Federal authorities investigating Jewish center threats as hate crimes

The threats made to two Jewish community centers in the Twin Cities metro are now being investigated by federal authorities as hate crimes.

The head of the Minneapolis FBI office reports that since Jan. 1, more than 140 bomb threats have been phoned into Jewish centers and organizations across the country, including the two Jewish community centers in St. Paul and St. Louis Park that were quickly evacuated.

It's believed the same person is responsible and that they electronically altered their voice in each instance.

“The FBI, the Department of Justice [and] my colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office are treating these activities as a federal hate crime investigation based on religious bias,” Thorton said.

Greg Brooker is the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, stepping in to the role vacated just last week when Andy Luger was forced to resign by the new Trump administration.

Brooker said he very much misses his friend and former boss, but promised even with the turnover at the DOJ, it's all hands on deck when it comes to threats against the Jewish community.

"A bomb threat against a JCC is a threat against each and every one of us,” Brooker said.

For St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, the recent bomb threats are personal. Axtell lives about a block away from the Jewish community center in St. Paul, where he is also a member.

"We're dealing with bullies here. Nobody likes a bully. So when someone picks on one of us, they pick on all of us,” Axtell said.

Axtell has promised all police department resources in the search for the person or people responsible.

“What we're seeing here within the Jewish community, the Muslim community, [is] people trying to instill fear and terror in our communities. That is unacceptable and we won't tolerate it,” he said.

The Twin Cities Jewish community is shaken by the threats and the uptick in anti-Semitic crimes across the country, including the desecration of several Jewish cemeteries. Local leaders say they are thrilled to have such solidarity when standing up to the apparent hate.

"These malicious people who are behind these criminal bomb threats, they seek to divide the community when in fact the exact opposite is happening in the community,” Steve Hunegs of the Jewish Community Relations Council said.