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Politicians, police and faith leaders denounce recent rash of bomb threats made to JCC

Politicians, police and faith leaders convened Friday morning to denounce the recent rash of bomb threats and hate crimes made against Jewish Community Centers (JCC), synagogues and schools in the United States and Canada.

Since January 1, more than 100 Jewish buildings have been targeted, including the Bender JCC and Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School's Upper Campus - both located in Rockville.

And so, it only seemed fitting that the Bender JCC hosted Friday's unity gathering. Ron Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, made opening remarks in an auditorium crammed with people. Halber affirmed that the entire community must rise up against bigotry.

“The late-great Elie Wiesel said, 'Hatred is evil itself and indifference is what allows evil to be strong, and what gives it power,'" Halber stated.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced that he would recommend an "emergency appropriation" of county tax dollars to improve security cameras and lighting, plus reinforce glass windows at places of Jewish gatherings. The undisclosed amount of funds is now awaiting county council approval.

“We are proud of our great diversity here in Montgomery County," Leggett stated. “This hatred must stop, and it must stop now.”

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D) of Maryland confirmed that he has been in close contact with the regional director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Baltimore. Cardin added that the entire 10-member Maryland Congressional Delegation, which he is part of, is working together to hold those responsible accountable.

“We’re going to put special attention on any hate crime that’s committed in our community, and we’re going to find the people, and we’re going to keep our community safe," Cardin remarked.

Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, who heads the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, explained the souring ripple effects of a phony bomb threat on parents, staff, and most importantly, children.

“Students who’d sat down to study the ancient texts of our tradition, and others who were learning about gene therapy in their high school genetics class, received an emotional shock, that someone wanted to blow up their school," Rabbi Malkus stated in regard to Monday's bomb threat against Charles E. Smith's Upper Campus.

U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin (D) of Maryland also took time to highlight the confusion and heartache prejudice, bigotry and hate casts upon children.

“This unleashing of primitive impulses that we thought somehow we had left behind and buried in the 20th Century, and now they’re back with ferocity," Raskin stated. “When Jews are under attack, we’re all Jewish. When Muslims are under attack, we’re all Muslim.”

U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D) Maryland explained how terror and hate can quickly eat away at an entire community.

“Fear is corrosive... When your drop your elderly parent at the JCC or at the Muslim community center, you don’t want to have a lump in your throat or that sinking feeling in your gut," Sarbanes said.

Seven of the nine Montgomery County council members attended Friday's unity gathering, including Council President Roger Berliner, who is Jewish himself. Berliner addressed the sharp and sudden spike in hate crime targeting people of all walks of life.

“Hate crimes rose dramatically in Montgomery County in November and December. It is not an alternative fact, it is a sad fact," Berliner said with conviction.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan did not attend Friday's gathering, citing a scheduling conflict. Hogan has, however, publicly condemned all wrongful action against the Jewish community.

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