At around 10 a.m. on Monday, a bomb threat was made to the Hyde Park Jewish Community Center (JCC), according to a spokesperson of JCC Chicago.
Elizabeth Abrams, communications manager of JCC Chicago, said that the JCC staff followed protocol and called 911 immediately after the threat was received.
The 11 staff members and program participants in the building were evacuated as it was searched by the Chicago Police Department, who determined that the threat was not genuine at 11:45 a.m.
Abrams noted that the JCC has established training and protocol for these types of situations. “This is something that we prepare for on a regular basis.”
An e-mail written by JCC Chicago CEO Alan Sataloff was released to the JCC community Monday afternoon. “During the school year, Hyde Park JCC primarily serves as an enrichment center for recreation and community partnerships,” Sataloff said. “A School’s Out program happening in Hyde Park today was already on their field trip when the threat was called in, so they did not need to evacuate.”
School’s Out is an enrichment program for children grades K–5 when school is out of session.
Congregation Rodfei Zedek, a Conservative synagogue in Hyde Park, released a statement announcing that students of Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School and the Jewish Enrichment Center were also not present that morning because of President’s Day.
“While today is another instance of threats directed at JCCs across the county, none have been substantiated,” Sataloff said. “This is a difficult time for our community and we assure you that JCC Chicago locations are safe, and that we are open and operating as usual.”
This incident is just one of 11 phoned-in bomb threats on Monday to JCCs across America. According to a statement released by the JCC Association of North America, calls were received that day by JCCs in Alabama, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
“This comes in the aftermath of three waves of bomb threats in January (Jan. 9, Jan. 18, and Jan. 31), resulting in, through today, 69 incidents at 54 JCCs in 27 states and one Canadian province in total. All bomb threats in both January and today have proven to be hoaxes, and all JCCs impacted have returned to regular operations,” the statement read.
One of the threats issued on January 31 was directed at the JCC Apachi Day Camp in Lake Zurich in Northern Illinois.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a prominent non-governmental organization that fights against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, released a statement on Monday that it is deeply disturbed by this recent trend of bomb threats being directed at JCCs across the country.
“We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions, to make it clear that such actions are unacceptable, and to pledge that they will work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those responsible will be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in the statement.