On March 30, JCC of Greater Baltimore CEO Barak Hermann was among a group of American Jewish leaders to meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express concern about the recent bomb threats to Jewish institutions and the rise in anti-Semitism. The meeting was requested by Jewish leaders.
More than 130 bomb threats were made to JCCs across the country, including three to the JCC in Park Heights and two to the JCC in Owings Mills. All the threats proved to be unfounded.
In response to questions from the JT, Hermann pointed to previous statements from the JCC Association of North America but did say that local JCC security protocols are developed with expertise from The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s security team and local and national law enforcement.
“We work closely with the Secure Community Network, the Department of Homeland Security, local and national law enforcement, our elected officials, other JCCs and The Associated whenever these threats appear,” he went on to say.
From statements, the meeting left those in attendance feeling reassured that Sessions, and the department he represents, was hearing them.
“It was very empowering to express our concern as Jewish leaders about the significant rise of hate crimes not only toward Jews, but toward any group of people,” Hermann said in a prepared statement, “and to address the immediate need for a public declaration (from the Department of Justice) that is focused on combating hate and persecuting those who terrorize others.”
In an email to JCC staff on March 30, Hermann said he felt “confident that our government agencies are doing what they can to address our concerns.”
Earlier in the week, Hermann, along with chief operations officer Paul Lurie, Park Heights building director David Mitnik and officials from The Associated, met with members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to “enhance our security efforts,” Hermann said in the email, to ensure the JCCs were doing the most they could when it came to security.
In a release from the JCC Association of North America, national leaders thanked Sessions for meeting with them and emphasized the importance of Jewish Community Centers as important community spaces, both for Jewish and non-Jewish participants.
“We were very encouraged to hear the attorney general commit to the enforcement of existing hate crimes laws in light of ongoing incidents targeting Jews and other minorities,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. JT