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Metro Jewish groups told to be security aware

Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP])
Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP])
As a new wave of bomb threats were made against Jewish community centers and day schools across the U.S. on Monday, and another Jewish cemetery was attacked by vandals on Sunday, a local Jewish leader said metro Oklahoma City Jewish congregations and institutions have already been advised to make security awareness a priority.

Robert Clark, who recently became the new executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, said her organization has been in touch with the Oklahoma City Police Department since the spate of bomb threats began occurring around the country several weeks ago. She said the Jewish Federation has been appreciative of the police department's understanding of the Jewish's community's concerns and heightening their focus on Jewish organizations in the metro.  

The Tulsa World reported that the Tulsa Jewish Federation, 2021 E 71st St., was one of 11 Jewish community centers across the nation that received a bomb threat on Feb. 20. According to reports, Drew Diamond, the center's executive director and a former Tulsa police chief, said the threat cause no disruptions in the organization's operations and was made on a recorded "robo call."

Clark said the threats are being aptly described as a form of terrorism.

"It's certainly disheartening to see the Jewish community targeted. The phrase that's being used with the bomb threats -- and there have been dozens and dozens of them in the last month -- is 'telephone terrorism' and that's really what it is," she said.

"It's causing chaos in Jewish organizations' daily life because they have to take them seriously (threats) and so they have to decide if they are going to do a lock down or an evacuation. They have to reach out to law enforcement. They have to reach out to their membership," Clark said in a telephone interview.  

Monday, the Anti-Defamation League said it issued a security advisory to Jewish institutions across the country following the latest bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and day schools in several states.

In a news release, the organization said the latest round of threats has struck at least 12 states, including Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia --  in the fifth wave of threats that has been called into Jewish Community Centers in recent weeks.

The Anti-Defamation League said it tallied at least 20 threats on Monday and approximately 90 bomb threats to Jewish institutions since the beginning of 2017, including one to the ADL's national headquarters..

“While this latest round of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and day schools across the country again appears to not be credible, we are nonetheless urging all Jewish institutions to review their procedures,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the ADL's chief executive officer said in a news release.

“We are taking this very seriously and will continue to work intimately with federal and local law enforcement –- in addition to our community partners across the country -- as they cope during this difficult time.”

He added that the bomb threats have not been the only manifestation of anti-Semitism in recent weeks -- Vandals struck a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis and another in Philadelphia, damaging hundreds of headstones.    

Meanwhile, Clark with the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, said  the irony of the threats, outside of the one made to the Anti-Defamation League's national office and the desecration of the cemeteries, is that the Jewish Community Centers and day schools are open to all members of the community, not just the Jewish community.

"There are non-Jewish children in JCC preschools, there are non-Jews that go to JCC's to work out and to attend adult education classes and all that kind of stuff," she said. "So they are not just threatening the Jewish community -- they're threatening the entire community by targeting Jewish community centers."

Clark said the Jewish Federation has encouraged Jewish organizations in the metro to make their security policies are up to date and that they staff and volunteers are trained in security procedures. She said the federation is also encouraging Jewish congregations and groups to develop a relationship with local law enforcement "so that if they need help, the relationships already exist."     

Clark took the helm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City in December 2016, replacing the organization's longtime executive director Edie Roodman, who retired.

She previously served as the regional director of the North Texas/Oklahoma regional office of the Anti-Defamation League in Dallas. 

Monday, Clark said many Jewish communities want to let people know about incidents targeting their communities, but they are often torn in doing so out of concern that publicity and media attention might spark copy cat acts.

"It's difficult. On the one hand, we want people to know and show support and help if they know anything. On the other hand, we don't know how many people might feel emboldened by getting the news coverage, so it's a challenge," she said.

Clark said people in the community at large have been supportive.

"It's certainly heartening that so many good people around the country who are not members of the Jewish community are standing up and speaking out against this and offering assistance," she said. "As is always the case, when bad stuff happens, good people step up and that's always really an honor and a pleasure to see."  

 

 

 

Carla Hinton

Religion Editor 

Related Photos
Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP])

Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP])

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ebd5ab5d6f14d1bc9196f9549c549707.jpg" alt="Photo - Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP]) " title="Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP]) "><figcaption>Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP]) </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0a95f6feddc31b385d6a95831a4b0792.jpg" alt="Photo - Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP]) " title="Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP]) "><figcaption>Northeast Philadelphia Police Detective Timothy McIntyre and a Philadelphia police officer look over tombstones that were vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. [Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP]) </figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›

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