NEWS: Murphy Authors Letter, Signed by Over 150 Democrats and Republicans, Urging Federal Agencies to Address Bomb Threats Against Jewish Community Centers

In 2017, 53 JCCs in 26 States Have Been Targeted, Including the Orlando JCC

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Washington, February 22, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Fla. has authored a letter urging the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take swift action to address the significant number of bomb threats that have been telephoned in to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the nation.  Murphy’s letter—which she co-led with House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley of New York—is signed by over 150 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress, in a strong showing of bipartisan support.  In addition, the letter has been endorsed by several dozen Jewish organizations throughout the country, including The Jewish Federations of North America, JCC Association of North America, The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, and the Roth Family JCC of Greater Orlando.


Murphy’s letter was prompted by the troubling fact that, in the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been 68 incidents targeting 53 JCCs in 26 states, according to JCC Association of North America.  A number of JCCs, such as the Roth Family JCC of Greater Orlando, have received multiple threats. 

“These bomb threats are unacceptable.  Federal law enforcement agencies must do everything within their power to punish those responsible for the threats that have already taken place, to prevent future threats from occurring, and to ensure these threats are never converted into action.  This letter urges senior federal officials to advise Congress on the steps that are being taken to deter these threats from being made, to identify and prosecute the perpetrators, and to enable JCCs to enhance security measures such as physical barriers and guards,” said Murphy. 

“As the letter notes, these phone calls have a severe economic, as well as emotional, impact.  JCCs provide a range of educational and community services for Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and families, with a particular focus on children and youth.  The individuals who make these calls no doubt recognize that bomb threats can compromise a JCC’s financial future,” added Murphy.

For his part, Chairman Crowley stated:  “There are few crimes more vile than threatening children, and these threats against Jewish Community Centers are terrifying our fellow Americans and must stop.  The Trump administration, including the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, should immediately announce their plans to investigate and stop these threats.  I deeply appreciate the hard work of Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy in building bipartisan support for this effort.  We must thoroughly investigate these threats.”

The Murphy-Crowley letter received strong support from national and community organizations, many of whom contacted their representatives in Congress to request that they sign the letter.

William Daroff, The Jewish Federations of North America’s senior vice president for public policy, commended the purpose and timeliness of the letter, stating:  “While the bomb threats in question have been revealed to be hoaxes, the calls were intended to sow fear and disrupt lives and communities and must be taken seriously.  The JCC bomb threats follow a growing record of plots, attempted attacks, and deadly occurrences targeting the Jewish community at home, a rise in anti-Semitic hate groups organizing, and an assessment by the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI and DHS that violent homegrown extremists are prioritizing ‘soft targets’ such as Jewish communal institutions.”

In addition, Stephen P. Seiden, the chairman of JCC Association of North America’s board of directors, stated:  “JCC Association of North America applauds this bipartisan effort toward an issue impacting communities across the country, and we are grateful for Rep. Murphy and Rep. Crowley’s leadership.  We urge the administration and federal agencies to continue joining us in prioritizing our communities’ safety, and we look forward to seeing the perpetrators brought to justice quickly.  The JCC movement has been a part of North America’s landscape for the last century, and as we celebrate our centennial, we draw strength from our mission to enhance not only Jewish life, but community life as a whole.”

Furthermore, Olga Yorish, the executive director of The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, stated:  “The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando applauds Rep. Murphy for taking the lead on an issue of critical importance to our community.  As the owner/manager of the Maitland Jewish Community Campus, the Federation is fully committed to the safety and security of all who use our campus, and we are pleased that Rep. Murphy and other lawmakers share that commitment.”

Finally, Ronnie Bitman, the president of the board of directors of the Roth Family JCC of Greater Orlando, stated:  “The Roth Family JCC of Greater Orlando is grateful for our representatives coming to our aid in this time of need.  Our community center’s roots are strong, having provided for the central Florida community for nearly forty-five years, and now, with the advocacy of our elected leaders, we will remain strong and steadfast in implementing our mission of building community, strengthening family life, and promoting Jewish values.”  

