A slew of threats and acts of vandalism against Jewish community centers and schools has left many Jewish people fearing a rise in anti-Semitism since the election of President Donald Trump.
Since January, about 100 Jewish institutions have received menacing phone calls and bomb threats, prompting an investigation by the FBI. The attacks also reflect an overall increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League. On March 3, 31-year-old Juan Thompson, an ex-reporter who worked for The Intercept, was arrested and charged in Missouri with making several bomb threats against Jewish community centers, schools and even a Jewish cemetery. Officials said he made some of the threats in his name and others in the name of his ex-girlfriend as part of a campaign to harass and intimidate her after their breakup. As part of this harassment, Thompson also sent emails to the woman’s former employer, alleging she was anti-Semitic.
Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized in recent months in Missouri, Pennsylvania and New York, where headstones were overturned. When a Rochester, New York, cemetery was vandalized March 3, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the incident be investigated as a potential hate crime.
Trump addressed the recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks in his speech to Congress on Feb. 28. He said the threats against Jewish centers, as well as a shooting in Kansas against two Indian immigrants, should “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
That same day, Trump also met with a group of state attorneys general to discuss the series of attacks. According to The Washington Post, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) said Trump first condemned the attacks but then pivoted to suggest that “the ‘reverse’ may be true.” Many attorneys general were confused and also concerned about the president’s comments.
Reports from the Anti-Defamation League in 2015, the most recent data available, show a 3 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents from 2014. The report also showed that anti-Semitic incidents at colleges and universities almost doubled in 2015, with 90 incidents reported on 60 campuses.