Jewish leaders applaud arrest of Israeli-American teen in bomb threat case
The director of the Westside Jewish Community Center today welcomed the arrest of an Israeli-American teenager on suspicion of perpetrating more than 100 bomb threats against a variety of Jewish institutions in the United States, even though it remained unclear whether the individual was responsible for the recent threats against the Westside JCC and the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach.
“I’m hopeful that this brings closure to what has been a very difficult ordeal for Jews and Jewish community centers across North America,” Brian Greene said.
The Westside JCC received two threats, one on Feb. 27 over the phone and another on March 9 via email. The JCC in Long Beach received two threats as well, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 27.
FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller said in an email to the Journal that it is too soon to say if the suspect had a role in the threats against the local JCCs.
“They [the investigators] have not yet provided a breakdown, and are presumably still working through that,” she stated.
Since Jan. 4, there have been more than 160 threats against Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions. The threats have been a mix of live and prerecorded phone calls and emails.
An FBI national spokesperson said the arrest occurred around midnight Eastern Time.
“Early this morning in Israel, the FBI and Israeli National Police worked jointly to locate and arrest the individual suspected for threats to Jewish organizations across the United States and in other parts of the world. The FBI commends the great work of the Israeli National Police in this investigation,” an FBI statement says. “Investigating hate crimes is a top priority for the FBI and we will continue to work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities and in their places of worship.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) provided a few details about the suspect in a statement.
“Israeli police and the FBI arrested an 18-year-old Israeli-American suspect after a months-long undercover investigation, saying the man had used advanced technologies to hide his identity. The suspect holds dual American-Israeli citizenship, according to authorities.”
According to media reports, the arrest took place at the suspect’s home in Ashkelon, and the suspect’s father, who reportedly knew of his son’s activity, was arrested as well.
While JCC Association of North America President and CEO Doron Krakow applauded law enforcement in a statement, he said there was something about the arrest that was distressing.
“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish community centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all — is reportedly Jewish,” he stated.
Even if the suspect is Jewish, the actions nevertheless amount to a hate crime, as they involved the intentional terrorizing of Jewish communities, according to ADL Senior Associate Director Alison Mayersohn.
“We don’t know what motivated the alleged perpetrator, but when a perpetrator targets an institution specifically because it is a Jewish institution, that’s a hate crime, and we consider the act anti-Semitic. The ADL does not believe the perpetrator’s religion or nationality is relevant,” she said.