In addition to the bombs threats, there have been several acts of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Rochester. On February 20th, approximately 170 gravestones were shattered in the Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery in St. Louis; on February 26th, several hundred graves were damaged in the Mount Carmel Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, and in New York state – Rochester’s Waad Hakolel Cemetery, saw over a dozen headstones kicked over. There was also an occurrence of several toppled over tombstones in Brooklyn’s historic cemetery, but according to the New York City Police Department’s hate-crime task force, the cause for the tombstones upending had to do with environmental causes and not vandalism.
While the threats were absolutely real, no actual bombs had been found in any of the Jewish community centers and schools. The called-in bomb threats were done by individuals who used burner phones that are undetectable, in addition to a speech altering device to mask their real voice. What is certain about these threats and acts of vandalism – they were done in order to instill fear in a growingly anxious America.
There are many theories as to who is behind these threats – some say it’s the extreme right, who are linked to white supremacist neo-Nazi groups, and have been on the rise since the new administration has entered the White House; while there are others that say that it’s a far left organization or terror group that sympathizes with the Palestinian people in their ongoing conflict with Israel. At this point in time no group has taken responsibility and the investigation into these events has turned up no leads.
What the FBI investigation has indeed uncovered is the fact that the bomb threats and cemetery defacing was not done by the same culprits, and that the bombs threats themselves may have been done by one group, several groups, or copycats who took the original threats as inspiration for wreaking their own havoc among the Jewish community. The FBI’s statement on their investigation was intended to reassure the public that the FBI is making this matter a top priority for them, stating, “The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner.”
In addition to the FBI’s investigation, New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has announced new actions to fight these fear inducing hate crimes and the growing anti-Semitism within New York’s borders. Specifically, Cuomo stated that the new initiative includes a texting tip line that you can use to report a hate crime, with an added $5,000 reward for any conviction of an individual implicated in a case. The pièce de résistance of Cuomo’s speech was the plan to add $25 million for increased security in Jewish day schools.