A man who holds “radical extremist views” was identified as being behind the threat and “no longer poses a threat to the community at this time,” the agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark office told state and federal law enforcement officials and hundreds of Jewish leaders during a conference call Friday morning, according to a report in the New York Times.
The individual has been interviewed, the law enforcement sources said. No update was immediately available on possible charges. The sources described him as a man who may have autism and said he had been bullied in the past.
A law enforcement source told NBC New York that the man had said he was angry at Jews but did not plan to commit violence because he did not want to get in trouble.
The press conference came after local Jewish leaders began informing their communities that the warning issued Thursday night had been lifted.
“The threat is no longer active,” the head of Golda Och Academy, a Jewish day school in West Orange, New Jersey, emailed parents on Friday morning, shortly after the school day began.
The Secure Community Network (SCN), the official safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America, has been in direct contact with senior FBI leadership on Thursday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as other law enforcement agencies.
“Yesterday’s warning is yet another reminder of the rising level of antisemitic threats across the country,” SCN National Director and CEO Michael Masters said in a statement.
“We thank the FBI and all other law enforcement agencies that investigated this matter, and all those in the Jewish community who helped take action to keep facilities safe. We must continue to do all we can to protect our community while allowing Jewish life to flourish and thrive.”
“We are deeply concerned about the safety and security of our Jewish communities, in light of increasing hate rhetoric and antisemitic threats targeted at our institutions, including this latest threat to New Jersey synagogues," Eric Fingerhut, CEO and President of Jewish Federations of North America, said in a statement:
"Just last year, Jewish Federations launched the largest security initiative in the history of the North American Jewish community, to keep our communities safe in moments like this. Yesterday's terrifying threat is a reminder of why we need it.”
What kind of threat synagogues faced had not been specified previously and was not specified in the communication by the school or another by the Orthodox Union that was shared with some community members.
Threat throws congregations into a state of alarm
The broad and unusual threat had thrown Jews and their congregations into a state of alarm late Thursday, and many synagogues interrupted their normal operations Friday to shore up their security protocols.
“We will continue our heightened vigilance, but I wanted you to have this reassuring information, which has not yet been reported publicly,” the day school leader, Rabbi Danny Nevins, wrote in his email. He said he had been told by two sources that the threat was no longer present.
“We will continue our heightened vigilance, but I wanted you to have this reassuring information, which has not yet been reported publicly,”Rabbi Danny Nevins
Nevins’ email indicated the extent to which the threat, which comes as American Jews are already in a state of high alert, had affected members of his school community.
“Several parents have asked our security guards if they are armed,” he wrote. “We have been advised not to publicize our specific security measures, but I want to reassure you that our security professionals are all former police officers and are well trained and well equipped to respond to threats to our school community.”
Amid the flurry of confusion and concern that erupted immediately thereafter, officials stressed the public warning was issued out of an abundance of caution.
A source told NBC New York there was no specific plot or action underway, but because the internet threat was deemed credible, the FBI felt it important to alert the public so security could be enhanced.
Synagogues across the state were asked to remain vigilant, and police in some communities stepped up patrols. No specific targets were mentioned. Officials stressed the online threat broadly referenced New Jersey temples.