It was the third similar threat this year at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center at 4126 Executive Drive.
A 31-year-old man, Juan Thompson, was subsequently arrested March 3 in St. Louis. Thompson has allegedly been linked to at least eight bogus bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers across the nation, including La Jolla's, as part of a campaign to harass a former girlfriend.
In a press release attributed to executive director Michael Cohen, the JCC stated that, at 4:30 p.m. on President's Day, “We received a bomb threat, similar to ones we received in the past and other JCCs have received throughout the country... Law enforcement quickly determined it to be a non-credible hoax. We followed our practiced emergency procedures and safely evacuated our facility. By 6:20 p.m., San Diego Police had concluded its on-site review and the JCC fully reopened to the community by 6:30 p.m.”
Concerning such hate crimes, JCC commented, “It is the very nature of who we are, and the great diversity of those we serve, that draws attention to our work and our mission. As a JCC, we are part of a national Secure Community Network that monitors, advises, and supports the safety and security of Jewish institutions.
“In response to these recent threats across the country, we have been working closely with our local police department and national security agencies to monitor the situation and review our protocols,” continued JCC's comments. “We have been continually briefed by SCN, the Anti-Defamation League, and the JCC Association to help us understand the circumstances and support our safety and security efforts.
“The JCC’s leadership team and staff continues to work together, practice safety protocols and are prepared to respond to this type of incidents with the support of local law enforcement, including our adjacent neighbors, the San Diego Police Department Northern Division. We continue to take numerous security measures to ensure the safety of our members and guests.”
The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all." One of the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agencies, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.
Tammy Gillies, ADL's regional director for San Diego, noted that Thompson, or any other possible suspects in the series of hoax email threats to JCC's nationwide, was acting “to impart a sense of fear and terror in the community.”
“It is our job to help the community come together, and hopefully, overcome that fear,” was Gillies' response. “We as a Jewish community, and a lot of other minority communities may be targets. We must stand together and continue to live our lives the way we always have. We cannot back down.”
She added the silver lining in the series of nationwide bomb threats is that it's allowed Jewish and other ethnic communities to “really work together to help each other. It's a matter of standing up for one another and being strong. Particularly in San Diego, where we have such an amazing, very diverse community. Standing together is going to make us stronger.”
While fighting anti-Semitism, Gillies noted the ADL also “stands against hate. Fighting hatred really is our mission. And we do that in a lot of ways, through education, advocacy, working with law enforcement. What we try to do is be a supporter, and a leader, in the community in fighting hate.”
Gillies added the investigation into the national string of JCC bomb threats “is not over.”