WASHINGTON — In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, every single member of the United States Senate signed an open letter to the Trump administration Tuesday demanding that action be taken to address the ongoing surge in anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country.
The letter, which will be sent to the heads of multiple government agencies, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, warns that if the issue goes ignored, human lives will be endangered.
It came amidst a sixth wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers across North America, as well as several offices of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group that combats bigotry worldwide.
“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” the 100 senators said in their appeal.
“This is completely unacceptable and un-American,” they added. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”
At least 14 Jewish sites were targeted Tuesday amid ongoing threats that have caused multiple evacuations and prompted some parents to pull their children out of JCC school programs. Since the trend began in January, more than 100 Jewish institutions experienced bomb threats, and multiple Jewish cemeteries were vandalized.
A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)
The events have led many to fear a sustained assault on the American Jewish community.
Drafted by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters (D), Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the letter urged the administration to devote its full resources to confronting the threats and assisting the victims.
“We encourage you to communicate with individual JCCs, the JCC Association of North America, Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other Jewish community institutions regarding victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance that may be available to enhance security measures and improve preparedness,” the text said.
“We also recognize the anti-Semitic sentiment behind this spate of threats and encourage your Departments to continue to inform state and local law enforcement organizations of their obligations under the Hate Crime Statistics Act and other federal laws,” it added.
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)
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.
Many of the nation’s most prominent and powerful Jewish organizations immediately came out in support of the letter, including the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Orthodox Union, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism.
“I commend Senators Peters, Portman, Nelson and Rubio for mobilizing such a resounding bipartisan call for action,” said ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt. “Today the Senate demonstrated a unified moral front against hatred and sent a strong message that in our America a threat against one of us is an attack on all of us.”