By Brenda Flanagan
“It is, in a word, terrifying because it’s meant to be that way,” said Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
One community leader described how bomb threats scatter people at classes, day care centers and gyms inside Jewish community centers.
“It is having little children taken out by the hand in freezing cold weather. It is women from a swim class out there in their bathing suits. Being taken in by the church next door,” she said.
“This is not a Jewish issue. This is an issue of principle and integrity,” said Jordan Shenker.
Shenker heads the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades. Three of the eight bomb threats in New Jersey came to this building. So the state’s most powerful politicians gathered here today to address the dozens of anti-Semitic threats and cemetery vandalism in New Jersey and 33 other states across the country.
“Anti-semitism is not dead but dormant. And all-too-easily awoken. Such vile actions cannot be met with silence,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.
“These acts of violence do not happen in a vacuum. They are instigated. That’s why our words do matter,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell.
“This national trend is not by accident. It’s because, when you divide people — as Congressman Pascrell so artfully said — when you divide people up, this is what happens,” said Congressman Josh Gotteheimer. “I’m as scared as everyone else when I drop off my son now and my kids at Sunday school.”
Officials welcomed news of one alleged perpetrator’s arrest but noted others remain at large. Today FBI Director James Comey met with JCC leaders, who “…expressed the deep gratitude of the entire community … left with the highest confidence that the FBI is taking every possible measure to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”
Gov. Chris Christie said New Jersey’s attorney general is aggressively enforcing the state’s anti-bias law.
“We now have $10,000 rewards available for any leads that lead us to the violation of bias crimes. And anyone in this state who commits that type of crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and sent to prison,” Christie said.
Last year, New Jersey nonprofits received $4.3 million in federal security grants. Today Jersey pols called on D.C. colleagues to double the Homeland Security appropriations to at-risk groups.
“Let’s do this in a bipartisan way, because we are all Americans. Nothing should divide us when it comes to protecting and standing up for fellow Americans, especially in times of hate,” said Sen. Cory Booker.
Every speaker urged the crowd to speak out against hate. And they wanted to hear more from the president than his brief statement Tuesday.
“The president represents all of us. And I would like him to be the authoritative voice speaking out against hatred in our country — in all of its forms,” Menendez said.
Politicians promised to lobby hard for additional funding. One bill in the Jersey Legislature would expand security grants by $1 million for vulnerable institutions. But any extra federal money could get caught up in congressional gridlock.