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Westside Jewish Community Center targeted in national wave of bomb threats

Westside Jewish Community Center
Westside Jewish Community Center
Courtesy of Westside Jewish Community Center

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Yesterday, 30 Jewish community centers and schools across 18 states were the targets of bomb threats, as well as the San Francisco office of the Anti-Defamation League– a jewish human rights organization.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been scores of these calls to Jewish community centers and schools across the country. Gravestones were vandalized at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis just in the past week.      

In Irvine, more than one thousand people were evacuated after a threat to Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County and the attached Tarbut V'Torah school.

Another bomb threat was called in late in the afternoon to the Westside Jewish Community Center in Mid-City. 

Brian Greene is the Executive Director of the Westside JCC. He spoke with Take Two's A Martinez about receiving the bomb threat and how his community is dealing with the recent spike in anti-semitism. 

Interview Highlights 

When the call came in 

We got a call at about 4:40 PM– a bomb threat call, very similar to the kinds of calls we've been hearing about all over the country over the last 4 0r 5 weeks. Our staff was prepared and ready and we followed out protocols. 

We've had 5 weeks of these calls at Jewish community centers across the country– close to 100 calls already. All hoaxes. No actual bombs, no damage, all hoax calls. So, we were ready. 

First of all, we called LAPD. They were terrific. And really, they guided us through the whole thing. We were ready to evacuate the building quickly and calmly. Our staff knew exactly where to take children and where to move people so that everybody was moved to a safe location. 

At that time of day, there were still children in our pre-school facility. There was a lot of activity on our basketball courts. And at that point during the day, there were probably about 250 swimmers either in... or about to take swim lesson at the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy here in our building.

Preparing to be a target  

I think we've kept people informed. We've had to because people have been concerned. They follow the news. They know what's going on.  We've kept people informed over the last few weeks that if we should get a call, we will evacuate. We're ready for that and that we know what to expect.  

No matter how much you prepare, the anxiousness, the anxiety, the stress is definitely there. It's a bomb threat. Someone is telling you that they're going to do serious damage. I would say the feeling here was one of anxiousness, but also a real anger. Why is this going on? Why can't they stop it? Who would want to do such a thing to disrupt children playing basketball? Why would anybody do this? 

Getting back to normal

Everybody wants to know why it's happening? We don't have answers. We can say that we're monitoring the situation. We can say that we're anxious for our government to take this seriously, and take action, and find these people. We hope that's happening already. And we can say that we live in a world where strange things are happening all over. And I hope that this is isn't the new normal. I hope that this isn't going to be something that continues. 

I think the first thing we have to recognize is that nobody has been harmed. All of these calls have been hoaxes. The second thing people have to recognize is that our building is secure. We have security. We have protocols. We have procedures. We're on alert. We're careful here. And the proof is that people still come. This morning there are swimmers in the pool and there are pre-schoolers arriving for their day in school. Adults are coming for their exercise classes. The proof is that people are behind us. People support us. People appreciate what we are in this community and the quality of our programs. 

Condemnation from leadership

I think we need more but that's just my frustration speaking. I would hope that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are working hard on this. I do want to commend our local police. They have been fabulous and are in regular contact with us. They were real heroes last night. I was very impressed. 

A wave of anti-semitism 

You want to keep some perspective. None of these calls have had any basis in reality. They're hoaxes. Let's not get intimidated. Let's not feel threatened. Let's not let these people do what they want to do–  harass our community center and harass citizens in Los Angeles. That's what they really want to do. Let's not give them a victory.    

Quotes edited for clarity.

To listen to the interview, click on the blue Media Player above.