On Monday morning, the Levine Jewish Community Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, received its third bomb threat in two months. This time, administrators were used to the drill. They didn’t even evacuate – just had law enforcement sweep the premises and went along with their day. State Sen. Jeff Jackson, whose son Owen is enrolled in pre-K at Levine JCC, learned about the newest threat on Twitter while in line for lunch at Chipotle.
That’s how routine bomb threats have become at Jewish Community Centers and the preschools many of them house; more than 100 such threats have been received at JCCs around the country since President Trump took office.
“We’ve had three bomb threats in the last five years, and they’ve all happened in the last 60 days,” Jackson, a Democrat who represents North Carolina’s 37th district, tells Rolling Stone. “Find me the person who thinks that’s a coincidence.”
He places the blame squarely at Trump’s feet. “Only one big thing has changed in American society in the last 60 days that would have any connection to this whatsoever,” he says.
On Tuesday, at a meeting with state attorneys general, Trump seemed to shrug off the previous day’s spate of threats – 31 were received by 23 JCCs and eight Jewish day schools. “He just said, ‘Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people – or to make others – look bad,'” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told BuzzFeed. Shapiro added, “I really don’t know what he means or why he said that.”
Jackson has an idea what Trump meant. “We know what he was saying. Of course he was suggesting that this is a false-flag operation and that Jewish people are faking bomb threats for political reasons,” he says.
“The man is a maniac,” Jackson says. “He has been deeply reluctant to address the surge in anti-Semitism that has paralleled his rise. That’s not a coincidence. … He understands that a large portion of his base is sympathetic [to anti-Semitism], so he is not going to say one word more about it than he absolutely has to.”
Here’s our boy Owen. He loves his school and friends at the JCC. If anyone has a problem with that you can go talk to the F.B.I. pic.twitter.com/geQuAZ32Ob
— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) February 27, 2017
To Jackson, it’s simple. Trump – who has remained conspicuously silent as threats have continued to pour into Jewish institutions, and Jewish cemeteries are desecrated – needs to speak up.
“I want him to say what any halfway decent person in his position would say, which is, ‘This is completely unacceptable, and we are going to find the people who are doing this and make sure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent. And if any of my supporters interpret my ideology to be the least bit sympathetic with this kind of behavior, you are dead wrong,'” Jackson says. “You figure the least he could do is be crystal clear that he is not the least bit sympathetic to these individuals.”
To the state senator’s mind, there’s only one reason Trump hasn’t spoken up yet. “It is absolutely a matter of political strategy for him,” Jackson says. “His failure to directly and consistently address the surge in anti-Semitism is not an accident. It is political tradecraft. He is being coached on this issue – he is being coached to respond to it as minimally as possible.”
As for the individuals targeting his son’s preschool, Jackson has a message for them too: He and Owen are not cowed. “He’s a toddler, and he loves his teacher, and he loves his friends, and everyone at the JCC is just wonderful to him,” he says. “And if anyone has a problem with that, they can go talk to the FBI.”