update deskAntisemitism

‘Exponential increase’ in antisemitic swatting threats in US this weekend

There were several reported bomb threats against Jewish organizations, the Anti-Defamation League said.

FBI logo. Credit: Dzelat/Shutterstock.
FBI logo. Credit: Dzelat/Shutterstock.

The Anti-Defamation League said over the weekend that it is investigating an “exponential increase in numbers of reported swatting threats against Jewish institutions across the country.”

It added that there were “several reported email bomb threats against Jewish institutions across the country” on Sunday.

“Today, these threats were also aimed at dozens of synagogues statewide in Georgia,” wrote Esther Panitch, a Georgia state representative who is Jewish, on Sunday. “Law enforcement is engaged. The Jewish community will not be cowed and justice will prevail.”

“Swatting” refers to falsely suggesting to law enforcement that there is a threat at a particular site, so that special weapons and tactics (SWAT) units show up, according to the FBI, which announced the arrest on Dec. 13 of a juvenile “member of an online swatting ring,” which targeted at least 25 synagogues in 13 states in July and August.

Six central Alabama synagogues received bomb threats on Saturday, the Montgomery, Ala. NBC affiliate WSFA reported. Phillip Ensler, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama, said the threats were “deemed low” but the Federation responded “out of an abundance of caution.”

“This morning during Shabbat religious services—the Jewish day of rest—we had to evacuate my synagogue in Montgomery, Ala. due to a bomb threat,” wrote Ensler, who is also an Alabama state representative. “This is exhausting. I pray for the day that we can worship and live in peace.” (He shared a video of services being halted due to the threat.)

Bomb threats were also reported over the weekend at synagogues in Boulder, Colo.; Jackson, Miss.; East Lansing, Mich.; Creve Coeur, Mo.; and South Portland, Maine.

Some reports in Jewish media suggested there may have been as many as 200 synagogues targeted with the threats.

On Dec. 14, synagogues across Pennsylvania received bomb threats.

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