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Two DC-Area Jewish Schools Receive Bomb Threats

Investigations of both threats turned up no evidence of explosives.

Two Jewish day schools around Washington received bomb threats Monday morning, according to law enforcement sources in Montgomery County and Fairfax County. Both threats, made to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville and Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax turned up no evidence of explosive devices upon investigation, but they continue a recent surge of Jewish-affiliated institutions being threatened and harassed.

Gesher called Fairfax County Police at 9:19 AM to report receiving a bomb threat. Officers dispatched to the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade campus found “nothing,” according to Don Gotthardt, a Fairfax Police spokesman, although the department’s explosive-ordnance disposal unit was put on alert. The school was briefly evacuated, with 143 students and staff leaving the building.

Charles E. Smith received a bomb threat at its upper-school campus at 9:22 AM. Montgomery County Police dispatched two K-9 units to the 500-student school and also found no evidence of any explosives. Laurie Erlich, Charles E. Smith’s communications director, says the call containing the threat was automated. The school also notified students’ parents, though there were no evacuations. Classes resumed about 10:40.

While police in both counties are aware of both threats, they are still investigating whether the two are connected. Still, violent threats against the two schools come amid a wave of incidents involving Jewish sites. Since January, there have been at least 69 threats made against 55 Jewish Community Centers, with the latest coming Monday morning to 13 JCCs around the United States. Jewish cemeteries around the country have also been vandalized in the past week, with as many as 100 headstones toppled at one in Philadelphia. Vice President Mike Pence visited a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis that had also been desecrated.

The Anti-Defamation League has reported an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents since last November’s presidential election. The civil-rights organization has also chided President Trump for evading questions about rising anti-Semitism. After consecutive press conferences in which he responded to questions on the topic with brags about his electoral-vote total and rebukes of reporters for broaching the issue, Trump finally condemned anti-Semitic incidents last week during a visit to the Smithsonian.

UPDATE, 6:41 PM: The Aleph Bet Jewish Day School in Annapolis also received a phone call Monday containing a bomb threat, as did a Jewish Community Center in nearby Owings Mills. In total, 21 Jewish schools or community centers in 12 states received threats on Monday, prompting the ADL to issue a security advisory to Jewish institutions around the country. Since the start of the year, the organization has counted at least 90 separate bomb threats made against Jewish institutions and has started offering security training in conjunction with the FBI, which is investigating the nationwide spate of bomb threats but has so far made no arrests.

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Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.