Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Jewish Community Centers in New York State were threatened over the weekend. While law enforcement investigate, he is pushing back against anti-Semitism with new legislation and education for kids about the ills of discrimination.
The governor said there is a rising tide of anti-Semitism, KKK groups and dozens of specific incidents. That includes a recent knife attack on a religious service downstate. Over the weekend, he said a bomb threat was sent by email to a JCC in Albany. The building was swept by police, but nothing was found.
Cuomo said about 18 other JCCs received a similar email, but not clear which ones because Cuomo's aides told a news conference they didn't want to be more specific this early in an investigation
JCC of Buffalo Executive Director Richard Zakalik said his organization has strong security, watches what is going on and cooperates with police on all levels of government. He said that includes a recent increase of $80,000 for security, to allow both community centers to operate safely in the wider society.
Zakalik said it hasn't been that long since Hitler wiped out half the Jewish population of the world.
"People say, 'Boy, how can you tolerate this situation now?' These are pretty good times, actually. We're very vigilant. We know how to deal with it. We are constantly paying attention to it. We have systems in place. We have people who are trained. We have the cooperation of local law enforcement, state law enforcement, Homeland Security and others," Zakalik said.
He said the threats are taken seriously because they are not new or unusual. And it isn't just anti-Semitism, he said, since there have been 40 murders within five miles of his Buffalo home and he goes to work every day.
"You can think of JCCs as being targets, but the reality is that there are many more targets," Zakalik said. "There are shootings in churches. There are shootings and bombings in malls and shopping malls and pedestrian gathering places, at musical concerts in Las Vegas. And so JCCs and the Jewish community are just one part of it. It's really everywhere."