Amid mounting bomb threats against U.S. Jewish centers, vandals hit Jewish cemetery

A Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized
(Image credit: USA Today/YouTube)

On Monday, 11 Jewish community centers (JCCs) across the U.S. received bomb threats, the latest in a wave of 69 coordinated threats against 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province since early January, according to the JCCA, an association of JCCs. The community centers are a place for Jewish people of all religious and political beliefs to gather, as well as child care centers for children of all faiths. In one recorded bomb threat, the caller, voice disguised, says "a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered" by an explosive device. No bombs have been found yet, but each time a threat is phoned in, teachers have to evacuate babies and young children, and some parents are pulling their kids from local JCCs.

Also on Monday, police in St. Louis said that over the weekend, vandals had damaged dozens of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in the city's University City neighborhood. Anita Feigenbaum, director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Society, told The Washington Post that more than 170 graves were vandalized in the cemetery's oldest section, a "horrific act of cowardice" unlike the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery had seen in its 125-year history.

The FBI said it and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division "are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish community centers across the country." The FBI recorded more than 1,270 hate crime incidents against Jews in 2014 and 2015 — far more than any other religious group — and the problem has gotten worse since. "I've been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented," security consultant Paul Goldenberg tells CNN. "It's more methodical than meets the eye."

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Jewish reporters asked President Trump last week about the apparent rise in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents, and Trump responded by talking about his electoral victory, claiming he is the "least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life," and noting that his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism. On Monday evening, Ivanka Trump became the first member of the Trump family to comment on the wave of bomb threats, tweeting: "America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC." The White House, when asked for comment by NBC News, said "hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom," but did not mention threats against Jewish targets.

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