No one was injured and no bomb was discovered in a sweep from local and county police. Authorities condemned the incident, which appeared to follow a recent national wave of similar threats.
By Matt Skoufalos | February 27, 2017
A Cherry Hill Jewish Community Center (JCC) was evacuated Monday morning for reports of a bomb threat.
Township police responded to the Betty and Milton Katz JCC on Springdale Road shortly after the 10:40 a.m. call came in, according to a statement from Cherry Hill Police Captain Amy Winters.
They were supported by investigators from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and K-9 units from the Camden and Burlington County Sheriff’s Departments. After an explosives sweep returned nothing, the building was reopened around 12:30 p.m.
The call in Cherry Hill numbers among a rash of threats that cropped up at other JCC’s throughout the tristate area, including in Wynnewood and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware, as mapped by BillyPenn.com. The uptick in threats against Jewish centers throughout the country has been a national story; The Atlantic reported last week that the count is approaching 60 threats in 26 states since December.
JCC Marketing Director Stephanie Dworkin said the facility staff and patrons had had their eyes on such similar events across the country even before Monday’s events.
“We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been spared the other round of threats,” Dworkin said. “None of the other threats have been deemed credible. We know going into something like this that it’ll most likely follow suit.”
Nonetheless, she said organizations must treat every circumstance with the appropriate weight. The Katz JCC hosts a variety of daily activities, including an early childhood education center, health and wellness clinic, and adult day programs. She credited Katz JCC employees with swift action and compliance with the center security plan.
“They were really stellar,” Dworkin said.
“As a proud JCC, we stand with everybody in our Jewish community,” she said.
“We’ll always be here as a place of community, recreation, and social gathering.”
Cherry Hill Police Chief Bud Monaghan credited the Katz JCC for its preparedness and cooperation with authorities.
Monaghan said that preparedness is critical in dealing with such threats, and promised a full investigation in conjunction with the FBI and New Jersey State Police.
He also said the investigation is too young yet to connect the threat with anything larger.
“We don’t want people living in fear, but we want people to be prepared,” Monaghan said. “If this is tied to some hate that people have towards others, we won’t stand for it. We’re not going to live our lives in isolation because of it. Cherry Hill is a very diverse and welcoming community, both religiously and ethnically.”
Camden County Freeholder-Director Louis Cappelli condemned the threat as “inspired by hate and stupidity” in a statement.
“A suspect tried to destabilize a special place in our county by threatening our core values of diversity and tolerance,” Cappelli’s statement read. “This perpetrator is trying to undermine some of the strongest tenants of our society, and we will not stand for it.
“This threat to the JCC was not just a threat to the Jewish religion, heritage, culture and values, but a threat to our overall community,” he wrote. “This incident is appalling in every sense of the word, and we will not stand idly by while these types of despicable acts are used to compromise our strong social fabric. Simply put, hate has no home here in Camden County and we will prosecute the suspect who engaged in this act of hate and terror to the fullest extent of the law.”
Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn issued a similar statement:
“In Cherry Hill, we value our diversity; our differences are an integral part of who we are and what makes our town great,” Cahn’s statement read. “Every human being and every religious and cultural institution has a right to feel safe, and I want our residents to know that we will not sit back and let fear paralyze our community or our residents.
“As Mayor, I call on all of our residents to come together to send a message that there is no room for hatred and ignorance in Cherry Hill,” it continued. “The Cherry Hill Police Department and the Township have a strong relationship with all of our religious and cultural institutions, and we will continue to offer whatever resources are necessary to ensure the health and security of our entire community. Crimes of hate and any similar threat will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Anyone with information about the incident can contact the Cherry Hill police investigative unit at 856-488-7833, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office at email@example.com.
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