Local Jewish Community Centers Threatened
March 22, 2017
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Recently, bomb threats and prejudice towards Jewish community centers have been overwhelming. JCCs operate as a communal spot for Jews and non-Jews alike to participate in arts and sports. The peace in these open, enjoyable places, just trying to connect our community, has been disrupted profusely. Since January, 100 centers and schools nationwide have been targeted for anti-semitism and hate. The origins of these threats have not been traced yet, and until they are, as far as we know, they will continue to alarm communities. Although none of the threats have been carried out, the amount received is so overwhelming, no one can be sure if they ever will be fulfilled in the future. As for now, daily life that takes place at Jewish community centers nationwide has been interrupted by numerous evacuations. These hate crimes are increasing fear and hatred in our society that does not need anymore of it. The threats started to erupt in early January with 15 in one day and have continued to spread, even two months later.
For Sarah Stern, one of our own teachers at Dobbs Ferry High School, these acts of anti-semitism have impacted her directly. Her son Eli, has been attending the JCC since he was 6 months old, and they both love the community and activities there. On the first Monday in March, she received a text from her husband saying Eli had to be picked up early due to a bomb threat at the JCC while Eli was there. Stern heard some different responses to the threats – some feeling in a way relieved, “seeing the threats around the country…at some point it was our turn.” Others were more nonchalant about it – “There’s no bomb, it’s just a way of disrupting.” Either way, Stern agreed that no matter what, you would not want to take the chance and would always want your child evacuated. She also found it difficult to have to explain to her four-year old about the subject of hate and terrorism; there is no easy way to explain it to anyone for that matter.
Stern took some matters into her own hands and called numerous representatives to get some answers. “I felt really offended that nobody could answer me about whether there is an investigation or any progress that is being made…How many times do you get to make a bomb threat to a community Jewish center before somebody stops it?” She expressed concern that President Trump neglected to mention Jews on International Holocaust Day, and how there needs to be more awareness and action taking place. On a more local and personal level, it was good to hear that she and the rest of the Jewish community in Tarrytown felt supported by the churches and Muslim communities that reached out. “The one who was the most supportive,” claimed Stern, “was Andrea Stewart Cousins, the state senator.” Cousins got right back with overwhelming support, sympathy, and agreed to attend a community meeting at the JCC in Tarrytown and participate as a member of the panel that will address the community. Stern explained how the threats are taking an economic and personal toll as well. The day of the threats in Tarrytown, she felt disoriented and distracted in her classroom. However, she is grateful for the support here at DFHS from the students, faculty and administration. Stern continues to speak out against anti-semitism, “Especially because I teach about Nazi Germany and Fascism so I’m doing it right now as it is happening…the lesson from the Holocaust is the ‘What you do matters.’ That’s the key message. The Holocaust and other travesties happen because good people do nothing; people who have the best intentions don’t say anything, don’t do anything, just don’t want to get involved.” She understands getting involved can be risky and how if it doesn’t involve you it is easier to stay out of it; nonetheless, people must take action when they see something wrong. In her view, the next step after these threats is to pressure our elected officials to come and speak out against this, specifically Donald Trump and the FBI. “To me, either you have an incompetent FBI that cannot answer this question and find this person, or you have a government that doesn’t care, and both aren’t good.” Our government should be able to keep us safe and protect us, and not allow these types of terrorism take place, especially in such a scary and harmful time like now. “They need to know it matters, not just to Jews, but to non-Jews.”
There are all types of ways to show support to your community during these frightening times; people can make donations to JCC, the whole situation has been very costly with the security and meetings, and reaching out – writing letters, calling, anything that can make the children, staff, and overall community feel comforted and supported.