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Whitefish Bay Jewish community center threat part of a nationwide wave

Glen Moberg

Wisconsin Public Radio

A threatening phone call that temporarily shut down a Jewish community center in Whitefish Bay is part of a nationwide wave of threats targeting Jewish institutions. The FBI is investigating the incidents.

The Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center was evacuated Tuesday because of the bomb threat. No bomb was found.

The threat fit a pattern that has been seen across the country, said Jessica Gall, associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago.

"Whitefish Bay's threat that they've received is part of a larger wave of threats that have occurred across the country to Jewish institutions, Jewish community centers," Gall said. "Fortunately, none of them have been found to be credible, but of course any type of threat of this nature causes justified fear and panic."

According to the Jewish Community Center Association, 57 threats were received by centers in 26 states and one Canadian province in January. The threats came in three waves, on Jan. 9, Jan. 18 and Jan. 31.

On Saturday, the Chicago Loop Synagogue in downtown Chicago was struck by a vandal. The synagogue was founded in 1929. 

Gall said she was "horrified" by the attack.

"We are happy that the Chicago Police Department is taking the incident so seriously, and that they are investigating this as a hate crime," Gall said.

Gall noted the attacks on the community centers affect many people of different faiths.

"You know, the community gathers. That's exactly what these institutions are for," she said. "It's for the larger community, not just Jewish community members, but there are many people that take advantage of the resources of these centers. And it's always awful and scary when something like that happens."

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. More WPR news is available on KUWS-FM 91.3 or wpr.org.

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