A nationwide rash of bomb threats targeting synagogues and Jewish community centers again touched Delaware on Monday.
None of the threats affected Dover however, which has a small Jewish population centered around the Congregation Beth Sholom synagogue on North Queen Street.
In New Castle County, police reported a bomb threat was telephoned in to the Siegel Jewish Community Center north of Wilmington at around 10 a.m. Feb. 27.
“There were no specific threats made, just that a bomb was in the building,” NCCPD spokeswoman Cpl. Tracey Duffy said.
Duffy said it was the third time in two months threats have been called into the center, located in Talleyville.
The difference this time was that the prior calls appeared to have been made by a person calling the center; the threat on Feb. 27 was made via what appeared to be an electronic or electronically-altered voice, Duffy said.
“We went and ensured no one was in the building that they had been evacuated and taken to a safe location,” she added. “We have K9 units that are able to detect any type of bomb making material who went in and cleared the building.”
Nothing was found, Duffy said.
According to the center’s Facebook page, programs were resumed just before 11:30 a.m.
Gov. John Carney issued a statement condemning the threats.
“The continued bomb threats to Siegel JCC must stop,” Carney said. “These hateful actions place a shadow over our state and country. Our law enforcement officials will continue to work diligently to find the individuals responsible and hold them accountable.”
New Castle County officers are in contact with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in a cooperative effort to solve the case, Duffy said.
The FBI also has launched an investigation into a nighttime case of vandalism at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, where up to 100 headstones in the Jewish burial ground were tipped over on Feb. 25. One week earlier, a similar case of desecration took place at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis.
Bomb threats also were made in 15 other Jewish communities nationwide, including Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York. All reportedly were made by telephone. Some of the threats appeared to have been pre-recorded or were distorted to hide the caller’s voice.
The threats were similar to a number of telephoned calls made to schools throughout the nation last year. New Castle detectives have no evidence to connect the school threats to the ones made recently at Jewish centers.
Those incidents reportedly remain under investigation.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., was meeting with meeting with Jewish community leaders at the Siegel center when the bomb threat was received.
“It is heartbreaking for such a flash of fear to overtake a place of strong community and joy that brings together people of all ages under one roof - from the babies in the daycare center to the senior citizens taking part in exercise classes,” Carper said in a statement released by his office.
“These acts must end,” he added.
“Our law enforcement agencies have been doing a great job of working with the JCC to help them respond to these threats, but we must find the person or people behind these horrific acts and bring them to justice. We have seen a shameful trend across the country of increased acts of anti-Semitism and racism. We must put an end to it and we cannot let the perpetrators go unpunished.
“I will do all that I can to ensure our state, local and federal law enforcement agencies are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of these acts.”
Two Jewish members of the Delaware House of Representatives also denounced the threats and vandalism.
Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Edgewood Hills, and Rep. Jeffrey Spiegleman, R-Clayton, issued a joint statement saying, “We strongly condemn the recent acts of bigotry and hatred committed against our Jewish community centers and cemeteries. Incidents like these only serve to further divide our society and spread fear throughout our communities.
“Even though we realize that those who commit these acts are in the minority, we must call out and condemn them whenever they arise. We cannot allow such despicable acts and hateful rhetoric to be normalized in our society. Hatred has no place in Delaware. Our goal should always be to unite people across all lines, because despite different faiths and backgrounds, we all are Delawareans and are a state of neighbors,” they wrote.
“We hope that our dedicated law enforcement officers can bring those responsible to justice, and we hope that everyone will continue to speak out against these acts of hatred and intimidation.”
Delaware’s Muslims quickly reacted to the first set of threats against the Seigel community center.
Ma Assalama, and Irfan Patel of the Islamic Society of Delaware wrote, “The Islamic Society of Delaware and the Muslim community of our state strongly condemn the recent acts of harassment, intimidation and vandalism targeting Jewish institutions and places of worship. These acts of bigotry and hatred have no place in a civilized society.
“We stand together in solidarity with our Jewish brethren in these trying times.”
Additionally, Usman Sandhu, president of the Islamic Society of Central Delaware, condemned the earlier threats in a statement issued Feb. 22.
“As a religious group that has been a subject of recent attacks, threats, and bigotry, Central Delaware Muslims would like to express our strong condemnation to the recent wave of vandalism and threats targeting Jewish centers,” Sandhu wrote.
“The Islamic Society of Central Delaware members are saddened by these acts of anti-Semitism that should have no place in our society. We pray for the safety of all and offer our helping hands to our Jewish neighbors.”