The leader of the Anti-Defamation League said President Trump’s steps to combat the recent spate of anti-Semitism should include not changing the mission of the countering violent extremism program to exclude white supremacists.
As of Wednesday, 122 bomb threats have been called into 97 Jewish institutions in 36 states and two Canadian provinces. Twelve Jewish day schools have received threats. The ADL received bomb threats at two of their offices. (See full list)
Multiple Jewish cemeteries have also been the target of vandalism, with headstones knocked over — the most recent in Rochester, N.Y.
The JCC Association of North America said they spoke with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on a Wednesday conference call about the threats to Jewish community centers.
“DHS has promised that its protective security advisers, stationed in all 50 states, will be in contact with JCCs within the next week, offering their expertise on protective measures, threat reporting and security awareness,” said David Posner, director of strategic performance at the JCC Association. “We look forward to working with DHS through this unparalleled level of assistance, which comes as very welcome at an extraordinarily stressful time for JCCs and the diverse communities they serve.”
The ADL issued a security advisory Monday to all Jewish institutions in the country, calling on them to review security procedures.
ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt lauded President Trump for mentioning the attacks at the beginning of his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. “So the real issue here is, how does the president pivot from words to actions?” he added.
Greenblatt told CNN on Wednesday that first the Department of Justice should “launch a fully resourced civil rights investigation so the culprits are brought to justice.”
“Number two, we want to see the president convene an interagency task force; maybe the AG could lead it. But I think there’s a need to get all the federal agencies’ folks on how you fight hate,” he said. “Number three, Homeland Security should clarify that their program in countering violent extremism is not going to be reduced to just radical Islam.”
The Trump administration is reportedly planning to rename the program “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” and exclude other extremists such as white supremacists who have carried out violent attacks in the country.
Islamic extremism, Greenblatt said, is “a problem, but let me be clear: neo-Nazis and white supremacists, the alt-right, that is a big problem as well.”
“Number four, it’s crucial that the FBI get state and local law enforcement trained up on how to deal with hate crimes,” he continued. “And then, finally, I think education is the best preventative medicine. So Betsy DeVos, Department of Education, should emphasize the value of anti-bias, anti-hate education.”
Kelly said in a statement Wednesday that DHS counterterrorism professionals stressed “the renewed community-level outreach on the part of DHS and provided information on federal assistance available” in their conversation with the Jewish community centers association.
“These include a number of federal resources available, such as facility vulnerability assessments, as well as assistance to connect organizations with active shooter preparedness and bombing prevention training and guidance, tabletop exercises, protective measures, guides and other tools to strengthen security,” Kelly said. “Over the past 18 months, we’ve held active shooter preparedness workshops with Jewish Community Centers in San Francisco, Richmond, Va., Cherry Hill, N.J., and Miami, with more sessions planned in Columbus, Ohio, Wilmington, N.C. and Philadelphia. DHS has also hosted six exercises with members of the Jewish community to enhance contingency planning and response. Further, DHS provides this specialized assistance to houses of worship, schools, and community centers upon request.”
Kelly added that “the right to worship and commune within and across faiths is fundamental to the American experience and our way of life.”