WHITEFISH BAY - A bomb threat received overnight caused the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center to close for two hours on Tuesday, March 7.
The JCC was one of multiple JCCs throughout the country to receive an email threat to their general mailbox overnight. Milwaukee Jewish Day School delayed the start of its school day. The gym, which opens at 5 a.m., was evacuated around 6:30 a.m. Whitefish Bay police, with the use of police dogs from the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department and Milwaukee Police Department, confirmed the facility was safe. The JCC reopened at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
This is the third time this year the JCC has closed due to threats. The JCC closed on Jan. 31 and Feb. 20 after receiving bomb threats over the phone. State and federal lawmakers from both sides of the aisle showed their support for the JCC in a press conference last week.
"Each of these incidents, while frustrating and disappointing, calls us to review our operations and response," said JCC President Mark Shapiro. "We remain confident that our procedures ensure that the safe and inclusive environment of the JCC, and the experience of our members and guests, remains our highest priority."
Whitefish Bay Police Sgt. Patrick Whitaker said JCCs around the country are continuing to be threatened, despite the arrest of 31-year-old Juan Thompson on Friday, March 3. Thompson is accused of making threats to eight Jewish Community Centers in an attempt to retaliate against an ex-girlfriend. Whitaker said Thompson is a "copy cat" and does not have any connections to the nationwide threats being made to dozens of JCCs in the last two months.
Tuesday's evacuation came the morning after the Whitefish Bay Village Board adopted a resolution expressing support and solidarity with the Jewish Community Center. The resolution states that, as elected representatives, the board has a special responsibility not to stay silent in the face of hate speech, threats of violence, violence and discrimination.
Through the resolution, the board also committed "to fostering an environment that promotes respect for and curiosity about all religions and cultures, affirms the equal humanity of all members of the community and rejects all forms of discrimination in the village of Whitefish Bay."