Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center evacuated after bomb thr - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center evacuated after bomb threat

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8 / AP) - A bomb threat forced the evacuation of a University City-area Jewish community center Monday amid a rash of similar crimes across the country.

Authorities were alerted to the threat against Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center about 4:30 p.m., according to San Diego police.

Administrators at the center cleared everyone offsite while officers searched it. The evacuees were invited to wait at nearby La Jolla Country Day School until the facility could be declared safe.

The threat was one of several received recently at the Executive Drive community center and was among 31 made nationwide yesterday. It's the fifth wave of bogus threats made against Jewish community centers and day schools over the past couple months.

Jewish Community Centers and day schools in at least a dozen states received threats, according to the JCC Association of North America. No bombs were found. All 21 buildings — 13 community centers and eight schools — were cleared by Monday afternoon and had resumed normal operations, the association said.

"The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out — and speak out forcefully — against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country," said David Posner, an official with JCC Association of North America. "Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities."

The FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division are probing the threats.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the vandalism and bomb threats serious, unacceptable behavior and said the department will "do what it can to assist in pushing back ... and prosecuting anybody that we can prove to be a part of it."

Some 200 people were evacuated from a Jewish Community Center in York, Pennsylvania, after a caller told the front desk there was a bomb in the building, said Melissa Plotkin, the York JCC's director of community engagement and diversity. Police entered the building and cleared it, she said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who has long ties to the York center, having served on its board, called the bomb threats and cemetery vandalism reprehensible.

"These acts are cowardly and disturbing," Wolf told reporters in a conference call Monday. "We must find those responsible and hold them accountable for these hate crimes."

Jewish centers and schools in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia also were threatened, according to the JCC Association of North America.

Since January, the group has tracked a total of 90 incidents in 30 states and Canada.

Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, a nonprofit founded by several national Jewish groups to bolster security in the Jewish community, said Jewish Community Centers and other Jewish institutions have extensive security protocols in place.

After dealing with Monday's threats, he said, the "Jewish community is back in business."

The Jewish Community Center released the following statement on Monday night: 

The Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center received a bomb threat similar to the ones we received in the past. Like those initial threats, and the ones that have been made to JCCs throughout the country over the last four weeks, law enforcement quickly determined the threat to
be a non-credible hoax. 

Under an abundance of caution, we followed our practiced emergency procedures, and safely evacuated our facility. By 6:20 PM, San Diego Police had concluded its onsite review and the JCC fully reopened to the community by 6:30PM.

Without minimizing the impact or intent of these phone calls - it's important to remember that the JCC is uniquely prepared to offer a safe and values-driven environment for all those who seek to live a healthy life: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. It is the very nature of who we are, and the great diversity of those we serve, that draws attention to our work and our mission.

As a JCC, we are part of a national Secure Community Network (SCN) - an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America that monitors, advises, and supports the safety and security of Jewish Institutions. In response to these recent threats across the country, we have been working closely with our local police department and national security agencies to monitor the situation and review our protocols. We have been continually briefed by SCN, ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and the JCC Association to help us understand the circumstances and support our safety and security efforts.

The entire Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center's leadership team and staff continues to work together, practice safety protocols and are prepared to respond to this type of incidents with the support of local law enforcement, including our adjacent neighbors, the San Diego Police Department Northern Division.

While these threats are being investigated, we continue to take numerous security measures to ensure the safety of our members and guests.

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