Waves of bomb threats hit Jewish schools across the US

US Jewish schools face a wave of increased antisemitism in recent weeks.

Orthodox Jewish children get off a Yeshiva school bus, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak, in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, US, April 9, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)
Orthodox Jewish children get off a Yeshiva school bus, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak, in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City, US, April 9, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)

In the latest wave of antisemitism to hit the US-based diaspora, Jewish schools and community centers around the United States have received bomb threats, forcing closures throughout the country.

At Jewish day schools in Texas and Pennsylvania, bomb threats were made to these institutions, forcing them to evacuate for student safety. This follows a consistent uptick in antisemitic attacks and comments in the US in recent weeks. 

On Monday, while school was in session at the Austin Jewish Academy in Austin, Texas, a parent shared that an assailant had called the school to say there was a bomb in one of the hallways. Students were evacuated and the building was swept, but nothing was found.

In Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy was evacuated after receiving what school officials called "multiple concerning calls." The school was evacuated for hours. However, officials have reason to believe that this institution was not targeted for being Jewish.

Michael Balaban, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, told Forward that several schools across state lines received similar calls over a 30-minute period. Of the five contacted, only two were Jewish, leading officials to believe it was not an outwardly antisemitic attack.

 Annandale (Virginia) High School, February 2022. Part of Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools. (credit: Sean Barnett/Wikimedia Commons) Annandale (Virginia) High School, February 2022. Part of Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools. (credit: Sean Barnett/Wikimedia Commons)

The continued rise in antisemitism in American schools

School Watch initiative of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) has reported hundreds of percentage worth of antisemitic comments in schools. “I cannot remember the last time that there were so many cases of teenagers using the word ‘Hitler’ in American public schools,” IAC’s CEO Shoham Nicolet told The Jerusalem Post from his home in California.

There has been a rise of incidents in public schools overall, he said, adding that he thinks some of them may be credited to the antisemitic statements made recently by rapper Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving.

The council president explained that most of the Israeli-American community sends their children to public schools and that this is exactly where the hate is coming from.

“I don’t think that Israel fully understands the depth of the strategic significance and effect that these antisemitic incidents have on Israel’s perception in the US,” Nicolet said. Most of the funds and resources about combating antisemitism are geared toward young adults while studying in college, he said, yet in his eyes, its about time for Israel to fund these types of programs for younger audiences.

“We all know that BDS organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and others have been active on college campuses for many years. But what about high school students, like those who filed a complaint with us from Colorado, [who say] that teenagers threatened a Jewish student to wear a gas mask? Hate and incitement have become more popular at younger ages: We need to combat it.”

Another phenomenon that Nicolet and his team are seeing is that many parents, especially Israeli-Americans, aren’t always aware of the fact that their child or they themselves experienced antisemitism. “Many parents – as well as the children themselves – don’t understand that what is being said to their child is actually antisemitic,” he explained. School Watch is also working on advocacy on that front.

Antisemitism is new to Israeli-Americans,” Nicolet explained. He pointed out that Israelis living in the US, as opposed to American Jews, “are still learning what it means to be a minority. It’s a matter of awareness.”