A view of the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin, which was one of several JCCs to receive more bomb threats on Sunday. Photo from Facebook.

At least 7 JCCs receive bomb threats on Purim


At least seven Jewish community centers in the United States and Canada received bomb threats while they were hosting Purim events.

The threats, either called in or emailed, were reported Sunday at JCCs in Rochester, New York; Chicago; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Cleveland; Houston, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Most of the JCCs were evacuated and searched. None of the threats turned out to be credible.

For some of the centers it was their second threat in the past week.

The threats are part of a wave that has hit JCCs, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions since the start of 2017. More than 150 threats have been received since the beginning of the year, according to the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations in North America.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the second such threat against the Rochester JCC in less than a week “a despicable and cowardly act” of anti-Semitism. Cuomo ordered the New York State Police to launch a more intense investigation into the threats, and to work with federal and local law enforcement on the investigation.

“Like all New Yorkers, I am profoundly disturbed and disgusted by the continued threats against the Jewish community in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As New Yorkers, we will not be intimidated and we will not stand by silently as some seek to sow hate and division. New York is one family, and an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he plans to provide additional law enforcement intelligence and staffing to the JCC in Milwaukee so it “continues to be a safe place” after it was evacuated Sunday for the fourth time in six weeks.

Meanwhile, a rally was held Sunday outside the Rady Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, which was evacuated due to a bomb threat on Thursday, “to send a signal of unity against fear and terrorism.”

In Wisconsin, Jews seek ways to help Sikhs after Milwaukee shooting


Almost as soon as she heard the news about a deadly shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, Elana Kahn-Oren’s phone started ringing.

As director of the Jewish Community Relations Council at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Kahn-Oren fielded call after call from concerned area Jews asking what they could do to help.

“We have to make sure to be respectful of the Sikh community and to make sure that we find appropriate avenues to express that support,” Kahn-Oren told JTA.

A day after Sunday’s shooting, the federation was offering counseling services, had opened a mailbox to receive donations for assisting with the financial needs of the victims and their families, and was in talks with the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to figure out a way to bring religious leaders together for an interfaith prayer service.

[Related: Board of Rabbis stands with Sikh community after shooting]

“Coming together after events like these reaffirms the values of the community,” Kahn-Oren said. “This goes against our moral fiber.”

The assailant killed six people, including the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, before being shot dead by police. On Monday, police identified the shooter as Wade M. Page, a U.S. Army veteran with ties to white supremacist groups.

Jacob Herber of Congregation Beth Israel said the Milwaukee synagogue’s weekday minyan would be holding a moment of silence to commemorate and express solidarity with the victims, just as the minyan does when Jews are attacked around the world.

“Unfortunately, because we have experienced through much of our history bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism, this event is very acute for us in its pain,” Herber said. “That’s why I think we feel not only the obligation but the real personal, profound emotion of wanting to reach out to the Sikh community.”

Linda Holifield, executive director of Congregation Shalom in Milwaukee, said the shooter’s targeting of a place of worship was particularly upsetting.

“When one place of worship is targeted, it suggests then that any place of worship could be a target,” she said.

Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, said the tragedy has really hit home because of the tight-knit nature of the community in Milwaukee.

“Milwaukee is in many respects a large village where many people of many faiths are interconnected personally, professionally and socially,” he said. “At a time like this, we need to come together as a community to reassert our common values and to comfort those who have suffered grievous losses.”

Religious groups urge understanding following Sikh Temple shooting


Religious groups are calling for tolerance after six people were killed in a shooting attack at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin.

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism have joined with Shoulder to Shoulder, a national religious, faith-based and interfaith organization, to encourage Americans to join special services with their local Sikh communities in the wake of Sunday’s shooting outside of Milwaukee.

“As we wait for further information regarding the motive of the shooter, we reiterate our deep commitment to a United States that is able to tolerate and respect the many religious traditions that live together in this great country,” Christina Warner, campaign director for Shoulder to Shoulder, said in a statement. “The tragedy in Milwaukee shows painfully the need for Americans of all faiths to learn about one another and embrace the diverse religious tapestry of the United States.”

Along with the deaths, at least three people, including a police officer, were injured in the attack.

The Anti-Defamation League condemned the violence and reached out to the Sikh community at a national level to express concern, condolences and solidarity, as well as offer its resources and guidance on institutional security and response in the aftermath of a hate crime.

“Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ADL and law enforcement officials have documented many apparent ‘backlash crimes’ directed at Muslim, Sikh, and Arab Americans,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “We have raised concern about a spike in bigotry against Muslims and others perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin. This attack is another gruesome reminder that bigotry and hate against those whose religion makes them ‘different’ or ‘other’ can have deadly consequences.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has investigated more than 800 incidents since 9/11 involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Arab Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.

Report: Ryan Braun, baseball MVP, tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs


Ryan Braun, the first Jewish player in more than five decades to win one of baseball’s Most Valuable Player awards, has reportedly tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

The Associated Press cited an unnamed source who said that the case was under appeal to an arbitrator under Major League Baseball’s drug program.

Braun is disputing the results. According to USA Today, he dismissed the reports as “B.S.”

“There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan’s complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program,” said a Braun spokesman in a statement published by ESPN. “While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated.”

Braun, the son of an Israeli-born Jewish father and a Catholic mother, was named the National League MVP last month. He received 20 of 32 first-place votes and 388 points in voting announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Los Angeles center fielder Matt Kemp was second with 10 first-place votes and 332 points.

Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1963 was the last Jewish player to win the award. Other Jewish players who have been named MVP are Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers in 1940 and Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians in 1953.

Braun batted .332 this season with 33 home runs, 111 RBI and 33 steals to help lead the Brewers to the Central Division title.

Some have taken to calling the Los Angeles-reared Braun “The Hebrew Hammer.”

“I am Jewish,” Braun said last year. “It’s something I’m really proud of. But I don’t want to make it into something more than what it is. I didn’t have a bar mitzvah. I don’t want to pretend that I did. I didn’t celebrate the holidays.

“It’s a touchy subject because I don’t want to offend anybody, and I don’t want groups claiming me now because I’m having success. But I do consider myself definitely Jewish. And I’m extremely proud to be a role model for young Jewish kids.”

This year Braun has been named twice to JTA’s weekly Friday Five list and also cracked the top five of the annual Forward 50 list.