Rhode Island’s Jewish community is on heightened alert after a series of bomb threats were called in to Jewish Community Centers across the country, including Providence, last Monday.
A Missouri man has been arrested and is being held responsible for eight of the calls, but an investigation is ongoing over the other hundred calls.
Some members of Rhode Island’s Jewish community say that although their community remains shaken by the bomb threats, they are not completely caught off guard.
“Threats like this, unfortunately, have been around for a long time,” said Bryan Sullivan, spokesperson for Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. “And we’ve had things in place for quite some time.”
Sullivan says the Jewish Community Center and their early childhood center have buzzer systems and require identification to get inside. He says the community works with law enforcement authorities to fill any security gaps.
In Barrington, a swastika was burned on a bike path a mile from Temple Habonim.
“We want to be prepared, we want to be secure, and we want to be self-protective,” said Rabbi Andrew Klein. “But we don’t want to be overly panicked. We don’t want to create a bigger thing than is.”
Klein says Temple Habonim maintains a good relationship with the Barrington Police Department, and since the vandalism occurred the police have been making some more frequent trips around the area.
Last week, similar anti-Semitic graffiti was found in a Rhode Island School of Design dorm bathroom made of human feces.
Sarah Mack is a rabbi at Temple Beth-El in Providence. She says it hurts when these acts target Jewish communities across the country but it stings a little more when it happens in her state.
“When it happens in our own community there is a sense of disappointment, despair, and hurt,” said Mack.
Rabbi Mack adds that she does see some light following the recent events.
“I will say that is countered by just an incredible outpouring of love from the community as a whole, from the interfaith community and from the social justice community,” said the rabbi.
Mack says that she has been particularly moved by the support from Muslims.
“The Muslim community, in particular, were the first to reach out following the JCC threats,” said Mack.
Jewish leaders credit local Muslims as a driving force behind a solidarity rally scheduled for Sunday in Providence.
Aisha Manzoor, secretary of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement, says the Christian community has also been key in organizing the event.
“The interfaith communities of the three Abrahamic faiths, they have become stronger than they’ve ever been before,” said Manzoor.
In light of the recent attacks, Manzoor says Muslims too have increased security in their communities
The Islamic School of Rhode Island already has “Active Shooter Training,” though Manzoor says the exercises are incorporated into fire drills so as not to alarm students.
“Obviously we don’t want to scare them [students] either, or the parents,” said Manzoor.
Manzoor says recent events have sparked a collaborative effort between Muslims and Jews to try and bring non-violent bystander training to their community members.
Source: Rhode Island Public Radio