EDISON – The days were starting to blend as Adam Glinn, CEO of the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County, spoke about the antisemitic threats that transpired last week.
The Jewish Community Center (JCC) on Oak Tree Road had received a bomb threat just days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) warning of “a broad credible threat” on Nov. 3.
On Nov. 9, after 1 p.m., an email came across Glinn’s attention of a bomb threat to the JCC. The security measures he had lifted on Nov. 6 after the FBI warning were set in motion once again.
Fortunately, after two hours as members of the Edison Police Department, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department and the department’s K-9s scoured the campus, which also includes the Edison YMCA, the bomb threat turned out to be a hoax, Glinn said.
The hoax came on the heels of the threat made against Jewish synagogues in New Jersey. The FBI Newark field office had issued a warning through its Twitter account Nov. 3 about potential attacks on synagogues.
And even though the JCC is not a synagogue, Glinn said an antisemitic threat is a threat to every Jewish institution.
The JCC is home to Temple Emanu-El (TEE). The temple relocated to the JCC after 60 years on James Street in April.
“The threat to New Jersey synagogues last week was a deeply distressing reminder to stay vigilant,” said Emily Simkin, TEE’s spiritual director and cantor. “Our collaboration with the JCC makes our community stronger than ever as we work together to ensure our collective safety.”
On Nov. 10, Omar Alkattoul, 18, of Sayreville, appeared in federal court in Newark after being charged for allegedly transmitting via the internet a manifesto containing threats to attack a synagogue and Jewish people, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey.
The one count charge of transmitting a threat in interstate and foreign commerce is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a press release through the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey.
“No one should be targeted for violence or with acts of hate because of how they worship,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said in the press release. “According to the complaint, this defendant used social media to send a manifesto containing a threat to attack a synagogue based on his hatred of Jews. Along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we acted swiftly to respond to the alleged threat. There is nothing the U.S. Attorney’s Office takes more seriously than threats to our communities of faith and places of worship. Protection of these communities is core to this office’s mission, and this office will devote whatever resources are necessary to keep our Jewish community and all New Jersey residents safe.”
Glinn said when they learned of the credible threat through the various synagogue networks they are part of, they had reached out to the Edison Police Department. The police department already had security protocols in motion.
“Whenever we receive a threat toward any of our congregations deemed credible, the police department follows a specific protocol in which we provide protective services to ensure the safety of all parties. Additionally, we work in concert with other law enforcement entities to achieve our goals of identifying and apprehending the source of the threat,” Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan said.
In Metuchen, the Metuchen Police Department provided “immediate response to Neve Shalom” after the FBI warning, according to Metuchen Mayor Jonathan Busch.
“While this particular threat may have subsided, hate crimes and antisemitic and racist acts have exponentially increased in New Jersey and throughout the nation over the last few years. We must all remain vigilant,” he said.
Following the antisemitic threats, synagogues in Middlesex County responded.
Chabad Jewish Center of Monroe
Rabbi Eliezer Zaklikovsky
“We are always vigilant and trying to be ahead of the game. We have close contact with local law enforcement, who have been very helpful, work closely with us, and have extended us extra protection. We ourselves are more diligent in terms of being on the lookout for anything suspicious and having our volunteers do the same.
“As a larger broader community, we remember the words of King David and the book of Psalms. The guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps and we extend our prayers for all of our brethren and especially our Jewish brethren, who are a part of this threat. We also keep in mind that the leader of habbe The Rebbe Rabbi Schneerson always said the most effective ways to deal with anti-semitism is to increase Jewish involvement and Jewish pride and Jewish activism. It is time perhaps to take it upon ourselves resolutions in the realm of acts of goodness and kindness and to increase light in the world.”
Congregation Etz Chaim in Monroe
Rabbi Shmuel Polin
“I was on the phone with Governor [Phil] Murphy’s office Friday (Nov. 4) morning with other New Jersey rabbis. I have also been in touch with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation, and other organizations offering assistance at this time. Congregations, ourselves included, are beginning to increase their security system, protocols, and presence.
Clergy have been encouraged to attend classes and seminars offered through local police departments on active shooter drills. Lastly, I have been offering pastoral care and support to individuals who have felt impacted by recent events or incidents of antisemitism.”
Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI and task force officers of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction Special Agent James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation that led to the charge against Alkattoul. He also thanked agents of the FBI Field Office in Tampa, Fla., under the direction of Special Agent in Charge David Walker; the FBI Field Office in New York, under the direction of Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll; and the FBI Washington Field Office, under the direction of Assistant Director in Charge Steven D’Antuono; as well as the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, under the direction of Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin; the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone; and officers of the Sayreville Police Department, under the direction of Chief Daniel Plumacker.
Staff Writer Andrew Harrison contributed to the article.