St. Louis man arrested for bomb threats against Jewish institutions


A St. Louis man has been charged for making at least eight bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League.

Juan Thompson, 31, made some of the threats in the name of a former romantic partner he had been cyberstalking, according to a statement Friday by the U.S. Attorney of Southern New York. Thompson has been charged with cyberstalking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

“Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race – whatever the motivation – are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.”

Thompson made some of the threats in his victim’s name and some in his own in an attempt to portray himself as being framed. In a series of  Twitter posts this week, he claimed his victim was in fact making the threats and framing him. He also tweeted sympathetic messages expressing support for the Jewish victims of the threats.

But the FBI complaint against Thompson says he was behind at least eight of the threats made in January and February, mostly via email. The complaint says Thompson threatened institutions including the ADL, JCCs in San Diego and New York City, schools in New York and Michigan, and a Jewish history museum in New York City. In the threats to the schools, made on Feb. 1, Thompson referred to a “Jewish newtown,” a reference to the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecuticut.

In total, more than 100 Jewish institutions, mostly JCCs, have received bomb threats since the beginning of the year. The last two weeks saw vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in PhiladelphiaSt. Louis and Rochester, New York, as well as two more waves of bomb threats called into JCCs, schools and institutions across the country, representing the fourth and fifth waves of such harassment this year. No explosive device was found after any of the calls.

“The NYPD and the FBI have done an outstanding job in this regard,” Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions, told JTA on Friday. “We at SCN and the Jewish Federations of North America commend them and hold them in the highest regard.”

The threats prompted clamor for President Donald Trump to condemn the anti-Semitism behind the targeting of Jewish institutions.

After initially demurring to comment directly when asked about the spate of recent anti-Semitic incidents, Trump eventually called the threats to the community centers “horrible” and “painful,” and Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to a Jewish cemetery vandalized near St. Louis.

NYPD sees ‘huge spike’ in hate crimes post-election — Jews targeted most


The New York Police Department said it has seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes following the election of Donald Trump, with the majority of incidents directed at Jews.

There has been a 115 percent increase in bias crimes in New York City following Election Day, with Jews being targeted in 24 of the 43 incidents during that nearly monthlong period. The anti-Semitic incidents represented a threefold increase from November 2015, The New York Observer reported.

In total, hate crimes have increased 35 percent from 2015, the NYPD’s chief of detectives, Robert Boyce, said Monday morning.

“We had a huge spike right after Election Day, it’s somewhat slowed a little bit,” Boyce said. “We’re seeing across the board an increase right now.”

Besides Jews, other targeted groups included Muslims, whites and the LGBTQ community, according to Boyce.

JTA has reported on anti-Semitic incidents following the election, including acts of vandalism featuring swastikas and Trump-related themes left in public areas as well as on the homes of Jewish individuals.

Last week, the watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center said it had received reports of 100 anti-Semitic incidents occurring in the 10 days following the presidential election, representing about 12 percent of hate incidents reported to the group in the United States.

The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, said recently that anti-Jewish public and political discourse in America is worse than at any point since the 1930s.

The election season saw the rise of the “alt-right,” a loose far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”

Many alt-right members, including prominent white nationalists, have been vocal in their support of Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. and likened Mexican immigrants to rapists.

The president-elect said recently that he did not want to “energize” white supremacists and denounced an alt-right conference in Washington, D.C., where speakers railed against Jews and several audience members did Hitler salutes.

Police, other NYC officials meet with Bukharians about rash of arsons


The president of the New York City borough of Queens, the New York Police Department’s chief of detectives and numerous other city officials met with Bukharian Jewish leaders about a string of arsons affecting the community of central Asian Jews.

At a meeting Tuesday morning at the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills, a neighborhood that has experienced seven arsons since October, officials promised heightened security measures, the Queens Times Ledger reported.

The previous day, the NYPD announced it sent several elite units to the neighborhood and published surveillance video showing the suspected arsonist.

All seven fires, the most recent one over the weekend, have been set at construction or renovation sites of Bukharian-owned homes. An estimated 50,000 Bukharians live in New York, the vast majority of them in Forest Hills, where community members’ construction of large, expensive homes, mostly on plots that once housed more modest residences, has sparked tensions with longtime residents in recent years.

“Today’s meeting was a very good sign that both the community and the Police Department, Fire Department and elected officials are all interested in solving the problem at hand,” Aron Borukhov, a Bukharian community leader, said at a news conference after the meeting.

Borukhov said his community is organizing security patrols that will work cooperatively with police.

