Conflict & Justice

Bomb threats are one part of a wave of anti-Semitism in America

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Local and national media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, on Feb. 21, 2017. 

Credit:

Tom Gannam/Reuters 

Since January, 100 different Jewish day schools and community centers have been evacuated after bomb threats. Just this Monday, sites in 16 cities across the US were targeted.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

While no bombs have been found, the incidents are causing fear across Jewish communities. Bomb threats are only one part of a wave of anti-Semitism in America. Other examples include vandalism, harassment and online trolling. Last week, 170 headstones were tipped at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis and 100 more vandalized at a cemetery in Philadelphia.

This week, there have been reports that the bomb threats may be the work of a single individual, possibly even overseas. 

David Shtulman is the director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, which shares a building with Ann Arbor’s Jewish Community Center, a place that has been evacuated twice in the past year. He says it feels like there is a menacing tension in the air in America.

“I think the divisiveness that perhaps we’ve seen going on for so long in politics has moved down into the electorate to a point where we are simply all oppositional to one another,” he says. “Somehow people have gotten the idea that they have permission to attack others who are not like them.”

Shtulman argues that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant stance and his seeming embrace of white nationalist outlets like Breitbart News has sent a subtle message to the American public: “That the government is behind you.”

“The president can do, in his words, a military action to round up and deport undocumented workers — what if he put those kinds of efforts and resources behind finding out who’s doing all of this?” Shtulman says of the anti-Semitic attacks.

Though Shtulman says his facility has trained for these kinds of threats, he says that even false attacks have rattled the community.

“Imagine being a parent of a 6-month-old and getting called in the middle of your workday with someone saying, ‘Your kids are being evacuated because of a bomb threat,’” he says. “What does that do to them?”

Right now, Shtulman says a loud and clear message needs to be sent that these kind of anti-Semitic threats are unacceptable.

“I would love to see law enforcement looking for and seeking out more of these hate groups, making some arrests, and stopping them that way, otherwise it’s just going to continue,” he says.

This story originally aired on The Takeaway