BROOKLYN - The national wave of bomb threats to Jewish institutions hit close to home for New York’s Brooklyn-based Orthodox community as the Jewish Children’s Museum (JCM) in Crown Heights was closed following a mysterious “warning” of an attack at the site.
Thursday morning, one of the museum’s executives received an email claiming that explosives had been planted in the building and were scheduled to be detonated at some point during the day, a member of JCM’s staff, who asked not to be named, told Hamodia.
The museum’s directors immediately conferred and alerted police and the FBI, who arrived quickly to the scene. The few staff members that were in the building before the 10 a.m. opening time were asked to leave and authorities conducted a sweep of the facilities. Some streets surrounding the area were temporarily closed off, as well.
As in other cases around the country, no dangerous materials were found, but the museum was scheduled to remain closed for the rest of the day.
“Although the threat does not seem credible, the motive is deeply concerning,” local activist Yaakov Behrman told Hamodia. “This is in the heart of one of the most heavily populated Jewish neighborhoods and on a block with the headquarters of many Jewish organizations. We applaud the police for their response and for taking the matter seriously.”
Although there have been over 100 similar threats since January, this is the first to target a facility in a neighborhood with such a concentrated and conspicuous Jewish population. While most incidents have targeted Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), this is not the first time a museum was threatened. On January 9, the Jewish History Museum in Manhattan received a threatening call that authorities say was later linked to Juan Thomson, the only individual to be arrested in connection to the threats. He is accused of being responsible for eight of the incidents and did so in an attempt to frame a personal adversary.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was attending an event at nearby Medgar Evers College when he learned of the threat, visited the site of the museum together with its founder, Devorah Halberstam. Later, Mayor Bill de Blasio and several other city officials also visited.
The governor made note of a special unit of state police that is focused on the threats. He also mentioned the reward money offered for information leading to an arrest, as well as the extra security funding for cultural centers, schools and similar locations, which he pledged several weeks ago.
“We’re taking very dramatic action,” he said in front of the museum. “But I want to warn the people who are behind these: When we find you — and we will find you — you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That, I can promise you.”
The Crown Heights evacuation comes as the scourge of bomb threats to Jewish institutions continues nationwide. Wednesday, 141 heads of JCCs around the country and the national association’s leadership released a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s failure to put an end to the threats or to identify culprits, and calling for a stronger response.
“Still, we are frustrated with the progress in resolving this situation,” the letter says. “We insist that all relevant federal agencies, including your own, apply all the resources available to identify and bring the perpetrator or perpetrators, who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in communities across the country, to justice.”