Officials in Nassau County Tuesday characterized as “deplorable” a breakout of bomb threats directed at Jewish Community Centers and said police would continue to maintain intensified patrols in and around synagogues.
At a press conference at the Nassau County Legislative building in Mineola, County Executive Ed Mangano pledged support to the Jewish community, saying a threat to anyone’s right to practice their religion “is a threat to every citizen in our county.”
Mangano said NCPD’s focused patrols on Jewish sites have continued since the Jewish High Holy Days, when police traditionally increase activity around synagogues and other Jewish centers. A pair of threats made to JCC’s in Nassau are currently under investigation.
Mangano, who in October pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges, said Nassau police are working with federal and state authorities to investigate the bomb threats.
On Monday, Jewish Community Center’s across the country reported a fifth wave of bomb threats, including Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview. Last month, the Barry & Florence Friedberg JCC in Oceanside also received a threatening phone call.
There were about 400 people inside Mid Island Y JCC at the time the threat was made, including children from the JCC’s nursery school. The building was evacuated and nothing suspicious was found.
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the local threats share similarities, but he declined to elaborate further.
The two Nassau cases have been assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, which is receiving support from the Major Case Bureau and intelligence officers.
The department is in the process of contacting the more than 180 Jewish institutions in the county, Krumpter said, adding that individual precincts are reaching out to all religious institutions within their jurisdiction to provide support.
“One biased incident is one too many,” Krumpter said. “We are aggressively investigating this case.”
In addition to these incidents, someone spray painted two swastikas on the side of a Pear Street home in Central Islip, Suffolk County police said. The homeowner reported the crime at 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
At a separate press conference outside the Chabad of Mineola, Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), ranking member of the county legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said the hair-raising threats require a forceful repudiation from national leaders, including President Donald Trump.
“It’s so important that elected officials, community and faith leaders and law enforcement binds together and sends a very clear message, in words and in action, that anti-Semitism and racism will not stand,” said Curran, a county executive candidate.
Curran mentioned a pervasive culture of fear ripping through various ethnic and religious communities and expressed concern that xenophobic policies could drive people into the shadows.
“People might not go to church, they might not go to synagogue, they might keep their kids home from school, they might not report domestic abuse because they’re afraid of coming out,” Curran said. “And anything that would further erode the trust between the police and the communities they protect, I think would be very, very harmful for many different reasons for all of our communities.”
Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola said the threats would not have the intended effect of sowing fear into the community.
“Nothing will stop us in continuing to contribute to society,” Perl said. “We will only redouble our efforts in friendship and appreciation with all of our friends and neighbors of all walks of life, with all faith communities to counter your world of darkness and evil with our acts of goodness and kindness.”
Curran and Krumpter had a phone conversation Monday evening in which he discussed measures that have been put in place to protect houses of worship, which left the legislator feeling satisfied, she said.
The acting commissioner’s decision not to deputize police as immigration enforcers was also heartening, she said. When asked about the police department’s policy toward immigration officer’s detainer requests, Krumpter demurred. He said the force would be holding town halls, the first of which is Thursday at the Yes We Can Center in Westbury, to give community members the opportunity to air their concerns.
Calls for Trump to be more forceful in his condemnation of anti-Semitic attacks have come from civil rights groups and Jewish leaders across the county. Trump’s presidential campaign was accused of trafficking in anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric that helped embolden radical right-wing groups. As president, he’s been criticized for being to slow to react to the wave of incidents, including vandalism at two Jewish cemeteries.
The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report this month documenting the rise of hate groups in the US, with more than 900 spread around the country. The same report blamed Trump’s campaign for emboldening hate groups.
Among those also expressing fear since the Nov. 8 election are Muslim Americans who’ve testified to an increase in Islamophobia, and various other immigrant populations worried about the prospect of being deported.
Last week in Kansas a gunman shot two Indian men at a bar after allegedly yelling, “Get out of my country.” The suspect was also said to have admitted to a bartender that he shot the two men, whom he falsely identified as Iranian.