WHITEFISH BAY - A phoned-in bomb threat to the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center caused an evacuation for the second time in less than a month.
The phone call was received at 10:08 a.m. Monday, Feb 20, and shortly thereafter, the Whitefish Bay Police Department closed down streets surrounding the JCC. Gan Ami Early Education students were transported to a different facility, which is not being disclosed for safety reasons. Milwaukee Jewish Day School students were not in the building, due to the Presidents Day holiday.
Everyone in the building was safe. Whitefish Bay police investigated the threat with bomb-sniffing dogs, and after about two hours, determined the building was safe to open to the public. The JCC reopened at 1 p.m. Monday.
The threat came on a day when more than a dozen JCCs around the country received a similar threat. That call was deemed not credible, as have most of the other bomb threats that have targeted JCCs in the last several weeks.
Like the bomb threat the JCC received on Jan. 31, this was part of a national bomb threat scare that was again deemed not credible by law enforcement. The JCC in Whitefish Bay was one of about 10 Jewish Community Centers across the nation to evacuate due to bomb threats on Monday.
In a statement, JCC President Mark Shapiro said the JCC has "served all of Milwaukee through universal values for more than 100 years and will continue to do so for at least another 100."
"We choose to say no to the intent of a phone call and instead say yes to quality early childhood education, yes to inclusive community wellness, and yes to comprehensive social services. We choose to invite everyone to our improved fitness facility and the friends who gather together here every day," he said. "We choose to empower the community food pantry on the corner of 29th and Center, choose to support the services for families who live with special needs, and choose to nurture the conversations that come with providing the entire community a forum for open dialogue, culture and the arts."
The bomb threat in Whitefish Bay comes on the same day that the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation released its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents. The Jewish Community Relations Council said the 29 confirmed incidents in 2016 is an "extraordinarily high" number, mirroring a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism across the globe.
“The rhetoric around the presidential election not only legitimized bigotry against all minorities, as we’ve seen through a variety of statistics, but also included specific coded and overt anti-Semitic expressions. That climate on the national level affects the local community, too,” said Ann Jacobs, chair of the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism Task Force.
Several of the incidents took place in the North Shore. Swastikas were drawn onto a desk at a North Shore high school and onto the sidewalk in a North Shore suburb. The report also states that, during a mock election at a North Shore middle school, several students taunted Jewish students by saying they planned to write in Adolf Hitler as president.
“We should all be vigilant against this rise in hate and extremism,” said JCRC Director Elana Kahn. "We see from history that when communities allow people to be targeted based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or other identity markers, terrible things can happen."