03.07.17

Peters, Portman, Nelson & Rubio Lead Entire Senate in Calling on DHS and DOJ to Address Threats to Jewish Institutions Across the Country

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) are leading all 100 Senators in urging the Trump Administration to take action in response to the recent anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCC’s), Jewish Day Schools, and Synagogues. In a bipartisan letter that will be sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey, the Senators stressed the importance of these centers within their communities, and offers suggestions for deterring the threats of violence.

“These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states,” wrote the Senators in the letter. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”

According to the Jewish Federations of North America, in the first two months of 2017 alone, at least 98 incidents against JCCs and Jewish Day Schools at 81 locations in 33 states have been reported. Threats to the Jewish community even included threats on organizations dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism such as threats to two offices of the Anti-Defamation League. The Senators also raised concerns about the desecration of hundreds of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in both St. Louis and Philadelphia.

“We encourage you to communicate with individual JCCs, the JCC Association of North America, Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other Jewish community institutions regarding victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance that may be available to enhance security measures and improve preparedness,” continued the Senators. “We also recognize the anti-Semitic sentiment behind this spate of threats and encourage your Departments to continue to inform state and local law enforcement organizations of their obligations under the Hate Crime Statistics Act and other federal laws.”

Joining Peters, Portman, Nelson and Rubio in sending the letter are: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Boozman (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Burr (R-NC), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL),Mike Enzi (R-WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Al Franken (D-MN), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), James Lankford (R-OK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Rand Paul (R-KY), David Perdue (R-GA), Jack Reed (D-RI), James Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Luther Strange (R-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Todd Young (R-IN).

The letter is supported by a wide range of groups, including the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Community Center Association of North America, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Orthodox Union, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jewish Federations of North America and Union for Reform Judaism.

“I commend Senators Peters, Portman, Nelson and Rubio for mobilizing such a resounding bipartisan call for action,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO, Anti-Defamation League. “Today the Senate demonstrated a unified moral front against hatred and sent a strong message that in our America a threat against one of us is an attack on all of us.”  

“The Jewish Federations of North America thank Senators Peters, Portman, Nelson and Rubio for shining a bright light on the scourge of anti-Semitism and hate that is spreading across America,” said William Daroff, Senior Vice President of The Jewish Federations of North America. “We appreciate that the United States Senate is speaking with one voice to stand against intolerance.”

The text of the Senators’ letter is available below and here:

Dear Secretary Kelly, Attorney General Sessions, and Director Comey:

We write to underscore the need for swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other buildings affiliated with Jewish organizations or institutions across the country. We thank you for your recent efforts and ask that you inform us of the actions that your Departments plan to take to address threats against these and other religious institutions. We stand ready to work with you to ensure that these centers can continue to serve their communities free from violence and intimidation. 

It has become clear that threats of violence against individual JCCs are not isolated incidents. According to the Jewish Federations of North America, in the first two months of 2017 alone, at least 98 incidents against JCCs and Jewish Day Schools at 81 locations in 33 states have been reported. These cowardly acts aim to create an atmosphere of fear and disrupt the important programs and services offered by JCCs to everyone in the communities they serve, including in our states. In addition to reports of incidents at JCCs and Jewish Day Schools, there have been incidents at cemeteries in both St. Louis and Philadelphia involving the desecration of Jewish headstones. This is completely unacceptable and un-American.

We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities. Your Departments can provide crucial assistance by helping JCCs, Jewish Day Schools and Synagogues improve their physical security, deterring threats from being made, and investigating and prosecuting those making these threats or who may seek to act on these threats in the future. We encourage you to communicate with individual JCCs, the JCC Association of North America, Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other Jewish community institutions regarding victim assistance, grant opportunities or other federal assistance that may be available to enhance security measures and improve preparedness. We also recognize the anti-Semitic sentiment behind this spate of threats and encourage your Departments to continue to inform state and local law enforcement organizations of their obligations under the Hate Crime Statistics Act and other federal laws.

We are ready to work with you to address this pressing issue, and we look forward to your responses about the actions you intend to take to address, deter, and prevent this threat.