The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver was among four North American JCCs that received emailed bomb threats after a wave of threats targeted 16 other Jewish institutions on March 7, including buildings in Toronto and London, Ont.
In addition to the Vancouver JCC, facilities in Colorado, Delaware and Connecticut received bomb threats via email either the night of March 7 or the next morning, according to local reports and Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which co-ordinates security across U.S. Jewish organizations.
The emails, Goldenberg said, appeared to be the tail end of a wave of bomb threats March 7 that targeted JCCs, Jewish day schools and several offices of the Anti-Defamation League. It was the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year. In total, more than 100 bomb threats have been made against Jewish sites since the start of 2016, all of them hoaxes.
As was the case in Toronto and London, Vancouver police found no bombs after searching the local JCC, which was evacuated after receiving an email threat at around 9 p.m., only one hour before closing.
Eldad Goldfarb, executive director of the Vancouver JCC, said about 200 people were in the building when the emailed threat came in. They were quickly evacuated and local police were summoned to conduct an investigation.
“It didn’t take too long to get the all-clear,” he said.
The facility opened as usual the next morning. “The building is full. It’s back to normal,” Goldfarb said March 8.
“Naturally, this creates an awareness of the situation,” he added. People thought they could “live in a bubble, thinking it will never get to Vancouver.”
But now the city joins several Canadian JCCs – in addition to the Toronto and London facilities, the Calgary JCC received a bomb threat on Feb. 28 – and other Jewish buildings around the world that have received threats, he noted.
In an email to the community, Goldfarb and other Vancouver Jewish leaders said they had asked Vancouver police to step up patrols around Jewish institutions and advised all local Jewish organizations to update their security protocols.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attacks March 8.
“This week, Jewish communities across the country have again been targeted by hateful threats and acts designed to make us all afraid. I want to say again – we will stand by you every day in the face of intolerance, prejudice and outright criminal acts. We understand the fear and anxiety each one of these threats creates in the Jewish community, especially when the locations targeted are places where Jewish families and children gather. The cowards who target Jewish schools, community centres and synagogues won’t shake our resolve, and we’ll work with law enforcement to bring them to justice,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“In Canada, we stand together because we know that diversity is our strength. It built this country. Jews in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and across the country should know they have the full support of the Government of Canada as we guard against a resurgence of anti-Semitism. We’re with you, and will do everything we can to keep you safe.”
The Boulder, Colo., JCC sent an email to members shortly after 3 a.m. on March 8 notifying them of the threat and saying that law enforcement had given the JCC permission to resume operations.
“We take the safety and security of our families, our community, and our staff as a top priority,” the email said, adding that “the continuation of these threats across the country to JCCs, other Jewish institutions, and the Boulder JCC is very disheartening.”
The JCC in Wilmington, Del., has received four threats, including one overnight March 7-8. Seth Katzen, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Delaware, which shares a building with the JCC, said he doesn’t know why they’ve been targeted so many times.
The Birmingham, Ala., JCC has also received four threats, and several other sites have received three.
“We haven’t seen that drop that other communities experienced,” Katzen told JTA March 8. “We’re a resilient and strong community. We don’t want to give in.”
But he added, “There is a wear and tear, no question.”
With files from JTA