In the wake of another round of bomb threats to Baltimore’s JCCs on the night of March 14, Barak Hermann, CEO of the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Marc Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, reassured the Jewish community of their commitment to security in a YouTube video posted two days later.
“The threats have been relentless,” Hermann said in the video. “They have been trying and draining, but we have been able to persevere and continue to keep our doors open because of you. You are our most important asset. Your safety and security … are of the utmost importance.”
Last week’s threats, emails sent late at night that included bomb and shooting threats to both the Park Heights and Owings Mills JCCs, marked the third threat to the Park Heights facility and the second to Owings Mills.
“Together, we will get through this difficult time, and we will be stronger because of it. Tomorrow will be a better day,” reiterated Terrill.
Nearly 150 bomb threats have targeted JCCs, Jewish day schools and other Jewish institutions since the beginning of the year. Last week’s threats also affected JCCs in St. Louis, Omaha, Neb., Atlanta and Boulder, Colo., all of which have been the targets of previous threats.
Officials from the JCC Association of North America met with FBI director James Comey on the morning of March 3, and a statement said the representatives had the “highest confidence that the FBI is taking every possible measure to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”
A St. Louis man, 31-year-old Juan Thompson, was arrested March 3 in connection with eight bomb threats made in January and February. According to a Justice Department release, he allegedly made the calls to harass an ex-girlfriend. There were more bomb threats called to facilities around the country four days later.
Regarding last week’s threat, the Owings Mills JCC contacted police at approximately 7:45 a.m. March 15 about a threatening email that came in at 11:47 the night before, according to police. “The email stated that someone had placed a bomb on the property and that the person who had placed it would shoot survivors. JCC security searched the area and building themselves, then police arrived and searched the entire property including the nearby wooded area,” said police spokeswoman Natalie Litofsky. K-9 units were brought in as a precautionary measure.
Baltimore City Police special forces also responded to the Park Heights JCC. Det. Jeremy Silbert said that the FBI is now the primary agency investigating the threats.
“Our local law enforcement was on-site early this morning and conducted a comprehensive sweep of both facilities,” said a security update the morning of March 15 from Hermann and JCC board chair Annette Saxon. “We are working very closely with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, the Secure Community Network and local law enforcement to put an end to these disturbing threats. At this time we want to remind you that if you see something, say something. This could include a bag left unattended or a person acting suspiciously. Please report your concerns to the nearest JCC staff person or our security personnel.”
Both JCC facilities opened at 11:30 a.m. March 15. Local law enforcement will maintain a significant presence at both facilities for the foreseeable future.