US governor compares the 'virus of hate' to the coronavirus after threats were made to Jewish centres
- A bomb threat was emailed to 19 Jewish Community Center locations in the US, including several in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany on Sunday.
- The threat was emailed to JCC email accounts at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, the director of New York State's Director of Emergency Management said.
- Cuomo likened the bomb threat, which he attributed to the "contagion" of hate across the state and country, to the COVID-19 coronavirus, saying "there's also a virus of hate, and it's spreading and it's spreading quickly."
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On Sunday morning, 19 Jewish Community Center locations in the US - including several in New York - received an emailed bomb threat, sending the facilities into high alert amid a police investigation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York visited one of the confirmed locations, the Sidney Albert JCC located in the state's capital, Albany, and spoke at a press briefing following evacuations, the Albany Times Union first reported Sunday.
"These types of situations are so ugly and so unfortunate," Cuomo said. "What's worse is we're seeing more and more of them. We've had about 42 incidents of anti-Semitism in this state this past couple of months so it's not getting better. It's only getting worse."
Asked whether there were other JCCs threatened, Cuomo said: "Yes. There were about 18."
A representative for the office of the New York governor later clarified that not all 19 occurred in New York but would not say how many occurred in the state versus in others.
"It is not just anti-Semitism," Cuomo said. "There is a contagion of hate all across this country. The number of anti- African American attacks is up, the number of KKK groups and activity is up. The number of incidents against the LGBTQ community are up, so it's a virus all across this nation."
The New York governor then drew a comparison between the "contagion of hate" and the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has killed at least 2,360 people and infected nearly 80,000 others, mainly in China. There have been 35 reported cases of the coronavirus in eight US states; none have been reported in New York.
"People are worried about the coronavirus, which we're watching in this state - there's also a virus of hate, and it's spreading and it's spreading quickly," he said. "And unfortunately, this state has also been infected, as hard as that is to believe, because New York, we're all about diversity, right?"
In 2018, reported instances of hate-crime violence reached their highest level in 16 years, the FBI said last year, according to a report from The New York Times. In December, Jewish communities fell under consistent anti-Semitic attacks, a number of which were violent.
"When you threaten a JCC, these are, it's not just an anti-Semitic attack. You have children who go to the JCC," Cuomo said. "You have gym facilities here. So, you are really threatening children. It is one of the most heinous things you can do. And again, it is fear and it is terror. That is all it is - terror," adding that about 100 people in the Albany location had to be evacuated because of the threat there.
Michael Kopy, New York state's director of emergency management, told reporters that the threat came in an email people with JCC email accounts at about 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, though he did not say which locations or email addresses were targeted by the threat, citing an ongoing investigation.
Because the threatening email mentioned a bomb, the Albany police brought their K-9 unit to sniff out explosives, though nothing was found and management was allowed to return to the building. The location was to remain closed for the rest of Sunday, according to the Albany Times Union.
"I think that it is very concerning and disturbing that these types of threats are being made, and we are very grateful that law enforcement takes it so seriously to be able to ensure that our communities are safe," Rachel Grinspan, the director of community affairs for the New York and New Jersey chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, told Insider.
"We are seeing a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents not only in the state of New York, but in New Jersey, too. At least towards the end of last year in New York state, especially in the boroughs, we did see an increase in physical violence in association with anti-Semitic attacks, especially in the borough of Brooklyn," Grinspan added, noting an increase in anti-Semitism online.
An ADL online tracker of reported anti-Semitic events listed 25 instances of anti-Semitism in the state of New York since the beginning of the year, many of which occurred in different areas of New York City.
More than 100 bomb threats were sent to JCC locations across the country in 2017, causing panic, fear, and evacuations across the country. Those threats were traced to a teenager living in Jerusalem, according to The New York Times. The 18-year-old suspect was believed to have made threats to sites locations in the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
New York State Police did not immediately respond to an Insider request for comment.
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