Mothers hit hard by wave of JCC bomb threats

Mothers of children who attend JCC schools talk about the emotional toll the wave of bomb threats has had on them and their families.

Police at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas (File) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Police at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas (File)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“As I sit here at the JCC [ Jewish community center] during my son’s dance class, I’m trying to put into words how I feel. I have never been at a loss for words. They have always been at the tip of my tongue, but today I have no words. Just shock. Just sadness.”
These were the reflections of Inna Kolesnikova-Shmukler as she observed her fouryear- old and his friends at the Indianapolis JCC, just hours after it was evacuated following a bomb threat, along with 28 other JCCs and Jewish day schools across the country on Monday – the fifth wave of such threats in less than two months.
“I didn’t think that the horrific antisemitism that has been plaguing the United States since January would reach Indianapolis, but now I see that there is really nowhere to escape it,” Kolesnikova- Shmukler told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Wave of bomb threats called to Jewish commmunity centers across the US , possible antisemitism(credit: REUTERS)
She noted that it’s the first incident of antisemitism she had experienced in her 25 years of living in the city, and she is grateful for the support that elected officials, as well as friends and acquaintances, had shown the community following the event. In addition, a neighbor brought dozens of roses to the center to be shared out among the staff.
“Out of the ugliness, there was some light; it brought people together,” Kolesnikova- Shmukler said.
She also pointed out that most of the members of the JCC are not Jewish, but were targeted in any case.
Though this may be the reality at some JCCs, the targets were undeniably Jews.
The vast majority of the institutions that received threats have the word “Jewish” in their names, as was pointed out by US-Israeli Adina Friedman, whose daughter was among the children pulled out of Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia, on Monday.
She had dropped off her nine-year-old early that morning, en route to the J Street conference in Washington.
She received an email from the school around 9:30 informing her of the bomb threat and subsequent evacuation, along with assurances of the children’s safety. The email brought her to tears, as she was flooded with feelings of sadness and worry.
Reunited with her daughter later that evening, Friedman said her child was resilient – having spent summers in Israel and traveled extensively – but concerned by the upset reactions of others.
Friedman was keen to state that the main forces behind the current fragile climate are not Muslims.
“It is important to understand that with this political atmosphere, it’s emboldening white supremacists, antisemites and others.... So our main worry is not from the conflict in the Middle East.... The real threat is from antisemitism, the far Right and white supremacists who are primarily white and Christian,” she told the Post, adding that the Muslim and Jewish communities have been an incredible support to each other.
She also pointed out that the situation in American schools was already worrisome due to shooting sprees that occur every now and again. Thus, she described a Jewish school in the US as “double jeopardy.”
Nonetheless, she feels that Gesher, a private school, has excellent security, with a guard who knows every child and parent who walks through its gates.
Kristina Boshernitzan, whose daughter attends the targeted Houston JCC preschool the Bertha Alyce Center, harbors similar feelings.
“I’m not scared about sending my daughter to school, but I am scared that I’m going to have to have a conversation with my children about antisemitism,” she told the Post. “Until [US President Donald] Trump was elected, it had never crossed my mind. Now I’m torn between telling my six-year-old that some people hate her just because she’s Jewish, or letting her live in a bubble for a few more years. And it’s heartbreaking.”
Boshernitzan had been woken from a nap on Monday to WhatsApp messages by fellow parents who had received a notification of the bomb threat at their children’s school.
“We have received a bomb threat. We are evacuating and locked down. Please do not come to pick up. We will update you soon,” read the first message sent to parents, followed by subsequent notifications.
It is a message of this type that San Francisco resident Zindzi Nadja anxiously anticipates receiving. Her son’s JCC Brotherhood Way school has not been targeted; Nadja feels that every day is one step closer.
“We are just waiting to be told, really. If everyone around us has had the call, and we have had numerous emails in the past two days, I expect it’s just a matter of time, unfortunately,” she said.
Nadja has considered pulling her son out of the JCC school, out of fears for his safety. But the Jewish education and culture he is receiving are important to her husband.
The family is currently on vacation in Nadja’s home country, South Africa, and she noted the irony that she is dreading sending her son back to school in San Francisco.
Having lived in both South Africa and Israel, she feels more worried now, in the US, than she has ever felt before, she said, a feeling triggered by the start of the bomb threats less than two months ago.
“It’s becoming more concerning.... It’s ongoing, and yet it’s not clear who is behind it or where it’s going.”