Association Responds to Bomb Threats at Jewish Community Centers

When 16 Jewish community centers received bomb threats on the same day, JCC Association of North America kept its members informed about the threats in real time.

Meeting member needs took on unusual urgency for JCC Association of North America this week, as the organization moved quickly to respond to a series of bomb threats against local Jewish community centers.

On Monday, 16 JCCs in nine states received the threats. Local law enforcement personnel and the centers’ staff members acted swiftly—all the centers were searched, and most were evacuated. The threats turned out to be false.

[It’s important to] develop a culture of security for those associations serving affiliates who, in turn, gather people together.

“We are very grateful the FBI has opened an investigation,” said David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCC Association.

The association kept its member communities informed about the developments at each center as they progressed. It communicated with JCC executive directors about the status of the threats, including which centers received threats and when each building had been cleared.

Each JCC is independently operated, so each center decided on its own how to communicate with its constituents. After the association’s real-time communication with executive directors, it informed other JCC leaders and issued press releases.

The day after the threats, all the JCCs resumed normal operations.

“JCC Association appreciates the quick and thorough response from federal and local law enforcement,” Posner said in a statement. “We are proud of our JCCs and grateful for their professional staffs, who, in the face of threatened violence, responded quickly, calmly, and professionally by implementing well-practiced procedures and ensuring that no one was harmed.”

Before the threats, JCC Association had been working with the Secure Community Network on security for its members. The network “was established in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 to work with Jewish institutions around the country to address security concerns within the Jewish community,” Posner said. Through the network, the association gives JCCs access to security-related research, guidance, and practices. It sometimes sends members links to Secure Community Network materials.

On Wednesday, the network facilitated a webinar with leaders of Jewish institutions across the country in response to the threats. It included Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials discussing bomb threat protocols and protective measures. Around 700 participants attended the webinar.

DHS also provides other resources to JCC Association, including speakers who address security topics at its conferences. “DHS has resources that are free and available” to associations, Posner noted, and he stressed the importance of “developing a culture of security for those associations serving affiliates who, in turn, gather people together.”

Previously, the association had conducted a comprehensive survey of security at JCCs “to understand what they’re doing and recognize any trends or areas that need to be beefed up,” Posner said. They have made significant progress in improving physical security and training staff to respond appropriately in emergencies, he said, adding that cybersecurity is an emerging area of concern.

Nashville's Gordon Jewish Community Center, one of the facilities targeted by the phone calls. (Handout photo)

Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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