Late last Tuesday night, Boulder’s Jewish Community Center email pinged with an incoming message, but instead of a concerned parent asking about after-school programs, this message threatened the JCC with a bomb for the second time this year.
Placed on high-alert, Jewish Community Centers across the nation have been the target of over 100 bomb threats, two of which were made to the Boulder JCC, CNN reported.
“This is unprecedented,” said Nan Goodman, director of CU Boulder’s Jewish Studies program, about the wave of threats.
A number of these recent threats were found to be the work of former The Intercept reporter Juan Thompson. The forsaken reporter has been charged for eight of the threats he made in a months-long revenge campaign against his ex-girlfriend, designed to frame her for the calls. None of the calls Thompson made threatened the Boulder JCC.
None of the threats have resulted in explosions — actual bombings rarely come announced — but the emotional impact has threatened the safety of Jews across the county who already have seen an uptick in hate crimes.
Surprisingly silent, President Donald Trump did not directly address the rise in anti-Semitism or general surge in hate crimes until an address from the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible,” Trump said from a prepared statement during his visit to the museum in February. A number of Jewish leaders criticized the statement as being too little, too late, and were disappointed Trump had not condemned the threats without being prompted.
Along with many others who share his extremism, David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, voiced his support for Trump’s candidacy during the presidential campaign. Trump waited two days to denounce the endorsement, a delay far too long for many.
Goodman described the wave of neo-Nazi and white nationalist support Trump received as “shocking,” and said the new presidential administration has appeared to embolden people in expressions of anti-Semitism.
While the rise in hate crimes against Jewish people began before Trump’s presidential bid, much of the hate speech online has been linked to Trump supporters, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The ADL also reports the difficulties in quantifying online hate speech with the pervasive nature of the internet. At CU, reported hate speech has been mostly limited to controversial guest speakers and the occasional visit by street preachers.
“There’s not a lot of overt anti-Semitism, but there is a lot of insensitivity and ignorance,” said Lindsay Migdal, a representative at CU’s chapter of Hillel, about the campus climate.
Migdal added that when students sit at information tables for Jewish or Israeli organizations, people frequently approach them in an aggressive manner.
About 11 percent of CU’s student body is Jewish, or around 2,000 students, according to various surveys.
College campuses have been one of the unexpected flash-points for the rise in anti-Semitism. Often derided by the far right as hubs of liberal politics, universities have been the sites of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel demonstrations. According to the ADL, between 2014 and 2015 alone, anti-Semitic incidents on campuses nearly doubled.
Emerging from fringe internet websites, anti-Semitic groups have begun recruiting millennials as new soldiers in their “white revolution.” While none have appeared at CU Boulder, posters attacking Jews and other minorities have begun appearing on campus across the country.
No major incidents of anti-Semitism have been reported at CU, but Goodman said she has heard incidents of people leaving anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, in bathroom stalls on campus at CU, which she described as very troubling. Swastikas have also appeared on local businesses and Jewish community centers in the past.
Goodman said that she hoped the university administration would live up to it’s motto of “inclusive excellence” in combating rising anti-Semitism, and stressed that the targeting of marginalized groups was a problem for everyone on campus, not just Jewish students or students of color.
Migdal said the students she works with at Hillel have been more nervous since the election, but also said that she has seen different minority groups come together in support of each other, which has given her encouragement.
“I can’t remember a time in recent history where anti-Semitism has been so widespread and visible,” Goodman said. “It’s a scary time to be a Jew in the world.”
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