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UB Jewish community distressed by nationwide bomb threats

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Jewish community centers have recently become targets of bomb threats. The slew of bomb threats has caused fear and uncertainty in Jewish communities.

Several people were evacuated from Buffalo Jewish community centers on Delaware Avenue and North Forest Road last month. Over 100 Jewish community centers were targeted nationwide in 81 different locations, through 33 states and two Canadian provinces, according to JCC Association of North America. Jewish cemeteries have also been vandalized, with several headstones being toppled over.

Jewish UB students and faculty feel disheartened and disturbed by the threats. While some feel unsafe, others refuse to allow the threats to disrupt their lives.

The threats began in January when several Jewish centers and schools received bomb threats and continued through February.

Marla Segol, associate professor in Jewish Studies and director of Undergraduate Studies, feels unsafe in light of the string of bomb threats.

“I have a friend who works at the [Jewish Community Center] and she was telling me about how awful [the evacuation] was because they have swim lessons during the day, they have babies there and she had to evacuate all of the [elderly] people in the middle of their swim classes, they were out in the cold in their swimsuits and they had to take them to their safe space, give them blankets, give them snacks and stay with them for a few hours and for an elderly person, this is really an ordeal,” she said.

Segol said she’s not particularly concerned about the threat of a bomb itself; she’s concerned about “the threat to intimidate, the intent to disrupt and the intent to subjugate” Jewish people.

“That’s what hurts the most,” she said.

Segol said President Donald Trump’s suggestions about the bomb threats feed into the danger.

“[Trump] suggested that [the bomb threats] were simply attempts to make someone look bad and people are saying by that ‘somebody,’ he was implying himself and he is making that classic anti-Semitic rhetorical move where there’s a threat or there’s harm done and then the perpetrator suggests the people did it to themselves to evoke public sympathy,” she said.

Segol feels Trump was playing into the “rhetorical trope,” which she found frightening because his rhetoric is encouraging the threats and being used against minority groups.

A rabbi who works with Aish Buffalo on campus and wishes to remain anonymous said although he finds the threats disheartening, he still feels safe.

“Hopefully it’s just something that will pass and won’t happen again but it’s definitely something you have to be thinking about when there are people that aren’t so happy about [Jewish people] being around, but overall you’ve got to continue life and be strong and don’t let anything get you down,” he said.

Andrew Meyer, president of Jewish Student Union (JSU), said it’s shocking and scary to see the “up rise in anti-Semitism.”

“It’s 2017 already and having this happened a hundred years ago in Nazi Germany – it’s just not a safe feeling to have to be a Jewish person right now,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he’s seen anti-Semitism before but nothing to this extent.

“It didn’t really hit home until places I knew were being threatened or attacked,” Meyer said.

A Jewish law student who also wishes to remain anonymous feels misconceptions about Judaism and other minorities are rooted in the rise of anti-Semitic, anti-Israel groups and Trump’s supporters. While he doesn’t believe Trump is anti-Semitic, he thinks some of his supporters may be.

“The whole point of terrorism is that you can’t let them dictate how you live your life and where you go and the second that Jewish people stop going to their community centers and their synagogues that’s when the terrorists win,” he said. “The whole point of them doing this is to scare the people of my faith and my religion from doing things that we always do and if we stop doing that they’ll win and I don’t like giving a bully satisfaction that they want.”

The student said there’s always a possibility of any person coming into campus and harming students, not just Jewish people.

He said he feels safe on campus knowing that UB has a “very good University Police department.”

“The Jewish people need to stand together as a community against any uptick of anti-Semitism,” Meyer said. “We have to condemn any form of hatred, bigotry or racism against any groups. We have to be united as one during this terrible period.”

Hannah Stein contributed reporting to this story.

Ashley Inkumsah is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com


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