Jewish community center on Mercer Island among dozens in U.S. threatened Monday

The Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island was evacuated by police after a threat, one of more than 30 aimed at Jewish community centers and schools nationwide on Monday.

Mercer Island police, along with King County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad and K-9 unity, searched and cleared the building Monday night.

The community center said in a statement that it received bomb threat over the phone, and said that the safety of the community was the priority.

“We have been working with the local police departments, colleagues around the country, and national security agencies to monitor the situation and review our protocols. We stand in solidarity and vigilance with the dozens of Jewish community organizations that received threats over the past few weeks,” said Stroum Community Center CEO Amy Lavin and Kim Waldbaum, the president of the Stroum Community Center board in a statement.

According to the Mercer Island Police Department, the community center’s staff members began evacuating the building. Police said the French American School, which is nearby, was also evacuated as a precaution.

Mercer Island police said no suspicious items were located at the Stroum center.

The threatening call appeared to be one of dozens sent to Jewish community sites in 12 states around the country on Monday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Monday’s wave of threats marked the fifth anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish locations this year, according to USA Today. That includes vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis in recent weeks.

Local reaction

Local community leaders also condemned the wave of threats to Jewish community.

Mercer Island Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin

“While I am so relieved this seems to be a hoax and that everyone was safely evacuated, I cannot emphasize enough how appalled we are by the perpetrators of what seems to be domestic terrorism.”

“Last fall, the City Council issued a Proclamation on civility and diversity, underscoring our role in bringing people together and not dividing them.  The principles we enumerated are even more appropriate today. We continue to welcome all people of all faiths, in recognition that we truly are stronger and smarter together.”

Gov. Jay Inslee

“The despicable nationwide wave of threats and vandalism against our Jewish community hit Washington state with yesterday’s threat against the Mercer Island Stroum Jewish Community Center.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms any act of violence against any community in our state, including the threat of terrorism. It doesn’t matter what faith you practice, where you come from, or who you love – Washington is a hate-free zone.

“And whether someone calls in a threat, desecrates cemeteries, or attacks people online, the individuals responsible for these hateful acts are abhorrent and go against everything our state and country stand for.

“Last month when Muslim immigrants were blocked from entering Sea-Tac Airport, the very first family to stand in support was a Jewish family with their young children holding signs that said ‘let’s stand together.’

“As local and federal authorities investigate last night’s incident, the state of Washington stands ready to support their efforts any way we can.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

“These types of threats have absolutely no place in our society. This was an act of cowardice and intimidation.

“I urge all Washingtonians to join me in sending a clear message that threats like this will not be tolerated — not in our state, and not in our nation.”

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-1) 

“I am deeply disturbed by the recent wave of threats against Stroum Jewish Community Center of Greater Seattle and other JCCs around the country. I joined my colleagues in a letter to the administration urging swift action to address these threats. Antisemitism is unacceptable, and I will continue to speak out against this hatred.”

 

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7)

“Incredibly alarmed to hear that last night the #JCC in Mercer Island was evacuated – possibly due to a bomb threat. Hate has no place in our community. We must stand with our Jewish sisters & brothers, and everyone facing hate all across the country.”

 

Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-8)

“Deeply disheartened and concerned with what I have been seeing around the country and now in our own backyard. There is no place for hatred, bigotry, or antisemitism in our community. Sending my thoughts, prayers, and support to the Mercer Island Jewish community and the Jewish community around our country who have been threatened for no reason beyond peacefully practicing their faith.”

Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9)

“I stand with the Jewish Community both here in Washington state and across the country following a deeply disturbing number of threats against Jewish community centers in recent months. Our community will continue to remain one that values diversity, and promotes respect for people of all races and religions. Following last night’s bomb threat that lead to the evacuation of the Mercer Island Jewish Community Center in my district, I have been contact with the FBI to request further information about the ongoing investigation.”

Mahmood Khadeer, President of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound

“Many friends from the Jewish community told us when our own sign was vandalized that ‘an attack on MAPS is an attack on us all.’ Likewise, an attack on any Jewish center or cemetery is an attack on us all! Please reach out to your Jewish colleagues, neighbors and friends and voice and offer your support.

“Providing ease at the time of difficulty is a Prophetic tradition:

“‘Whoever helps ease someone in difficulty, God will make it easy for him in this world and in the Hereafter” [Prophet Muhammad pbuh]‘”

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to include reaction from the local community. 

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