WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday denounced a spate of threats made against Jewish Community Centers around the country.
The reaction is notable coming after weeks of criticism that the Trump administration has not been forceful enough to denounce acts of anti-Semitism that have occurred nationwide since his election.
“Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters.
President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law are both Orthodox Jews, as are his grandchildren, something he mentions frequently. On Monday evening, Ivanka Trump tweeted, “America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance. We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers. #JCC”
Eleven bomb threats were reported by various centers on Monday alone, according to the JCC Association of North America.
David Posner, the director of strategic performance of the JCC Association of North America, said community centers across the US and Canada have received 69 threats at 54 centers since January. The organization is working with law enforcement and the FBI to investigate the threats.
“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” Posner said in a statement. “Local JCCs serve not just the Jewish community, but the entire community. Participants from all different backgrounds come to their local JCCs for activities, Jewish cultural and religious programming, and opportunities to come together as a community.”
The Anti-Defamation League also spoke out against the threats Monday, saying in a statement it was “deeply disturbed” by them.
“While ADL does not have any information at this time to indicate the presence of any actual bombs at any of the institutions threatened, the threats themselves are alarming, disruptive, and must always been taken seriously,” the statement said.
During a press conference last week, Trump himself was less clear about his position on the matter. When asked directly by a reporter for a Jewish publication about the rise in anti-Semitic threats, the President told the reporter to sit down, called the question insulting and responded by defending himself in hyperbolic terms.
“So here’s the story folks: No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”
The White House also faced criticism on International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month when it omitted any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism in a statement marking the day.
White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks explained to CNN the statement omitted references to Jews because “despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.”