And what is being done? At the national level, the Secure Community Network, a woefully underfunded creation of JFNA, has responded with excellent defensive advice as to how to evacuate, who to contact when threats are delivered and is working, as I have been told, "...with the highest levels at the FBI and Homeland Security." And, I guess, that's fine; it is what it is. We were all gratified today when the FBI announced the arrest of one criminal who appeared to be both a copycat and one pursuing a very personal vendetta.*
At the end of the day if we as a community can't rely on local law enforcement, the FBI and Homeland Security, that would be an American tragedy. And Senator Schumer has demanded that the FCC issue a waiver to enable the escalating threatening calls to the JCCs to be more easily traced, assuring greater scrutiny on the actions or inactions of that agency.
And, while JFNA has remained silent, the JCPA answered the call with not just a "Statement" but with specific action recommendations:
Thanks to the efforts of JFNA-Washington, our communities and our institutions have received millions, tens of millions, in security grants, grants that are deployed to protect our families and buildings. Yet, the hate crimes of the past months have been designed to instill fear in a community that has been exempt from hatred and fear for decade after decade."Washington DC – The ongoing bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have sown fear in more than 100 Jewish communities and institutions across the country. “We call upon our public officials, in both word and deed, to do everything in their power to put a stop to these threats and incidents,” stated David Bernstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).
“We are heartened and appreciative that President Trump gave this issue top billing in his speech before Congress last night,” stated Cheryl Fishbein, Chair of the JCPA. “We urge the President to continue to speak out against these threats against the Jewish community and other minority groups in a timely and decisive manner.”
“Our public officials can create an environment in which such incidents are more or less likely to occur,” stated Bernstein. “The more our officials declare a commitment to an inclusive, bigotry-free society, the more likely radical elements will be kept in check.”
On Monday alone more than 30 JCCs received bomb threats, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was desecrated and swastikas were found on playgrouds and sprayed on cars in several cities. For some of these JCCs, this was the fourth or fifth threat received by these institutions in the past couple of months. Since January, there have been 101 threats to the Jewish community, including bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers, day schools, and communal organizations.
Shockingly, hate crimes against African Americans, Muslims, minorities, and immigrants topped 1,000 during the same period.
In addition to issuing clear public statements, there is much more work to be done. We urge the President, the Attorney General, and the FBI to spare no resources to investigate these new threats and bring the culprits to justice.
We also call for implementation of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) anti-hate recommendations:
- Convene a federal inter-agency task force on Fighting Hate that brings together all the relevant agencies
- Appoint a White House coordinator for Fighting Hate
- Support federal and state-level legislation to protect students from increasing religious harassment and discrimination on college campuses
- Train state and local law enforcement agencies led by the Department of Justice on how to handle hate crimes, including detection and responseWe urge Jewish community institutions to reinforce a sense of safety and not allow these highly disruptive threats to deter participation in Jewish life."
And, yet, other than the security grants, what we as a Jewish community have been doing has been reactive not proactive. It is as if we are helpless, we are victims. One of the Friends of the Blog had a suggestion:
"If the Federation system wants to do something that will capture the attention of the community it should offer a $100,000 reward for the capture and successful prosecution of those involved in making the JCC bomb threats (and other hate attacks on our communal institutions).”This strikes me as both proactive and doable; and, yet, this suggestion has fallen upon deaf ears. Perhaps one of you could explain why this idea has been rejected. There does seem to be debate about the efficacy of rewards but the evidence certainly suggests that, as we say, at worst "it couldn't hurt" and in a significant percentage of instances, such a reward offering has helped tremendously in the pursuit of criminals. See, e.g.,http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/does-offering-rewards-to-solve-crimes-pay-off.html
An Anonymous Commentator went even further with the idea proactivity, suggesting JFNA show some leadership, recognizing that the vandalism and desecration of our cemeteries and synagogues is a disaster and helping fund the curative and restorative efforts on-going.
Has anyone at JFNA even thought about doing something positive and impactful?
The Federations/JFNA may be disinterested in offering a reward in pursuit of the criminals/terrorists who have assaulted our institutions. These are the same leaders who won't give up the annual GA for fear that "others" would step into the claimed "void" that would thereby be created; the ones who trumpet our communal centrality; but back away from an affirmative act that would assert, in one small but critical way, that centrality. And, of course, other organizations will step into this void and more will ask "why should we trust our own organizations?" That's sad, very sad.
The attacks on our communal and religious system have exposed us to an unreasoned hatred we thought was behind us as Americans and American Jews. If we are as strong as we believe our communal institutions to be, it is not enough to sit back and let others protect us without joining in the effort in some proactive way is it? Isn't that what our constituents want?
* There was a meeting of Jewish organizations today at which (1) the organizations expressed gratitude and appreciation for the FBI's work in this matter and (2) JFNA Jerry was in the room where it happened and the photo-op. I'll leave it to you to judge if JFNA-Washington could have been there while Silverman did...oh, never mind.