Jewish leaders on Thursday expressed relief and gratitude for law enforcement after the arrest in a string of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and other institutions in the United States.
Israeli police said they have arrested a 19-year-old Jewish man — a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen — as the primary suspect. Police described the suspect as a hacker and banned publication of his name. His motives were unclear.
The Anti-Defamation League said there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools in 37 states and two Canadian provinces since Jan. 9. A JCC in Plainview was among the targets.
“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all — is reportedly Jewish,” Doron Krakow, president and chief executive of the Manhattan-based JCC Association of North America, said in a statement.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the Manhattan-based Anti-Defamation League, said regardless of the suspect’s background “these were acts of anti-Semitism.”
“These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert,” Greenblatt said in a statement.
“We are relieved there’s been an arrest in the majority of the bomb threats against JCCs, schools, synagogues and several of our offices across the country,” he added. “We are deeply grateful to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the state and local law enforcement officials who made this investigation the highest priority.”
Greenblatt said the support of many community and organizational leaders within and outside the Jewish community who condemned these threats has been appreciated.
“They understood not only how disruptive they were, but also how they traumatized the people affected, especially young children and senior citizens who were evacuated as a result of these threats,” Greenblatt said.
The Mid-Island Y JCC on Manetto Hill Road in Plainview was in the latest group targeted for threats on Feb. 27, officials said. It was not immediately known whether the suspect is accused of making that particular threat.
The call to the Mid-Island Y JCC about an explosive device caused the center to be evacuated. About 400 people were inside, including about 100 staff members and at least 200 children attending nursery school, officials said.
Mid-Island Y JCC chief executive Rick Lewis said Thursday that he was “just extremely happy that the FBI took this seriously and allegedly caught somebody. It’s upsetting that anybody could consider doing this to any group of people.”
There were no injuries and no devices were found in any of the threat incidents, authorities said.
Galit Bash, the suspect’s attorney, said her client suffers from a “very serious” medical condition that may have affected his behavior.
Bash told reporters outside a courthouse in Jerusalem that the young man’s condition had prevented him from serving in the army or going to school and that the condition could “affect the investigation.”
Following last month’s threats, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) successfully called upon the Federal Communications Commission to grant an emergency temporary waiver to Jewish community centers nationwide to allow the establishments and law enforcement agencies to access the caller ID information of anonymous threatening and harassing callers.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also ordered a probe into the threats, and monitoring of Jewish facilities was stepped up by police.
“We are confident,” Krakow said, “that JCCs are safer today than ever before.”