‘This is what it means to be Jewish in America:’ N.J. rabbis respond to synagogue threats
Law enforcement officials say a broad online threat targeting New Jersey synagogues has been mitigated.
The person behind threats against New Jersey synagogues has been identified and “no longer poses a danger to the community,” according to the FBI.
The person, who hasn’t been named by federal law enforcement, told officials they “harbored anger towards Jewish people, according to the Associated Press.
The FBI issued a warning Thursday, urging synagogue leaders to “take all security precautions” to protect their community and facilities, but didn’t provide more details about the nature of the danger.
While officials say the threat has been mitigated, members of the Jewish faith say they remain vigilant.
“This isn’t something that we deal with once in a while. But something that we constantly do an analysis for on the daily basis, in a way that I don’t think other people realize,” said Rabbi Philip Bazeley, leader of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick.
“This is what it means to be Jewish in America,” Bazeley said.
Rabbi David Levy, regional director of the American Jewish Committee New Jersey, said he was “deeply disturbed” after the FBI Newark issued a public warning on Thursday.
“This was a rare and unusual event,” Levy said.
“During my 30 years [as a congregational rabbi], certainly we had received threat assessments from agencies from local police, from state police,” Levy said. “But a broad and general warning that was put out over social media in such a public way, was unique and unusual, and I think reflective of how seriously the FBI took this threat.”
Ultimately, investigators found that the suspect did not have the means or motive to carry out the attack.
Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement commending law enforcement for “mitigating” the risk.
“I am grateful to the FBI, as well as state law enforcement partners including the Attorney General’s Office, the State Police, and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, for their tireless efforts in mitigating the immediate threat to our Jewish synagogues,” Murphy said. “While this specific threat may be mitigated, we know this remains a tense time for our Jewish communities who are facing a wave of anti-Semitic activity. We will not be indifferent. We will remain vigilant. We will take any and every threat with the utmost seriousness and we will stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish congregations.”
In recent weeks, celebrities like entertainment mogul Kanye West and NBA guard Kyrie Irving came under fire for making anti-semitic remarks and sharing anti-semitic materials, respectively.
Rabbis Bazeley and Levy say hate from people of high profile can have a negative impact on others, especially for people who form their opinions based on social media.
“They have a loud megaphone … the number of followers people like this have is immense. And so we need to speak out equally powerfully against the use of that megaphone for toxic hatred, whether it’s aimed at Jews or aimed at others,” Levy said.
Amid a recent rise in anti-semitism, Jewish leaders say they work to inspire faith in the face of fear.
“The greatest antidote to antisemitism is Jewish pride. And so we work hard to build among our young people, especially but among all of our people, a sense of Jewish pride, a sense of Jewish strength,” Levy said. “The other thing that we try to remind people about is how many allies we really do have in the world.”
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