13 US Jewish centres hit by bomb threats amid far-right hostility
Thirteen Jewish centres and schools in at least 11 US states reported receiving bomb threats on Monday, the fifth wave of such threats this year that have stoked fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism.
The threats, all of which appeared to be hoaxes, were received in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of North America said. For some centres, it was the second or third time this year that they had been targeted.
"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 instil anxiety and fear in our communities," said David Posner, a director at the JCC Association.
Jewish groups, US President Donald Trump and Israeli officials have all condemned the surge in disruptive intimidation, as well as the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries. Police said on Sunday that 100 headstones had been toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, about a week after a similar act of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in St Louis.
Muslim Americans have helped raise more than $91,000 to repair vandalised headstones at the cemetery in St Louis, according to an online fundraising page, amid attacks and threats against Jewish institutions.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer raised the subject of the vandalism at a news briefing on Monday.
"The president continues to condemn these and any other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms," he told reporters, saying they were in breach of the country's founding principles.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters on Monday that recent bomb threats made against Jewish groups are "unacceptable" and a "very serious and destructive practice".
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department's civil rights division have said they were investigating the threats alongside local law enforcement, but little information has been made public so far about any perpetrators.
The Charles E Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, and the Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia, also received telephoned bomb threats, according to a statement by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Police later gave the all clear.
The full tally of threats against Jewish centres on Monday remained unclear, the JCC Association said. NBC News reported at least 16 centres and schools had received threats.
Some Jewish groups see the vandalism and threats as a sign that anti-Semitic groups have been emboldened by Trump's election. His campaign last year drew the support of white supremacists and other right-wing groups.
Trump has said he is the "least anti-Semitic person" in the world, and noted that one of his daughters, his son-in-law and some of his grandchildren are Jewish.
Since Trump’s campaign and election last year, the US has seen a spike in violence against both Jews and Muslims.
Last week, a Kansas man shot and killed a person from India allegedly for thinking he came from the Middle East. On 21 January, an Islamic centre in Davis, California, had its windows broken and bacon placed on door handles. One week later, someone burned down a mosque in Texas.
Minority groups have expressed unease with the political and social climate in the US. The Southern Poverty Law Center said in a report this month that hate groups proliferated in 2016 as Trump's bid for the presidency energised the far right.
"Trump's run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man's country," the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
The nonprofit civil rights organisation said in its annual census of hate groups that the number of anti-Muslim groups nearly tripled to 101 in 2016 from 34 in 2015. It said hate groups in the US numbered 917 last year, compared with 892 in 2015.
'Trump's run for office electrified the radical right' - Southern Poverty Law Center
Researchers for the Alabama-based organisation said the number of crimes against Muslims had risen along with the number of hate groups. They cited the Texas mosque burning after the Trump administration issued an executive order suspending travel to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"2016 was an unprecedented year for hate," said Mark Potok, senior fellow and editor of the intelligence report.
"The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we've made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists," Potok said.