Just days after the most recent wave of bomb threats on JCCs and Jewish schools all across the country, the US Attorney for Southern New York announced Friday morning that a 31-year-old St. Louis man was arrested in connection with at least eight of the bomb threats.
According to a statement from the Justice Department, Juan Thompson allegedly made multiple bomb threats in the name of a former romantic partner who he has been stalking. Additionally, he allegedly made threats in his own name as part of an effort to claim he was being framed.
The FBI’s complaint against Thompson alleges he threatened Jewish institutions in January and February including JCCs in San Diego and New York City as well as Jewish schools in New York and Michigan, according to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency report.
“Everyone deserves to be free from fear and discrimination based on religion, race, or ethnicity; that is fundamental to who we are as a nation,” said US Attorney Preet Bharara 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,” Bharara added.
However, according to multiple news sources, Thompson is not believed to be the primary culprit behind the five waves of bomb threats that have affected more than 100 Jewish institutions including Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School.
The three threats phoned into our Montclair Road Jewish Community Campus have been among those featured in national and international news coverage of this wave of incidents. LJCC Executive Director Betzy Lynch was featured prominently in stories on both the National Public Radio and Times Of Israel websites and did an excellent job of framing the issues and explaining the significance of this barrage of anti-Semitism.
STANDING IN SOLIDARITY
Meanwhile, the LJCC is preparing to host a town hall meeting at 5:15 Monday evening with local law enforcement partners as the Jewish and broader communities continue to stand in solidarity against these threats. Birmingham Mayor William Bell, who met with leadership from the LJCC, the Day School, and the Birmingham Jewish Federation on Tuesday, has committed to attending the town hall.
“Just finished a great meeting at the LJCC with Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Day School’s Debra Abolafia, LJCC’s Betzy Lynch, BJF’s Lauren Klinner and myself,” BJF Executive Director Richard Friedman posted on Facebook Tuesday evening. “The mayor initiated the meeting, reaffirmed his support for our Jewish community during this time of anxiety, shared security ideas and commited to come to our town hall meeting,” Richard added.
COMMISSIONER CARRINGTON SPEAKS OUT
Mayor Bell is not the only community leader to forcefully show his support this week. Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington released a statement on Facebook Tuesday afternoon as well.
“As a Jefferson County Commissioner, I cannot remain silent following the threats to the Levite Jewish Community Center. Our schools should be safe places for our children to learn. Our community centers should be safe places for people to gather. And, our houses of worship should remain sacred,” he posted. “So, to those who fear for your safety – you are not alone. I and others stand with you to publicly condemn these acts of cowardice.”
Commissioner Carrington also applauded Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who has spoken out against the threats and offered state resources to assist in an investigation.
Additionally, at an emergency meeting Friday morning, the Birmingham Jewish Foundation agreed to make funds available for enhanced security on the the Montclair Road campus which includes the Federation, Foundation, LJCC, and Day School. “I am proud of the role our Foundation is able to play at this challenging time,” said Foundation President Ginger Held shortly after the meeting.
“Nothing is more important to us than the well-being and security of those who work on our campus and use our facilities,” added Richard Friedman in an email to staff and lay leaders of both the Federation and Foundation. “We are especially grateful to all of you for your steadfastness and dedication during this crisis.”
Events, necessary precautions and funding needs continue to remain fluid. Long-time Jewish community philanthropist and volunteer leader Donald Hess is coordinating an ad-hoc task force at the moment to assess needs and develop strategies. Please watch Update for continuing developments. “We are grateful that Donald has stepped forward to help us at this critical time,” said BJF President Jerry Held.
Both the Federation and Foundation wish our entire community Shabbat Shalom — Sabbath peace — during this tumultuous time. Together we will stand strong and we will not be intimidated.
Pictured are Birmingham Mayor William Bell and, from left, NEMJDS’ Debra Abolafia and BJF’s Lauren Klinner during Tuesday’s security meeting.