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Show of support: Elected officials visit Jewish Community Center in response to threats

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WHITEFISH BAY -- There were new bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country Monday, February 27th -- the fifth wave of threats since January. This, as a group of elected leaders toured the Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay as a show of unity after two threats there.

The FBI is investigating the nationwide bomb threats called into the JCC in Whitefish Bay and others in January and February. Threats were called into the JCC in Whitefish Bay on January 31st and February 20th.

Jewish Community Center -- Bomb threat on January 31st

Jewish Community Center -- Bomb threat on January 31st

Bomb threat at JCC in Whitefish Bay

Bomb threat at JCC in Whitefish Bay on February 20th

The elected leaders included Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Glenn Grothman, Rep. Gwen Moore, State Sen. Alberta Darling and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The officials banded together to demonstrate their support for the JCC.

"Together we must all stand up and speak out against anti-semitism," US Senator Tammy Baldwin said.

Fifty-four Jewish community centers in 27 states have been targeted by bomb threats since January.

On Monday, bomb threats forced evacuations in at least 11 states, including Florida, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania.

Mark Shapiro

Mark Shapiro

"It's counterbalanced by knowing my peers, my brothers and sisters around the country are either evacuating or clearing their building," Mark Shapiro with the JCC said.

"I think we have to hope and pray that the FBI tracks down these people and when they track them down, that the FBI finds out where they are from and this thing never happens again," US Rep. Glenn Grothman said.

Glenn Grothman

Glenn Grothman

Gwen Moore

Gwen Moore

"I personally am going to make sure that I reach out to our new US attorney to make sure they staff and fortify their efforts in the Civil Rights Division," US Rep. Gwen Moore said.

"America is facing a challenge unlike any challenge I have seen in my lifetime -- a challenge from within, and the challenge is whether we are going to allow ourselves to be divided as a nation or whether we are all Americans," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Tom Barrett

Tom Barrett

Alberta Darling

Alberta Darling

"And we will tell you we'll stand with the Jewish community. We will stand with all of us who need to be together," Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said.

Monday's bomb threats came as police in Philadelphia try to determine who vandalized a Jewish cemetery over the weekend.

Between 75 and 100 tombstones were overturned and damaged Saturday night, February 25th at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in the Wissinoming neighborhood. The incident is being classified as institutional vandalism, but investigators have not established a motive, said Det. Jim McReynolds of the police department's Northeast Detectives Division.

Tombstones were overturned and damaged Saturday night at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, police said Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.

Tombstones were overturned and damaged at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia

Cemeteries are located on each corner of the intersection, but no vandalism was found at the three Christian cemeteries, he said.

The estimate of 75-100 damaged tombstones was conservative and may grow, he said.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue said he and a member of his congregation went to the cemetery and counted "a few hundred" headstones knocked over.

While not providing an exact number, he said "the sheer scale is quite something."

Two weeks ago, about a dozen headstones were damaged at a Catholic cemetery in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia mayor's spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told CNN.

The vandalism at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Cemetery didn't appear to target a specific group of people, and the investigation into that case is ongoing, Hitt said.

The Catholic cemetery is about two miles away from the Jewish cemetery.

The vandalism at the Jewish cemetery was especially worrisome because it comes less than a week after a similar incident at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, said Nancy Baron-Baer, the Anti-Defamation League's regional director for the Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware region.

Embargoed to St. Louis, MO Police confirmed Monday that vandals toppled and damaged about 100 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis.

Vandals toppled and damaged about 100 headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis.

"One stone in one cemetery being desecrated is one stone too many. We are talking about hundreds within a week," she said.

The ADL is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible, she said.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 offered a $3,000 reward for the same purpose.

President Donald Trump will be speaking to Congress on Tuesday, February 28th. It's unclear whether he'll address the bomb threats.


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