FBI, Justice Dept. Investigating After Threats Against Jewish Centers Across the Delaware Valley

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Just one day after hundreds of gravestones were found vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, Jewish community centers in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were evacuated on Monday.

All the threats have been unfounded at this point, but the FBI and the Justice Department are now investigating.

In Cherry Hill, bomb sniffing dogs were dispatched to Katz Jewish Community Center.

The Jewish Federation of South Jersey tweeted: “The Federation had been safely evacuated. Cherry Hill Twp police have arrived. We will update you with more information as soon as possible.”

Several hours later, Cherry Hill Police said the threat was unfounded.

Camden County Freeholder Director, Louis Cappelli condemned the acts, saying in a statement, “This threat to the JCC was not just a threat to the Jewish religion, heritage, culture and values, but a threat to our overall community. This incident is appalling in every sense of the word and we will not stand idly by while these types of despicable acts are used to compromise our strong social fabric. Simply put, hate has no home here in Camden County.”

New Castle County Police say that Siegel JCC in Wilmington, Delaware, was also evacuated as police investigated. Authorities found no evidence of explosives at the Wilmington community center and it has since been reoccupied.

Sen. Tom Carper was meeting with Jewish community leaders when the center received the threat over the phone.

“It is heartbreaking for such a flash of fear to overtake a place of strong community and joy that brings together people of all ages under one roof – from the babies in the daycare center to the senior citizens taking part in exercise classes. These acts must end,” Carper said in a statement.

Officials say the Perelman Jewish Day School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania received a threat around 11 a.m. All students and staff temporarily evacuated the building. The building has since been cleared by Lower Merion Police and students and staff were allowed back inside.

In York, Pennsylvania, an emergency situation prompted the JCC to close.

And in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, officials say students and staff were evacuated from the JCC due to a bomb threat.

“Any anti-Semitic act or act of intimidation aimed at Jewish institutions and people in Pennsylvania is truly reprehensible and we must find those responsible and hold them accountable. This is not who we are as Americans or Pennsylvanians,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

“We will not take these threats and acts lightly and I have asked the Pennsylvania State Police and Office of Homeland Security to offer their full resources towards protecting these institutions and finding those responsible.”

The Anti-Defamation League denounced the latest wave of threats targeting Jewish institutions in the region.

“These threats are vile, and even more revolting in the aftermath of yesterday’s desecration of a Jewish cemetery in northeast Philadelphia. The Jewish communities of eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware will not be cowed by hate.”

The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating the current threats.

“The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner,” said Carrie Adamowski, public affairs specialist for the FBI office in Philadelphia.

Last month, the FBI investigated threats made to Jewish centers in 17 states, including Delaware.

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