Bomb threat at Mid-Island Y JCC prompts condemnation and increased policing

Bomb threat at Mid-Island Y JCC prompts condemnation and increased policing
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks on Tuesday about the police response to a bomb threat the day before at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview.

Nassau County Police will increase their patrols at Jewish institutions throughout the county in response to a bomb threat called into the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview on Monday, the second such threat leveled at a JCC in Nassau this year.

“We’ll make sure that our religious institutions have more patrols, you will see a heightened police presence in those locations,” Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said at a press conference on Tuesday.

On Friday, the FBI arrested a St. Louis man who allegedly made at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the United States and one against the New York headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League, according to a federal complaint filed by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

The man, Juan Thompson, made some of the threats in the name of a former girlfriend to harass and intimidate her, the complaint said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer announced that he’s asking the Federal Communications Commission chairman to grant a waiver for tracing the phone calls made to facilities that have been targeted, according to a Newsday report.

“This news is alarming and continues a trend of anti-Semitism and hate talk of other religious and ethnic minorities that has been spreading throughout our country over the last several weeks,” U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said. “It’s now come to our community and it must stop.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, County Executive Edward Mangano said, “A threat to any one person’s right to express freedom of religion is a threat to every citizen here in our county.”

Speaking alongside Mangano, Krumpter said police are “aggressively investigating the case.”

“We’re doing everything we can to bring the individuals to justice,” he added.

David Black, executive director of Sid Jacobson JCC in Roslyn, said his community center has “not been affected by the Robo calls and high-end security is always the norm.”

“Our members have responded beautifully.  They say yes to value and no to intimidation and fear,” he said.

The bomb threat on Monday in Plainview and another called into a JCC in Oceanside on Jan. 18 share similarities, Krumpter said.

But law enforcement officials do not have sufficient information to determine whether the threats were conducted by the same individual or group of individuals, he said.

Nassau police increased the frequency and duration of their patrolling at Jewish institutions during the religion’s high holy days in December, and have since intensified policing further in light of this year’s attacks, Krumpter said. 

Safety measures include additional undercover officers as well as an app that will allow religious institutions to bypass the 9-1-1 dispatch system and immediately reach the police department, he said.

On Monday morning a receptionist at the Mid-Island Y JCC received the bomb threat over the phone, at which time the community center immediately initiated emergency procedures and staff scanned the building, Mid-Island Y JCC Executive Director Rick Lewis said.

Police arrived minutes later and decided to evacuate the 400 people present, who ranged from nursery school children to senior citizens, Lewis said.

JCC staff told the children they were going on a field trip, leaving it up to their parents to determine whether they wanted to disclose the cause of the interruption, Lewis added.

Asked if the bomb threat constituted an act of anti-Semitism, Lewis said he didn’t think “anyone can be sure but it sure does look like that.”

“If they’re trying to target Jewish organizations, we were next,” he added.

Lewis said he and the receptionist have spoken with the FBI, who are conducting an investigation of the incident.

“People have been very supportive,” Lewis said. “We’ve heard from local churches and other clergy. Everybody seems very concerned about what’s going on, whether Jewish people or other populations are being unfairly targeted.”

After the incident, one of several bomb threats on Monday at Jewish institutions throughout the state, statements of condemnation poured in from religious and political figures across New York.

“Make no mistake: these reprehensible and cowardly attacks are not limited to the Jewish community,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “They are assaults on all New Yorkers and I vow that we will do everything in our power to catch those responsible for this wave of hate crimes.”

Last week, Cuomo established a $25 million grant program that aims to “boost safety and security at New York’s schools and day care centers at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission,” he said.

Rabbi Anchell Perl, of Chabad of Mineola, called on leaders at “every level of government” to condemn the attacks. 

He said people feel comfortable going to temples and JCCs, but that there’s an “itchiness” among Jews amid the threats

“The answer to all of these hateful types of attacks is not to say, ‘Let’s recede into the shadows, let’s keep a lower profile.’” Perl said. “We will not be marginalized or recede into the shadows. We will not be intimidated or forced to cower into the corners.”

Arnold Drucker, a Democratic County legislator whose district represents Plainview as well as parts of Roslyn, said, “The Mid-Island Y JCC of Plainview is the heart of our community, and today our heart is broken that a center that brings so many wonderful people and groups together could be the target of such divisive behavior meant to foster fear, result in pain and try to tear down the safe places that act as a home for so many.” 

“We will not tolerate this behavior,” he said.

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