Arrest of JCC bomb threat suspect brings shock, relief

Arrest of JCC bomb threat suspect brings shock, relief
Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker speaks at a vigil at the Mid-Island Y JCC in early March.

The executive director of the Mid-Island Y JCC and a local politician in Roslyn applauded the arrest last Thursday of a suspect in connection with a rash of bomb threats at Jewish community centers across the United States.

The suspect, a 19-year-old Jewish man who lives in Israel but retains dual U.S. citizenship, was detained by Israeli police.

The community is “extremely happy to hear that somebody was caught,” said Rick Lewis, the executive director of the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview, which was one of several JCCs that received bomb threats on Feb. 27. “It’s just a horrible thing to do.”

Arnold Drucker, the Nassau County legislator representing Plainview and parts of Roslyn, echoed Lewis’ relief at the arrest.

“It’s certainly comforting that police and authorities were able to locate and arrest someone responsible for some of the threats,” Drucker said. 

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools in 37 states and two Canadian provinces since Jan. 9.

Israeli police called the arrested man a primary suspect, according to Newsday. Law enforcement officials have not said whether the suspect was responsible for the threat to the Mid-Island Y JCC.

Lewis said he was “very surprised” the suspect was Jewish. 

“I’m disappointed that it was a Jewish person but more disappointed that anybody could consider the disruption that he caused to any organization or any group of people,” Lewis said. 

Drucker said he was similarly astonished about the suspect’s religious identity.

“I was shocked that a Jewish person would be responsible for that,” Drucker said. “The bottom line is that terrorist threats are scary and alarming and disconcerting no matter who they’re from.”

Lewis said county police have sustained the increased presence at the Mid-Island Y JCC that began after the bomb threat.

“We have seen additional squad cars around driving through the neighborhood and parking lot,” he said.

David Black, the executive director at the Sid Jacobson JCC in Greenvale, said the threats leveled at Jewish community centers have not altered his center’s activities.

“The JCC continued to operate as usual throughout and since the threats,” he said. “All of our programs are intended to provide enrichments for individuals and families in all stages of life.  While these nuisance calls increased anxiety, if anything, our programs continued to reflect greater attendance.”

“Our security concerns reflect the world we live in and preceded these threats,” he added. “Sid Jacobson JCC is vigilant, reviews and upgrade its security regularly, and trains our staff to handle every contingency.”

In response to a request from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in early March, the Federal Communications Commission granted a temporary waiver to Jewish community centers across the country to allow the centers and law enforcement to access the caller ID information of anonymous threatening and harassing callers, Newsday reported.

Lewis said he was not concerned about increased security measures violating civil liberties.

“It’s a general consensus here that safety comes first,” he said. “Our security procedures are not encroaching on anybody’s personal civil liberties.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he discussed the bomb threats with Israeli law enforcement officials on a recent visit to the country.

“The arrest of a suspect in the recent wave of threats against Jewish community centers sends a clear message that anyone who threatens New Yorkers with violence will be brought to justice,” Cuomo said.

“The abhorrent and cowardly threats against Jewish community centers are an assault on the values of all New Yorkers. But they have also shone a bright light on how New Yorkers come together as one to stand up against those who seek to divide us.” 

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