The complete text of the letter is as follows:

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February 22, 2017

The Honorable John F. Kelly
Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
                                                      

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530 


The Honorable James B. Comey
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535

 

Dear Secretary Kelly, Attorney General Sessions, and Director Comey,

We write to express our deep concern regarding the recent spate of anonymous bomb threats made via telephone against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the nation.  We urge the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to swiftly assess the situation and to advise Congress on what specific steps are being taken, or will be taken, to deter such threats from being made, to identify and prosecute the perpetrators for violations of federal criminal laws, and to enable JCCs to enhance security measures such as physical barriers and guards, in the event that an individual seeks to act upon these threats. 

This is not an idle concern, given that there have been at least three casualty-causing attacks at JCCs or other Jewish institutions in the last two decades—in 2014 at a Kansas JCC, in 2006 at the Jewish Federation of Seattle, and in 1999 at a California JCC.  This is a national problem and, as such, it requires a national solution. 

In the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been 68 incidents targeting 53 JCCs in 26 states, according to JCC Association of North America.  A number of JCCs, such as the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, have received multiple threats. 

These phone calls have an immediate emotional impact, of course, but they also have an economic impact.  JCCs provide a range of educational and community services for Jewish and non-Jewish individuals and families, with a particular focus on children and youth.  The individuals who make these calls no doubt recognize that bomb threats, particularly when repeated, can compromise and even destroy a JCC’s financial future.

We urge you to approach this issue with a sense of urgency, and to work in partnership with state and territory governments, local law enforcement officials, JCC Association of North America, individual JCCs, and Jewish community institutions and leaders to address the threat in a holistic manner.  We look forward to your response regarding the specific steps being taken to prevent and respond to this threat.

Sincerely,

 

