JCC leaders demand Sessions be a ‘stronger partner’ against continued threats

WASHINGTON — Amidst an unabated trend of anti-Semitic incidents throughout the United States, 141 leaders of Jewish community centers across the country sent an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday asking that he take more action to deter the threats.

“We are frustrated with the progress in resolving this situation,” the letter said. “We insist that all relevant federal agencies, including your own, apply all the resources available to identify and bring the perpetrator or perpetrators, who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in communities across the country, to justice.”

Since January, more than 100 Jewish centers and other institutions have received bomb threats over six waves of such episodes, causing some parents to pull their kids from JCC programs. Meanwhile, several Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized.

The letter, orchestrated by the JCC Association of North America, asks the nation’s top law enforcement officer for a meeting to discuss “specific steps that will be taken to deter further threats, discuss security needs, and seek justice.”

While praising their various local police agencies for representing “a beacon of responsiveness and professionalism as our communities have endured dozens of anti-Semitic threats,” the signatories said they wanted Sessions’ Department of Justice to live up to the same standard.

Children and staff heading back to a Jewish school in Davie, Florida, on February 27, 2017 after police gave the all-clear following a hoax bomb threat. (screen capture: Erica Rakow/Twitter)

Children and staff heading back to a Jewish school in Davie, Florida, on February 27, 2017 after police gave the all-clear following a hoax bomb threat. (screen capture: Erica Rakow/Twitter)

“We respectfully ask that federal agencies, including your own, do the same,” the letter said, adding that the department needs to “treat this case with the utmost urgency it deserves.”

The letter came one day after the entire United States Senate sent a missive to not only Sessions but also Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and FBI Director James Comey asking that more be done to address the issue.

President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitic attacks in his maiden speech to Congress one week ago, opening that address by saying the phenomenon was a reminder “of our nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that remains.”

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said.

US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JIM LO SCALZO)

US President Donald J. Trump delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, USA, 28 February 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JIM LO SCALZO)

His condemnation came after Jewish leaders were roiled over his apparent hesitance to speak out unequivocally against anti-Semitism, despite those forces seemingly having been empowered during his campaign and subsequent victory.

Many outside groups and legislators have been demanding tangible actions be taken to counter the uptick in anti-Jewish hate crimes, including the House of Representative’s Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism.

That group wants the White House to create a mechanism led by Sessions to “coordinate inter-agency detection” for responding to anti-Semitic incidents in cooperation with the FBI, the Departments of Homeland Security, Education and State, as well as the director of National Intelligence.

While the JCC leaders did not recommend any specific policy proposals for addressing the matter more effectively or efficiently, they made clear they expected a more robust effort to thwart the growing tide of anti-Semitic episodes.

“JCCs have demonstrated incredible resilience over the past several weeks, relying on long-practiced measures to ensure that we can safely and effectively serve communities across the continent,” said Doron Krakow, president and CEO of JCC Association of North America,

“We will not allow anti-Semitism to get in the way of our providing our invaluable programs, and we urge Attorney General Sessions to be an even stronger partner to us.”

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