CONGRESSMAN JIM HIMES

Representing the 4th District of Connecticut

Connecticut House Delegation Calls for Action to Combat ‘Telephone Terrorism’ after Bomb Threats against Jewish Community Centers

February 23, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. John Larson (CT-1), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Jim Himes (CT-4), and Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) today joined with a bipartisan group of 150 House colleagues in calling for swift action by federal law enforcement agencies to address the wave of anonymous telephone bomb threats made against Jewish community centers (JCCs) across the country.

“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 ‘telephone terrorism,’ 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,” the lawmakers wrote.

“These phone calls have an immediate emotional impact, of course, but they also have an economic impact,” the lawmakers wrote. “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.”

The letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), was addressed to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James B. Comey. One hundred fifty-five Democrats and Republicans signed the letter.

In January, telephone bomb threats were made against Jewish community centers in New Haven, West Hartford, and Woodbridge, CT. In total, 54 Jewish community centers have reported receiving telephone bomb threats in 2017.

The full text of the letter is pasted below:

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 “telephone terrorism,” 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. 

According to February 16, 2017 article on CNN.com, the JCC Association of North America (JCC Association) reports that 48 JCCs in 27 states received telephonic bomb threats in January 2017 alone.  A number of JCCs, such as the Orlando Jewish Community Center, received multiple threats.  On February 20th, 11 JCCs in as many states received bomb threats via telephone. 

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, the JCC Association, 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,

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