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JCC threat fits into campaign of terror 

It wasn’t a matter of whether the Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester would receive a threat, but when. It had been spared during previous rounds of bomb threats to Jewish community centers across the country, none of which have involved actual bombs, thankfully.

That changed just after 6 a.m. Tuesday, when the center on Edgewood Avenue in Brighton received a threat; police aren’t saying how the threat was communicated. The 75 to 80 people who were there – members who were working out and some staff – were evacuated and police swept the building. The center reopened around 10 a.m., after police gave the all-clear.

Back in January, during the initial waves of threats against Jewish community centers, local JCC staff began working with Brighton police to develop an emergency response plan. Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson says the plan worked flawlessly on Tuesday. (JCC’s in Miami, Milwaukee, and the Syracuse area also received threats.)

The fact that the JCC had to plan for this is scary, and it says all too much about the current national psyche. Right now, a lot of people in this country live in a constant state of anxiety or fear because of what the White House may do, or what their neighbors may do.

It all starts at the top. The president and his top advisers want to ban Muslim immigrants from the US and they continue to flirt with white nationalist groups and personalities. They’ve also cast Mexican immigrants as criminals and they’ve stripped protections from transgender youth. They demonstrate a disdain for “otherness,” and their attitudes have clearly emboldened some people to act on some of their darkest prejudices.

Brighton police are investigating the threat, and they’re not saying whether they’ve identified a suspect or motive. State and federal law enforcement are also taking action.

“The FBI 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,” FBI Buffalo office spokesperson Maureen Dempsey said in a statement Tuesday. The threat to the local JCC will be included in that investigation, she said.

But let’s not pretend this bomb threat is anything other than what is: the latest act in a campaign of terror against “otherness.” Odds are good that the person who made the threat meant to intimidate the local Jewish community, though the JCC is very clear that it welcomes all faiths as members. But even if it’s an isolated prank, it still taps into the fear that now permeates many lives.

It shouldn’t be lost on people that just a few days before the JCC threat, someone vandalized graves at Waad Hakolel Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery just off of Lake Road in Charlotte. State and local police are investigating that incident; several Jewish cemeteries across the country have been vandalized.

As for the JCC threat, Brighton Supervisor Bill Moehle referred to it as “an expression of hatred in our community” in a Facebook post Tuesday. He said Brighton would continue to welcome people of all faiths.

“We reject hatred and we open doors to welcome our neighbors,” he wrote.

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