3 Jewish Schools in Maryland, Virginia Receive Bomb Threats Amid Wave of Threats Nationally

"They said that there was a bomb on our premises and that Jewish souls would be destroyed," a rabbi at one of the schools said

Three Jewish schools in the D.C. area received bomb threats on Monday, as nearly 20 other schools and community centers in multiple states received similar calls.

Students and staff members at Aleph Bet Jewish Day School in Annapolis, Maryland, and Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia, were evacuated from the buildings after the threats. The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland, also received a threat. Officials did not evacuate that school.

Someone placed an anti-Semitic call to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School about 9:30 a.m., Rabbi Mitchel Malkus said.

"They said that there was a bomb on our premises and that Jewish souls would be destroyed," Malkus said about the message he said was made via a recording. 

The school's receptionist had been trained on what to do if she received such a call, and was able to get the caller's phone number. 

Police were on the scene within minutes. They determined there was no immediate threat to the school.

Moments earlier, Gesher Jewish Day School received a similar call, at 9:17 a.m., Fairfax County police said.

More than 100 people inside the school were evacuated while police searched the building. The school later received an all-clear.

Just minutes after the Rockville school received a threat, the Aleph Bet Jewish Day School on Spa Road in Annapolis did as well, at 9:44 a.m.

Students and staff were evacuated from the building, and the Annapolis Fire Department's Bomb Squad responded. Officers and K-9 units searched the building and found no explosive devices. 

No injuries were reported.

A wave of threats to Jewish day schools and community centers was reported across the United States Monday, including in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and in the New York City area, police said.

In all, seven day schools and 13 community centers received threats, Peter Alexander of NBC News reported. 

No explosives or injuries were reported, and many of the centers returned to normal operations.

The bomb threats follow the vandalism of hundreds of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

Malkus said he was prepared to receive threats and that the school already had ramped up security measures. He called for President Donald Trump to repeatedly denounce anti-Semitism.

"The political climate in the country is such right now that it leads to this type of situation. I know that the president denounced anti-Semitism last week, and I'd like to see more of that and an emphasis on who's behind these calls."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer read a statement on Monday about Trump's concerns about the vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.

"The president continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms," he said.

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Before Monday, The Jewish Federations of North America said that about 60 Jewish schools and Jewish community centers (JCCs) had received about 70 bomb threats since early January.

Acting Annapolis Police Chief Major Scott Baker cited a rash of anti-Semitic threats in that city. 

"There has been an increase in threats to the Jewish community over the recent months," he said in a statement. "We take these threats seriously, and we will work to identify those responsible and toward a successful prosecution." 

Virginia Attorney General also spoke out against the threats Monday.

"This recent wave of anti-Semitism is cowardly, it's disgusting, and we must make it clear that we as Virginians unequivocally reject it," he wrote in a Facebook post.

Police in Fairfax and Montgomery counties, plus the FBI, are investigating the three attacks in the D.C. area.

Capt. Paul Starks of the Montgomery County Police Department urged anyone who sees anything suspicious at Jewish schools and other sites to call police.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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