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Long IslandSuffolk

Elected officials, police seek to reassure Jewish community

Local officials and representatives of the Suffolk County Police department met with community members at the Jewish Center of Bay Shore on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, to discuss the rise of anti-Semitic threats and vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries, and to help ease the fear and tension in the community. (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

Suffolk elected officials and law enforcement reassured congregants of the Bay Shore Jewish Center that they are working to keep everyone safe in the wake of a rash of threats against Jewish institutions.

“Whatever resources we have at the town are at your disposal,” said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, speaking at the center Tuesday night. “I just want you to know that we are here for you.”

And while Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini told the three dozen people assembled in the sanctuary there is “no credible threat” to the Jewish community centers in Suffolk, he said, “We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.”

The gathering, which took place during a night when the center’s members normally discuss current events, came amid fresh threats of violence against the Jewish community across the country.

A representative for state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) read a statement of support to a congregation that the center’s co-president, Stephen Fleischer, said has existed for 150 years. The Bay Shore center on North Clinton Avenue has a congregation of about 85 families.

About 100 anti-Semitic and racist threats have been launched at Jewish community centers throughout the country since early January.

“If we find these people they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Rabbi Marvin Demant said Tuesday night. “This should not be happening.”

In New York, threats have been received at centers in Plainview, Staten Island, New Rochelle, and Tarrytown. Centers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida also were targeted.

The Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview received a bomb threat last week, days before a Missouri man, Juan Thompson, 31, of St. Louis, was charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Friday with making at least eight threats to Jewish centers around the country to harass a former girlfriend.

Thompson is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday in St. Louis for a hearing to determine if he should remain in custody until trial.

As many as 400 people were evacuated from the Plainview center on Feb. 27, police said. Hundreds of people from several faiths and races turned out for a candlelight vigil at the center Thursday night to denounce acts of hatred against Jews.

Law enforcement and religious leaders praised Thompson’s arrest the following day.

By early Tuesday, though, the Anti-Defamation League and several Jewish community centers across the country received a new round of bomb threats, days after the charges were lodged against Thompson.

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