Irvine Jewish Center among the nationwide threats

IRVINE (CNS) - An investigation continued today to determine whether a

bomb threat that forced the evacuation of about 1,000 people from a Jewish

community center in Irvine is connected to a wave of threats made against

Jewish centers and schools nationwide.

Staff at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County at 1

Federation Way began evacuating the facility and Tarbut V'Torah Community Day

School, which is located on the same property, about 4:40 p.m. Monday.


Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb-sniffing dogs were called in to

perform a search of the location and nothing suspicious was found, said Kim

Mohr of the Irvine Police Department.


``There have been reports ... of threats called in to Jewish community

centers and schools across the country,'' Mohr said. ``It is unclear at this

time whether the threat in Irvine is tied to any other such threat.''


 About 20 threats were made on Monday to Jewish institutions across the

country, including the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and

another JCC in La Jolla, according to the Anti-Defamation League.


About 90 bomb threats have been made since the beginning of the year,

and a number of Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized.


Rusty Kennedy, chief executive of the OC Human Relations Commission,

said the rash of bigoted incidents that has erupted since the presidential

election was the highest number since the six weeks following the Sept. 11,

2001, terror attacks.


The commission has documented 44 ``hate incidents'' and 15 actual hate

crimes in Orange County since Donald Trump was elected president in November,

Kennedy said.


``There's everything from elementary school kids taunting their

custodian, who is Latino, with a chant, `Build a wall,' to a Muslim woman who

had a man come up from behind her and yank her hijab off and punch her,''

Kennedy said.


Another incident involved white athletes smashing a watermelon on the

porch of a black student in Laguna Beach and referring to him by a racist

epithet, Kennedy said. Vandals painted swastikas on a Korean church in Buena

Park, as well, he said, adding that the ``bulk'' of the incidents have targeted

Latinos and Muslims.


The divisive election has apparently ``given a sense of license,

emboldened people to say horrible nasty things about each other and attack and

criticize others based on their perceived nationality or immigrant status or

religion or any other aspect about them,'' Kennedy said.


The commission has been actively documenting the incidents and working

to ``counter the stereotypes'' with ``alternative stories'' about good citizens

of varying backgrounds, Kennedy said.


UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a statement Tuesday

condemning the wave of anti-Semitic threats, saying they ``hit close to home

Monday afternoon when our neighboring Merage Jewish Community Center received a

bomb threat and was forced to evacuate.''


Gillman said the ``despicable demonstrations of violent anti-Semitism

assault not only members of our Jewish community, but all people of goodwill.

Our Jewish students, faculty, staff, partners and neighbors should take

strength from knowing that the UCI community stands with them during these

troubling times.''


Anyone with information about Monday's threat in Irvine was asked to

call Irvine police Detective Michael Moore at (949) 724-7316.

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