An Israeli-American teenager was arrested in Israel on Thursday as the main suspect behind scores of threats to Jewish Community Centers across the United States, according to reports.
A spokesman for the Israeli police confirmed the arrest in a Tweet Thursday morning but did not identify the suspect. He said the suspect is 19 years old and had allegedly made threats to “Jewish organizations, communities & JCC bomb threats in US.”
The suspect reportedly holds dual American and Israeli citizenship. Authorities have not yet released a motive.
Authorities in Israel collaborated with the FBI during the investigation, the spokesman said. American law enforcement agencies had been looking into the threats for months.
The Anti-Defamation League said there had been 165 threats against JCC schools, synagogues and ADL offices throughout the country since January.
Police & FBI investigation arrest Israeli age 19 suspected of making threats to Jewish organizations, communities & JCC bomb threats in US.
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) March 23, 2017
Two Long Island JCCs were also the targets of menacing phone calls during the wave of attacks, which spread anxiety through Jewish communities. The Barry & Florence JCC in Oceanside received a threatening phone call in January and Mid-Island Y JCC fielded a similar threatening call a month later.
Officials in Nassau County called the threats “deplorable” and said they would not be tolerated. Nassau County police has maintained focused patrols on Jewish sites for months.
Acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter last month said the pair of calls in the county shared similarities but did not elaborate. He said the Special Investigations Unit would lead the investigation, with help from the Major Case Bureau and intelligence officers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also ordered state police to assist local law enforcement agencies on their investigations and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas unveiled a new Hate Crimes Unit charged with investigating such crimes.
The wave of threats prompted condemnation from across the political sphere.
“We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said at the time. “The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts, and these perpetrators will be punished.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives, said “there must be zero tolerance of any kind for this rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States and abroad.”
The threat to Mid-Island Y JCC came shortly after President Donald Trump finally condemned anti-Semitic attacks, which anti-hate groups said had become increasingly prevalent during his presidential campaign.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center last month said the number of hate groups in the US increased for the second consecutive year, which they attributed to America’s “radical right” feeling emboldened by Trump’s messaging.
According to 2015 FBI statistics released in January, anti-Jewish attacks made up half of the 1,354 religious bias offenses reported to the agency. There was also a startling 67-percent rise in anti-Muslim attacks.
Thursday’s arrest is the second related to the JCC threats.
In March, authorities arrested a former journalist for allegedly calling in eight threats as part of a bizarre cyber-stalking campaign aimed at his ex-girlfriend.
Included in the anti-Semitic attacks over the past few months were the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
The Town of North Hempstead plans to hold a Town Hall meeting Thursday night with police and faith groups to address hate crimes.