Borough President Melinda Katz said: “This is something that we take extremely seriously and the community stands together in making sure that we find this arsonist that is out there destroying not only people’s homes, but people’s lives and people’s dreams.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said the police do not believe the suspect has ties to terror groups, but that they have not yet determined his motives. While NYPD officials have told the media they do not believe the arsons are hate crimes, Boyce said Tuesday that the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is among those investigating.

“We have a specific community that is being targeted here,” Boyce said. “That community is behind me today, and we need their support.”

Deputy Inspector Judith Harrison, commanding officer at the 112th Precinct including Forest Hills, said, “We are speculating about the motive, but that’s what it is, speculation. We aren’t ruling anything out. We don’t believe it is bias at this time, but everything could change.”

Harrison said police have a list of 29 buildings in the area that are under construction in the neighborhood and they plan to monitor the sites.

The NYPD is offering a $12,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist; the Bukharian Jewish Community is offering a $50,000 reward.

At the news conference, State Sen. Toby Stavisky said, “It’s sad that [Bukharian Jews] cannot feel safe in their homes anymore, that they left a disturbing situation in the former Soviet Union and they have to face this in their new home.”

New York increases security around synagogues


New York City increased its police presence at synagogues and other locations in the wake of an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that left four dead.

“The NYPD is following developments in Jerusalem closely and working with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor any further developments,” the city’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton, said in a statement. “As of now, there is no specific credible threat to New York City.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio asked New Yorkers to remain alert and report suspicious activity, WCBS-TV reported. He said that the NYPD is “in close contact with its liaison post in Israel.”

The FBI said in a statement that it is “aware of the situation” and was “working in close collaboration and cooperation with the appropriate Israeli allies and partners.”

In his statement, de Blasio said, “New York City stands in solidarity with Israel at this difficult time, and we hope and pray for a peaceful and secure future for all of its people.” The mayor said he was “horrified and heartbroken” by the attack.

Shia LaBeouf arrested at New York performance of ‘Cabaret’


Actor Shia LaBeouf, who starred in the “Transformers” movies and the play “Nymphomaniac,” was arrested inside New York's Studio 54 during a performance of “Cabaret,” police said.

The actor was charged with criminal conduct and disorderly conduct and taken into custody, NYPD detective Brian Sessa said.

LaBeouf was escorted out of the theater by police after refusing to go when asked to do so by security guards, said NYPD spokesman George Tsourovakas.

The 28-year-old actor, who gave police a Los Angeles address, began making a disturbance and then used obscene language and became belligerent after security guards asked him to leave, Tsourovakas said.

“He was being rather difficult and combative, verbally … to the point where security guards asked him to please leave the premises and he refused,” Tsourovakas said. “Police were called and he was detained and arrested.”

Charged with disorderly conduct, harassment

LaBeouf, 28, was arraigned on five charges in the tiny, packed courtroom at Manhattan's Midtown Community Court after being arrested on Thursday evening.

He was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct, one count of trespass, one count of criminal trespass and harassment in the second degree.

As the disheveled-looking actor left the court alone wearing a bright blue T-shirt and baggy pants he was mobbed by waiting photographers and reporters.

Reward increased in search for Menachem Stark’s killers


The family of Brooklyn real estate developer Menachem Stark raised the reward for information about his murder.

Stark’s family contributed $50,000 to the reward, with the New York Police Department offering an additional $20,000 and the NYPD Crime Stoppers program adding $2,000.

“We have increased the reward in the hopes that anyone and everyone who knows anything comes forward,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, said in a statement. “There are seven orphans in Brooklyn, and a loving grieving wife – and we hope and pray there will be justice.”

Stark’s body was found Jan. 3 in a dumpster on Long Island some 16 miles from his office in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Stark had been kidnapped the previous evening outside his Williamsburg office. He reportedly was suffocated before his body was placed in the dumpster outside a Great Neck gas station and burned, according to police.

Video footage taken from his office reportedly showed Stark being taken into a van after a struggle outside his office.

Police on Wednesday released a surveillance video showing a suspect in the kidnapping, the New York Post reported.

Police believe Stark may have been squashed to death when kidnappers sat on his chest to subdue him after he was abducted. Police also believe Stark, 39, was already dead when his body was set alight in the dumpster.

Sucker punch: Brooklyn Jews targeted in ‘knockout’ attacks


Chava, a student at a Chabad seminary, has lived in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn for six years, but it’s only in the past few days that she started carrying pepper spray in her handbag.

Her younger brother gave her the deterrent after news hit of a string of recent attacks against Orthodox Jews, seven of them in Crown Heights.

