Israeli-American Teen Arrested For JCC Threats

A 19-year-old Israeli-American was arrested Thursday on suspicion of making dozens of fake bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and schools across the United States and Canada. The arrest was made by the cyberattack unit of Israel’s anti-fraud squad after receiving information from the FBI.

“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all – is reportedly Jewish,” said JCC Association of North America president and CEO Doron Krakow. “Emblematic of the strength of JCCs and the important model they represent for acceptance, inclusion, and appreciation for diversity is the remarkable support we have received from communities and community leaders across North America, including civic, political and faith community leaders. Throughout this long running period of concern and disruption that we are hopeful has come to an end, JCCs have had the opportunity to review and assess our security protocols and procedures, and we are confident that JCCs are safer today than ever before.”

According to the Secure Communities Network, the suspect is connected to the majority of bomb threats sent to Jewish community centers, schools, synagogues, ADL offices, and other Jewish institutions across the United States and Canada since the beginning of the year. The threat to the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park occurred on Jan. 18, and the call to the St. Paul JCC took place on Feb. 20. There have been at least 160 threats to 118 different institutions across 40 states and four Canadian provinces.

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) applauds today’s arrest of a suspect in connection with the recent waves of bomb threats targeting JCCs and other Jewish organizations in the U.S. and internationally,” said Steve Hunegs, JCRC executive director. “We thank law enforcement – particularly federal law enforcement – for their tireless investigative efforts which led to the international apprehension of the suspect. Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, the JCCs and entire Jewish community continue to remain vigilant and take steps to enhance safety and security.”

In a statement released Thursday morning by the FBI: “Early this morning in Israel, the FBI and Israeli National Police worked jointly to locate and arrest the individual suspected for threats to Jewish organizations across the United States and in other parts of the world. The FBI commends the great work of the Israeli National Police in this investigation. Investigating hate crimes is a top priority for the FBI and we will continue to work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities and in their places of worship. At this time, we cannot provide additional information on the investigation.”

Attorney Jeff Sessions praised the FBI and the Israeli police for their work in the case.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs,” Sessions said in a statement. “I commend the FBI and Israeli National Police for their outstanding work on this case.”

The individual, whose identity has not yet been revealed, is reportedly a U.S. citizen who holds dual citizenship in Israel, according to media reports. According to Haaretz, he was exempted from the mandatory IDF service after recruiters deemed him unfit for military service. Jerusalem Post, reported that the suspect is not in the IDF, not ultra-Orthodox, and at some point made Aliyah.

“Although a majority of threats are believed to have been linked to this individual, it is believed that some of the bomb threats in the last couple months were copy-cat incidents that may not be linked to the suspect,” according to the statement from the SCN executive director, Paul Goldenberg. “The SCN urges all institutions to remain vigilant and aware of the potential for follow-on incidents, including copy-cat threats in the wake of this high-profile case and international media coverage.”