When an Israeli-American Jewish teen was arrested in Israel last Thursday in connection with the more than 150 bomb threats on Jewish Community Centers and other Jewish institutions in the U.S. and North America, it sent a shockwave through the Jewish community.
It ran counter to the narrative many Jewish groups were pushing — that emboldened white supremacists were behind the threats. Some directly called out President Donald Trump.
But the perpetrator of the anti-Semitic acts — named Michael Kaydar according to The Daily Beast — while his political opinions are not known, does not fit the profile of a white supremacist. According to Israeli reports, he’s a mentally ill Israeli-American Jewish teenager.
“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all, is reportedly Jewish,” JCC Association of North America president and CEO Doron Krakow said in a prepared statement.
The suspect worked from home, using a computer lab with sophisticated equipment, encryption and transmission systems and a powerful antenna, according to reports. And his father may have known what he was doing.
He also is accused of a series of threats made in Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the past six months, according to reports in Israel, and he is reported to have called in threats to the Israel Police two months ago regarding Israeli educational institutions.
Israel’s anti-fraud squad arrested the 19-year-old suspect at his home in southern Israel and searched the premises on March 23. He was brought to court and ordered to be held until March 30.
The other suspect in the bomb threats, arrested earlier in March, also does not appear connected to the far right. He’s a left-wing African-American former journalist who apparently made the calls in a convoluted vendetta against a former romantic partner.
The more than 150 threats, which came in seven rounds starting earlier this year, affected the JCC in Park Heights three times and the JCC in Owings Mills twice. In all five cases, as with the rest around the country, the threats were unfounded.
After the most recent round of bomb threats to Baltimore’s JCCs on March 14, Barak Hermann, CEO of the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Marc Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, reassured the Jewish community of their commitment to security in a YouTube video posted two days later.
To the news of the arrest, Hermann said in a prepared statement that the JCC is “gratified by the progress in the investigation.”
“The last few months have been a difficult time for our local and national Jewish communities,” he said. “We are looking forward to moving ahead as a vibrant and welcome, safe and secure gathering place for our entire community.”
A statement on The Associated’s Facebook page reflected similar sentiment.
“Hopefully, this arrest closes a disturbing chapter in our collective history,” it said.
A statement from the Baltimore Jewish Council said the organization was “pained” to learn of the Jewish identity of the suspect but “gratified that he was apprehended.”
“These threats were crimes of hate, and such crimes must be condemned regardless of the perpetrator and regardless of the target,” the statement said.
The Israeli suspect used technologies including Google Voice, a call forwarding service, and Bitcoin, a digital currency, to make the threats.
To hide his identity, he used a technology called SpoofCard that masks a number’s caller ID, according to The Daily Beast. When police subpoenaed SpoofCard’s parent company to trace the call’s real number, they learned that he had called from a disposable Google Voice number.
He paid for SpoofCard through Bitcoin, also untraceable, and routed his internet through proxies, making his IP address untraceable as well. In addition, he masked his voice in the calls to sound like a woman.
Kaydar was caught after he forgot to trace his internet connection through a proxy server, allowing police to trace his IP address, which led to his home.
JTA staff contributed to this report.