The assaults, believed to be part of a national wave of so-called “knockout game” attacks in which black teens punch random white strangers for sport, are unnerving Jews in the racially mixed neighborhood still haunted by the days of rioting there in 1991.

The latest attack came Monday, when a 72-year-old Russian-speaking Jewish woman was punched in the East New York neighborhood, according to the Daily News.

“I’ve definitely been more cautious since [the attacks] started,” Chava told JTA as she waited to pick up a hot drink at Chocolate, a kosher cafe inside the Jewish Children’s Museum. “I’ve been hearing about it, and I saw the footage. I’m looking around. I’m always aware of my surroundings.”

In other American cities, knockout victims have been non-Jewish whites. In New York, the victims of all nine punching attacks reported so far appear to be Jewish, and the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating.

It is unclear whether the attacks, none of which have involved robberies, are linked. A police spokesman interviewed last Friday declined to share details about the incidents but said that eight of the Brooklyn attacks fall into the hate crimes category.

For the time being, the NYPD has deployed more police officers to Crown Heights. On Monday, several police vans, a mobile command center, police cars and two officers on horseback were stationed near the corner of Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue, a bustling commercial street with bakeries, groceries and Judaica stores, and home to the world headquarters of Chabad-Lubavitch and the Jewish Children’s Museum.

Inside the museum, Michael Harel, the manager of Chocolate and an Israeli who has lived in Crown Heights for 13 years, said there is plenty of tension between blacks and Jews in the neighborhood, some of it attributable to class resentment.

“Back in the days there were a lot of problems here,” he said. “Looks like it’s coming back.”

But Pinchas Woolstone, a cafe patron, said Crown Heights is “light years away” from the era of the riots. Although he has lived in Crown Heights for only six years, Woolstone  said he used to visit the neighborhood in the 1970s, when it resembled “a war zone.”

“No black person or Jewish person would speak to each other; they hardly looked at each other,” recalled the Australia native, who works for a commercial cleaning company. “The latest little flareup is not good, but we shouldn’t contemplate it’s anything like it used to be.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton publicly condemned the knockout attacks.

“There is nothing funny or even remotely entertaining about attacking innocents walking down the street,” he wrote in a column for the Huffington Post. “This is not a ‘game’; it is inhumane behavior that has no place in our country or the world.”

Zaki Tamir, chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, said black and Jewish community leaders have enjoyed good relations in recent years, and the neighborhood has become safer over the past decade, in part due to gentrification. He acknowledged that the latest attacks are shattering the sense of security that had been built up.

“Suddenly this is reminiscent of old times and it makes everyone feel very vulnerable,” Tamir said.

Civilian patrols working in conjunction with the police have been stepped up to help escort children home from the train at night, as well as women and those considered easier targets, according to Tamir.

The community is “more organized than ever before in terms of preventing crime and keeping streets nonviolent,” he said. “People realize Crown Heights is not a haven for hoodlums anymore.”

At a press conference Monday at the Crown Heights Youth Collective, several Brooklyn elected officials, including Eric Adams, the incoming borough president, condemned the attacks, and  Tamir’s group offered a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of perpetrators.

Nathan, a Chocolate cafe employee who did not want to give his last name, said news of the attacks prompted him to stop allowing his three children, the oldest of whom is 8, to play unattended outside the lobby of his apartment building.

On Saturday, Brooklyn resident Amrit Marajh was arraigned for an attack from the previous day in Borough Park. Police initially said Marajh was being charged with a hate crime but later told The New York Times he had been charged with assault, harassment and menacing.

Marajh, who apparently has a Jewish girlfriend and has never been arrested, denied the charges and was released on $750 bail.

Beverly Hills Police report arrest of alleged sex abuser


Mendel Tevel, a local rabbi and youth worker

On the eighth day, God made oxycodone


New York City narcotics agents announced the indictment of five Brooklyn men yesterday, members of a Sabbath-observant drug ring that operated out of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

Defendants Jack Zibak, 28; Jack Zaibak, 24; Eduard Sorin, 38; David Gerowitz, 37; and Philip Mandel, 25, were charged with multiple crimes, from illegal possession of narcotics to illegal possession of a weapon, according to CBS news.

Police reportedly seized around 900 doses of heroin, as well 335 oxycodone pills, cocaine, Xanax, Suboxone and Klonopin from the group during their initial arrest in April. They also found a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition.

The name of the NYPD sting operation that led to the drug bust? Only After Sundown.

Though cavalier about New York’s drug laws, the group was scrupulous about observing the Sabbath. Text messages from members of the gang show them alerting their clientele of their weekly sundown-to-sunset hiatus.

