By Julianne Cuba
Someone texted in a bomb threat to a Midwood Jewish center on March 10, prompting an evacuation of the Coney Island Avenue building around 8 am, just one day after the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights received its own emailed bomb threat. Both threats were unfounded, but rattled nerves nonetheless.
Police responded to the Jewish Association Serving the Aging at 8:05 am after someone working for the agency got a text that a bomb would go off, officials said. Police would not go into more detail about who received the text or what else it said.
Officers searched and cleared the building between Foster Avenue and Avenue H, and deemed it safe for everyone to go back inside by 10:22 am, a police department spokesman said.
Police are investigating the incident and its ties to the handful of other threats made against Jewish centers around the city, a department spokesman said.
But locals are not so much cringing in fear as they are in fuming frustration — and are hoping the stream of unfounded threats is not a disturbed plot to “cry wolf” enough to bring everyone’s guard down, said photographer Simon Gifter, who was on the scene.
“There’s no fear. The sense I got from interviewing people, they are sick and tired, not even scared anymore. They are just fed up with the whole situation. That’s the mindset of a lot of people, ‘another stupid bomb threat,’” said Gifter. “But what if people start letting their guard down? They are in a bind, have to take it seriously because if they don’t and something happens.”
Officials believe the scares are all coming from one sick copycat with sophisticated technology to disguise himself — after Missourian Juan Thompson was arrested last week for numerous threats across the county.
One local pol took to social media to lament the relentless stream threats coming day after day.
“It seems that hardly a day goes by without a threat to an innocent Jewish institution. Elderly people threatened today, children yesterday,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D–Midwood) wrote on Facebook. “With all of the resources that are allegedly being dedicated to identifying the culprits and bringing them to justice, why has there only been one arrest? The current theory is that it’s one individual making these threats. So why can’t he be stopped?”
And now Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is leading the charge with a letter to the Department of Homeland Security demanding it increase federal funding to ensure the security and protection of religious institutions across the country on the heels of the growing number of bomb threats this year. The letter, signed by 18 senators from both sides of the aisle, cites the recent scares at many Jewish centers.
The need for protection is imperative and the federal government must recognize the severity of what’s going on, said Gillibrand.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to live or worship in fear,” she said. “Hate crimes and threats are on the rise and we can’t stand idly by and do nothing, or pretend it’s not happening. Now more than ever, we need to make sure our places of worship and community centers have the right resources to protect themselves. I’m asking the Trump administration to take these threats seriously and dedicate more federal dollars to protecting religious and community centers.”
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