Vallejo Times Herald: Thompson, others, denounce rise of anti-Semitism; local Jewish leaders react
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson on Tuesday denounced “rising anti-Semitism sentiments, exemplified by multiple bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers and schools as well as vandalism in Jewish cemeteries,” and called for swift, decisive action to quell it.
Some local Jewish community members expressed gratitude for the concern as well as hope that these issues won’t worsen.
“These threats must stop,” Thompson said. “I commend the authorities for acting swiftly and decisively to investigate each incident, but I am deeply alarmed by the rising level of anti-Semitism in the country. That is why I joined over 150 of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to treat every incident seriously and take immediate action against those who wish harm on the Jewish community.
“Hatred of any kind cannot be tolerated.”
Thompson and others penned a letter on the matter, which was sent to John Kelly, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey expressing their “deep concern regarding the recent spate of anonymous bomb threats made via telephone against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the nation,” and urging these leaders to have their departments “swiftly assess the situation and to advise Congress on what specific steps are being taken, or will be taken, to deter such threats from being made, to identify and prosecute the perpetrators for violations of federal criminal laws, and to enable JCCs to enhance security measures such as physical barriers and guards, in the event that an individual seeks to act upon these threats.”
The letter notes that the concern is not an idle one. In the last two decades there have been at least three deadly attacks on Jewish institutions in this country — in 2014 at a Kansas JCC, in 2006 at the Jewish Federation of Seattle, and in 1999 at a California JCC.
“This is a national problem and, as such, it requires a national solution,” the letter says. “In the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been 68 incidents targeting 53 JCCs in 26 states, according to JCC Association of North America. A number of JCCs, such as the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, have received multiple threats.”
The letter notes that the threats have an economic as well as an emotional impact.
“JCCs provide a range of educational and community services for Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and families, with a particular focus on children and youth. The individuals who make these calls no doubt recognize that bomb threats, particularly when repeated, can compromise and even destroy a JCC’s financial future,” it says.
“We urge you to approach this issue with a sense of urgency, and to work in partnership with state and territory governments, local law enforcement officials, JCC Association of North America, individual JCCs, and Jewish community institutions and leaders to address the threat in a holistic manner.”
Chabad of Solano County Rabbi Chaim Zaklos expressed appreciation for Thompson’s quick and forceful condemnation of anti-Jewish actions.
“Anti-Semitism is nothing new; it’s been with us since the dawn of our nation, and it’s never deterred us,” he said. “What is new is that we are privileged to live in a country that stands tall for justice and morality; and the fact that both sides of the isle condemn the hate is reassuring.”
Rabbi David White of Vallejo’s B’nai Israel synagogue said he, too, is grateful for the legislators’ concern and wishes more were coming from the administration. He also expressed regret that growing anti-Semitism is even an issue in the United States.
“It would be wonderful if we had an even stronger and more passionate response from the top leadership in the country to safeguard the wellbeing of all U.S. citizens,” White said. “Such a broad area of threats to the Jewish Community’s infrastructure requires a broad and deep response, and I appreciate our local leadership addressing the issue. The country’s strength is in the welcoming of people of all faiths. It’s important that everyone should feel at home in the country, and it’s a shame that this has to be raised by our local leadership.”
While he said there has been no particular reason for fear for the safety of Jews locally, White said this could be an opportunity for Vallejo, specifically — officially one of the country’s most diverse communities — to be an example to the country and the world, he said.
“We hope that Vallejo and Solano County can shine in its continued acceptance of all people, with us as part of that,” White said. “We’ll see what happens.”