“We are closing 7:30 on the dot and we will reopen Saturday 8:15 so if u need anything you have 45 mins to get what you want,” they wrote in a group text-message to clients.

NYPD investigated Kahane Chai for threats against Shmuley Boteach


The New York Police Department investigated Kahane Chai, a militant Jewish group, for threats against Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, asked the NYPD’s intelligence division to monitor the group in the late 2000s after anti-Boteach comments were posted on Kahane.org, according to internal NYPD documents obtained by Tablet, the online Jewish magazine.

“He commits incessant chilluley hashem and for that imho deserves death,” a website moderator on Kahane.org wrote in 2007, using the online name Doom777. “Someone shoot Shmuley Boteach,” the individual wrote a year later.

The NYPD launched a Terrorism Enterprise Investigation into the postings, enabling it to use informants and undercover officers to monitor Kahane Chai, which the State Department designated as a terrorist group in 1994. The NYPD’s investigation appears to have focused on web postings and online forums rather than infiltration of Kahanist groups, Tablet reported.

Boteach, a celebrity rabbi who wrote “Kosher Sex” and ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year from New Jersey, told Tablet that he was never informed of the threats.

Nobody appears to have been charged in connection with the online postings, according to the documents.

Brooklyn man sues police for beating at Chabad center


A Brooklyn man who alleges that he was beaten by New York police officers at a Chabad youth center in Brooklyn filed a civil rights lawsuit.

Ehud Halevy, 21, filed the suit Jan. 22 in Brooklyn federal court over the incident last October at the ALIYA Institute.

Halevy was arrested on assault, resisting arrest and trespassing charges and spent four days in jail before the charges were dropped.

Video captured on a security camera at the institute shows Halevy exchanging words with a male police officer and pushing away his hands after the officer had taken out handcuffs. Shortly after, the officer assumes a fighting stance and punches Halevy several times as he and a female officer wrestle Halevy to the couch where he was found sleeping.

During the two-minute incident, the female officer appears to use a truncheon and pepper spray on Halevy. Eight police officers arrive later to handcuff him.

Halevy reportedly had been sleeping on the institute's couch with permission for about a month. A volunteer security guard who was not aware of the arrangement had called the police upon discovering the man, who was shirtless and sleeping in the lounge, and reportedly appeared to be drunk.

U.S. police officials study counterterrorism in Israel


Counterterrorism officials from five U.S. cities met with their counterparts in Israel.

Ten officials from five major cities — New York; Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Houston — met in mid-October with representatives of Israel's police, the Jerusalem Post reported. The tour focused on “technological and operational advances in counterterrorism,” according to the American Jewish Committee's Project Interchange, which organized the tour.

Separately, the New York Police Department now has a branch in Israel.

The branch is located within the Kfar Saba police station in the Sharon District and is designed to maintain a working relationship with the Israeli police force, Al-Monitor reported in September.

Charlie Ben-Naim, a former Israeli citizen who had been a detective on the New York police force, will man the station by himself, the report said.

The goal of the satellite office is to fight terrorism.

The New York Police Department also has offices in England, Germany and Canada.

NY police ‘very cognizant’ of potential Iranian attack on city


The New York Police Department (NYPD) is monitoring the possibility of an Iranian attack on New York City due to the area’s large Jewish community, the New York Post reported.

“Obviously if there’s any action involving Israel and Iran we have to be very cognizant of the potential of retaliation here in New York City,” NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at the NYPD’s Shield anti-terrorism conference, according to the Post.

At the conference, NYPD Lt. Kevin Yorke noted that Iran’s nuclear program, and the global tension that it causes, is the source of “a number of very significant plots and attacks.”

N.Y. police beefing up security ahead of Passover


The New York Police Department is increasing its security at synagogues and Jewish sites for Passover.

The NYPD said it was taking precautionary measures beginning this week in the wake of last month’s attack on a religious school in France, which left three children and a rabbi dead, The Associated Press reported.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly reportedly told the city’s Jewish leaders that they would be “adding foot posts, visits by officers to synagogues, outreach by community affairs officers and a heightened presence of anti-crime.” Kelly also said there would be heightened security and the deployment of heavily armed roving counterterrorism units.

The NYPD said the extra measures are not due to specific threats or connected to this week’s investigation of an online mock movie poster warning that al-Qaida will return to New York City, which has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel.

NYPD checks out letter bomb


New York police are investigating a possible letter bomb sent to an Israeli bank branch.

The letter was sent to the Bank Hapoalim branch at Sixth Avenue and 46th street, CNN reported on Wednesday.