US synagogues targeted with fake bomb threats

Congresswoman and J Street chairman forced to evacuate after synagogues in California and Florida targeted in ongoing string of fake threats leading up to the Jewish New Year.

By World Israel News Staff

Beth Am, a Reform synagogue in Los Altos Hills, California, and B’nai Israel, a Conservative congregation in St. Petersburg, Florida were the latest in a string of 49 synagogues to receive fake bomb threats in the lead-up to the High Holidays.

“Every weekend this network of swatters continues to identify targets and are calling in fake bomb threats,” Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in a reference to pranks that force large policy contingencies to the scene of the incident.

“So that number is increasing and will potentially keep increasing,” he added.

“Swatting” refers to the practice of issuing a fake call for emergency services, in order to harass a targeted institution.

Segal also said that the string of threatening calls had now extended to mosques and black churches, and that most of the congregations to get pranked were ones livestreaming their services, “so that the perpetrators can see their reactions.”

The threat to Beth Am was timed to coincide with the visit of US Rep. Anna Eshoo and Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the liberal J Street lobby. Both were evacuated along with other members of the congregation.

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Police representatives in Florida said that the offense of falsely reporting a bomb threat was punishable by jail time.

The Jewish community in the “Peach State” has faced a string of antisemitic attacks, including the handing out of derogatory flyers in West Palm Beach over Labor Day.