The Westside JCC, which was targeted with two bomb threats. Photo by Ryan Torok

Second bomb threat in two weeks at Westside JCC is another hoax


The Westside Jewish Community Center (WJCC) received a bomb threat via email March 9 — the second time in less than two weeks that it has been targeted in a series of incidents sweeping the nation.

“Today at approximately noon we received an email with a bomb threat that resembled the ones other JCCs have been receiving over the past few weeks,” Brian Greene, executive director of the WJCC, wrote in a March 9 statement addressed to “Westside JCC Families.”

The threat, which turned out to be a hoax, prompted an evacuation of the facility.

“We contacted the Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] and followed our emergency protocols to evacuate the building. Within an hour the police had very thoroughly checked our building and gave us the ‘all clear’ to re-enter and return to our normal day,” Greene’s statement reads. The WJCC executive director was not immediately available for an interview.

Located near Olympic Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the JCC previously received a threat on Feb. 27. That one was made via a phone call.

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions, 2017 through March 12. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Bomb threats against Jewish institutions, 2017
through March 12. Source: Anti-Defamation League.

Since Jan. 4, there have been more than 160 threats against Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions in more than 30 states. The threats have been a mix of live and prerecorded phone calls and emails.

According to an email from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Community Security Initiative and obtained by the Journal, the threat occurred at 12:15 p.m. “The email received is identical to an email bomb threat received by the Jewish Children Museum in Brooklyn NY earlier this morning,” the email says.

On the morning of March 9, the Jewish Children’s Museum was evacuated after receiving an email saying pipe bombs had been hidden in the building, according to nydailynews.com.

In a phone interview, LAPD Sgt. Matt McNulty confirmed that the email sent to the WJCC contained language about pipe bombs.

“So basically, they got an email stating there were possible pipe bombs on the property, and that generated a police response. Students were evacuated, and Los Angeles Police Department officers, along with representatives of the school, conducted a walk of the location, deemed it to be safe, found no suspicious devices,” McNulty said.

Debora Parks, principal at Harkham-GAON Academy, which rents out the third floor of the WJCC, told the Journal on the afternoon of March 9 that her school’s students were not among those evacuated as their day had been cut short in observance of a pre-Purim fasting day. School was not in session; instead, Parks said, “I was having a meeting with a mother and a potential student, because it was after school. So we had to tell them, ‘Sorry, we can’t continue the interview. We have to leave, we have to evacuate.’ ”

Parks was among those who joined LAPD officers in searching the building. The search went faster than the last time the WJCC received a threat as multiple floors were searched at once, with JCC leaders pairing with officers and guiding them to different places on the campus where the bomb or bombs could have been placed, Parks said.

McNulty said identifying the perpetrator or perpetrators won’t be easy.

“A lot of the stuff is computer-generated, and some of the times, this stuff is generated overseas, so you have a hard time pinning down where it is coming from,” he said. “We did take a criminal report for the bomb threat and that will be investigated by [the LAPD] Major Crimes Division.”

The WJCC accommodates programs for preschool children, operates a swimming pool, runs events for senior citizens, and more. Why someone would target a place like that is beyond Parks.

“I don’t know what the motivation is. It seems like the motivation is to cause disruption and they’re successful in that,” Parks said. “That’s for sure.”