1.         Rep. Stephanie Murphy

2.         Rep. Joseph Crowley

3.         Rep. Val Demings

4.         Rep. Daniel Donovan

5.         Rep. Marcy Kaptur

6.         Rep. Tim Ryan

7.         Rep. Grace Meng

8.         Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

9.         Rep. Steve Cohen

10.       Rep. Nydia Velazquez

11.       Rep. Alcee Hastings

12.       Rep. Juan Vargas

13.       Rep. Jimmy Panetta

14.       Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

15.       Rep. Rosa DeLauro

16.       Rep. Leonard Lance

17.       Rep. John Lewis

18.       Rep. John Sarbanes

19.       Rep. Paul Tonko

20.       Rep. Jim Cooper

21.       Rep. Darren Soto

22.       Rep. Dwight Evans

23.       Rep. Nita Lowey

24.       Rep. Jerrold Nadler

25.       Rep. Matt Cartwright

26.       Rep. John Yarmuth

27.       Rep. Kathleen Rice

28.       Rep. Pramila Jayapal

29.       Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick

30.       Rep. Charlie Crist

31.       Rep. Ted Deutch

32.       Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

33.       Rep. John Delaney

34.       Rep. David Joyce

35.       Rep. Brian Higgins

36.       Rep. Donald McEachin

37.       Rep. William Keating

38.       Rep. Brenda Lawrence

39.       Rep. Betty McCollum

40.       Rep. Frederica Wilson

41.       Rep. James McGovern

42.       Rep. Lois Frankel

43.       Rep. Elijah Cummings

44.       Rep. Eliot Engel

45.       Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

46.       Rep. Charlie Dent

47.       Rep. Michael Capuano

48.       Rep. Claudia Tenney

49.       Rep. Alan Lowenthal

50.       Rep. Luis Gutierrez

51.       Rep. David Cicilline

52.       Rep. Thomas Suozzi

53.       Rep. Sander Levin

54.       Rep. Seth Moulton

55.       Rep. Rick Larsen

56.       Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

57.       Rep. Brad Schneider

58.       Rep. Jacky Rosen

59.       Rep. Jose Serrano

60.       Rep. Dina Titus

61.       Rep. Tom MacArthur

62.       Rep. Carolyn Maloney

63.       Rep. Jackie Speier

64.       Rep. David Scott

65.       Rep. John Conyers

66.       Rep. Brendan Boyle

67.       Rep. Derek Kilmer

68.       Rep. Jan Schakowsky

69.       Rep. Blake Farenthold

70.       Rep. Eric Swalwell

71.       Rep. Bill Pascrell

72.       Rep. Suzan DelBene

73.       Rep. Patrick Meehan

74.       Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman

75.       Rep. Robin Kelly

76.       Rep. Peter Welch

77.       Rep. Danny Davis

78.       Rep. Donald Beyer

79.       Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

80.       Rep. Donald Norcross

81.       Rep. Bill Johnson

82.       Rep. Filemon Vela

83.       Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

84.       Rep. Emanuel Cleaver

85.       Rep. Joe Courtney

86.       Rep. Gus Bilirakis

87.       Rep. Gerald Connolly

88.       Rep. WM Lacy Clay

89.       Rep. Ryan Costello

90.       Rep. Anna Eshoo

91.       Rep. Elizabeth Esty

92.       Rep. Diana DeGette

93.       Rep. Daniel Lipinski

94.       Rep. Kathy Castor

95.       Rep. Ted Lieu

96.       Rep. John Larson

97.       Rep. James Langevin

98.       Rep. Jim Himes

99.       Rep. Bill Foster

100.     Rep.  Earl Blumenauer

101.     Rep. Keith Ellison

102.     Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

103.     Rep. Jim Bridenstine

104.     Rep. Peter Visclovsky

105.     Rep. Hank Johnson

106.     Rep. Terri Sewell

107.     Rep. Salud Carbajal

108.     Rep. Joyce Beatty

109.     Rep. Dave Trott

110.     Rep. John Faso

111.     Rep. Robert Brady

112.     Rep. Greg Meeks

113.     Rep. Mike Thompson

114.     Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen

115.     Rep. Stephen Lynch

116.     Rep. Doris Matsui

117.     Rep. Julia Brownley

118.     Rep. Frank Pallone

119.     Rep. Bill Posey

120.     Rep. Al Green

121.     Rep. Adam Schiff

122.     Rep. Josh Gottheimer

123.     Rep. Adriano Espaillat

124.     Rep. Yvette Clarke

125.     Rep. Raul Grijalva

126.     Rep. Jamie Raskin

127.     Rep. Ron Kind

128.     Rep. Marc Veasey

129.     Rep. Barbara Lee

130.     Rep. Albio Sires

131.     Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott

132.     Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

133.     Rep. Vern Buchanan

134.     Rep. Jared Polis

135.     Rep. Carol Shea-Porter

136.     Rep. Andre Carson

137.     Rep. John Katko

138.     Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

139.     Rep. Carlos Curbelo

140.     Rep. Sanford Bishop

141.     Rep. Frank LoBiondo

142.     Rep. Marcia Fudge

143.     Rep. Christopher Smith

144.     Rep. Ruben Gallego

145.     Rep. Peter Roskam

146.     Rep. Jared Huffman

147.     Rep. James Renacci

148.     Rep. Raul Ruiz

149.     Rep. Zoe Lofgren

150.     Rep. Richard Neal

151.     Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

152.     Rep. Patrick Tiberi

153.     Rep. Joseph Kennedy

154.     Rep. Tom O’Halleran

155.     Rep. Mia Love

156.     Rep. Steve Stivers

157.     Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

158.     Rep. Gene Green

 

 

 

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U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida. Previously, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor who also served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received numerous awards for her distinguished service, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Murphy lives in Winter Park with her husband and two children.

 

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