb threats on Jan. 18 and Feb. 20.

Gov. Robert Bentley says he will not tolerate any such threats and will bring those responsible to justice.

“As the Governor of every person of Alabama, I will not tolerate targeted threats against any segment of the community,” Bentley said in a statement. “I have been briefed on the bomb threats at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, and I have ordered the State Bureau of Investigation, a division with in the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to coordinate with local and federal law enforcement officials to provide investigative resources. I am deeply troubled for our families and communities that have been threatened and feel frightened. I can assure the people of our state that Alabama will not tolerate any threat, we will bring those responsible to justice and we will provide any resource necessary to protect every one of our citizens.”

Alabama 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, whose district includes part of Birmingham, is also taking a stand against the threats.

“I am deeply disturbed by the threats against Jewish community centers in Birmingham and nationwide,” said Sewell. “These hate crimes will not be tolerated. Many of my constituents still remember the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four young black girls. We cannot and will not let that kind of hate rock our community ever again. The families in my district reject anti-Semitism or discrimination against any religion or race, and we will call out and confront discrimination wherever it is present.”

Last Thursday, Sewell joined 157 of her Congressional colleagues in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), urging the agencies to swiftly assess the recent threats against Jewish community centers and to advise Congress on any steps which it can take to help counter those threats.

The Jewish Community Center Association of North America (JCC) echoed the letter.

“Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out – and speak out forcefully – against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country,” the JCC said. “Actions speak louder than words. Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities.”

The JCC confirmed bomb threats were called into schools and/or JCCs in 11 states on Monday — Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been more than 60 incidents targeting Jewish community centers nationwide.

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