Jewish centres report bomb threats across U.S.
North American association has logged nearly 70 threats in U.S. so far in 2017
Several Jewish community centres (JCC) across the United States were evacuated for a time on Monday after receiving bomb threats, the latest wave of threatened attacks against them this year, the national umbrella organization said.
Some 11 centres including those in the Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee areas received phoned-in bomb threats that were later determined to be hoaxes, said David Posner, a director at JCC Association of North America who advises centres on security.
No arrests were made and no one was injured. All of the centres returned to normal operations, Posner said in a statement.
The FBI was investigating the incidents, Posner said.
Officials at the FBI were not immediately available for comment.
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Officials at the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay, Wisc., north of Milwaukee, received a bomb threat at 10:15 a.m. local time, the second such incident at the centre over the last three weeks, it said on Twitter.
"Taking very cautious measures, we are sheltering in our gym, as has been recommended," the Milwaukee JCC said in a text message sent to parents of children who attend the preschool at the centre, according to an NBC affiliate in Milwaukee.
The centre reopened two hours later, the centre said on Twitter.
Monday's incidents come after three waves of bomb threats in 2017. In all, 69 incidents at 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province have been reported, according to the JCC Association of North America.
"We are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life," Posner said.
Jewish community centres typically offer after-school activities, fitness programs and various other services.
In addition to the threats, dozens of headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri.
The vandalism was reported early Monday at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, about 12 kilometres northwest of downtown St. Louis.
Police Lt. Fredrick Lemons says investigators are looking at surveillance cameras to help determine who pushed over the headstones.
According to its website, the cemetery opened in 1893.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens posted a statement on Facebook late Monday night calling the vandalism "despicable" and "a cowardly act."
Greitens says "anyone who would seek to divide us through an act of desecration will find instead that they unite us in shared determination."