Rozic, Simanowitz Call for Investigation into Threats Against Jewish Community Centers

Legislators release letter to attorney general and Dept. of Homeland Security requesting added security measures
February 27, 2017
Queens, NY – Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Fresh Meadows) and Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) urged the New York Attorney General and Commissioner of the NY Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to take swift action to address the significant number of threats to Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across New York, adding to the rise of anti-Semitic incidents across the country.

“The threats made against Jewish Community Centers are unacceptable and have no place in our communities. My thoughts go out to those directly affected by these malicious acts,” said Assemblywoman Rozic. “We need aggressive action to combat hate speech and hate crimes in our state.”

“The recent threats to Jewish Community Centers are an appalling fragment of the growing anti-Semitic rhetoric in our communities,” said Assemblyman Simanowitz. “We as a society cannot tolerate divisive speech which threatens our safety and freedom. Taking the proper steps to protect our constituents against discriminatory actions will continue to be a priority in our state.”

Action taken by Assemblywoman Rozic and Assemblyman Simanowitz has been prompted by the rising amount of Jewish Community Centers being forced to closed, due to the rising number of threats received. The letter calls on the State to investigate these threats and report back to the legislature on steps that are being taken to deter the threats and to work with local law enforcement to counter bias and find effective mechanisms to educate and protect communities against hate.

The full text of the letter follows:

February 27, 2017

The Honorable Eric T. Schneiderman
NYS Office of Attorney General
Department of Justice
120 Broadway
New York City, NY 10271

The Honorable John Melville
Commissioner
NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
1220 Washington Avenue
Building 7A Suite 710
Harriman State Campus
Albany, NY 12242

Dear Attorney General Schneiderman, Commissioner Melville:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the recent spate of anonymous bomb threats made via telephone against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across New York. We urge your offices to swiftly assess the situation and advise us on what specific steps are being taken to deter such threats, to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of these threats for violations of state laws, and to help JCCs enhance security measures in the event that an individual or group 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 growing concern and, as such, requires a statewide solution. In the first two months of 2017 alone, there have been 68 incidents targeting 53 JCCs in 26 states, according to JCC Association of North America.

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 local law enforcement officials, the JCC Association of North America, 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,

Nily Rozic
25th Assembly District

Michael Simanowitz
27th Assembly District