FBI Investigating Threats To Minn. Jewish Centers As Hate Crimes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Members of Jewish community centers across Minnesota are hoping for more security resources after being targeted because of their faith.

Two locations in St. Paul and St. Louis Park are among 140 cases of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country and overseas since Jan. 3, according to the FBI.

The bureau is looking for who is responsible, and believes the same person or group is at the center of these hate crimes.

St. Paul’s Jewish Community Center provided a meeting space for community leaders, local law enforcement, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Minnesota on Wednesday afternoon.

Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), said he haas received an outpouring of support from people of all faiths and backgrounds since the bomb threats began.

bomb threat FBI Investigating Threats To Minn. Jewish Centers As Hate Crimes

Police respond to a bomb threat at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center in February (credit: CBS)

“An attack on one community is an attack on all communities,” Hunegs said.

However, Hunegs said the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported to his organization have also been on the rise.

There were 12 in 2015, 21 in 2016 and eight so far in 2017.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtel said he believes hate crimes and incidents of bias are greatly under-reported. Axtel encouraged people to report if they feel they are being targeted, even if they are unsure or nervous about telling authorities.

Lon White, Sabes JCC Security and Resiliency’s senior counsel, also shared about the experience for families who are members of the St. Louis Park JCC that also received a bomb threat earlier this year.

White said the children regularly practice drills for any type of hazard, so the evacuation did not impact them as much as it impacted their parents.

“The people with small kids were the ones who were the most scared,” White said.

The community leaders said they are doing all they can to increase security but maintain a welcoming atmosphere.

While the FBI works to find answers, leaders of the JCC’s are asking state lawmakers to pass a proposed bi-partisan bill that would provide grants for security for non-profits of all faiths.

Versions of the bill were in the House and Senate public safety committees. The JCRC hopes the bill will be included as part of an omnibus finance bill.

“The people behind these hate crime seek to divide the community when in fact the exact opposite is happening,” Hunegs said.

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