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Two Ontario JCCs evacuated following bomb threats

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Law enforcement officials have given the green light to two Ontario Jewish Community Centres to reopen after the facilities were evacuated this morning following separate bomb threats.

Police sweeps of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC) at Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue in Toronto and the JCC in London, Ont., turned up no threatening devices. The London JCC was evacuated for about 90 minutes and the Toronto JCC was evacuated for about two hours.

The two incidents were part of a wider spate of bomb threats targeting Jewish facilities across North America. At least 10 JCCs and four offices of the Anti-Defamation League received threats of lethal attack, marking the sixth such wave since the beginning of the year, JTA reported.

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Jewish institutions in Wisconsin, Maryland, Oregon, Florida, Alabama and at least two community centers in New York, were targeted, along with the two Canadian JCCs.

In Toronto, the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and
explosives unit was called in to aid in the investigation of the threat at the MNJCC.

The building, which houses the Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School, was evacuated shortly after receiving a bomb threat around 10 a.m. Buses were brought in to provide shelter for the schoolchildren who were evacuated from the building, said Toronto police spokesperson Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu.

Streets around the MNJCC had already been closed due to a previously scheduled demonstration, Sidhu added.

Toronto police tweeted that because of a “suspicious incident,” people could expect delays in the area. Toronto Fire Services asked people to “stay clear of the intersection of Bloor and Spadina until our investigation is conclude” while the TTC was diverting its 510 Spadina streetcar and 127 Davenport bus because of the police investigation.

Howlett Academy, a private elementary school on Madison Avenue near Bloor, was on lockdown pending conclusion of the police investigation, but that closure was lifted as well.

In London, the March 7 bomb threat marked the second such incident in under two months.

Esther Marcus, executive director of the London Jewish Federation, said approximately 100 people were temporarily evacuated from the JCC and two adjacent buildings, including 20 to 25 youngsters ranging in age from infants to four-year-olds, as well as a number of seniors.

They were taken to a prearranged secure location until police arranged for transit buses to arrive to house them.

Marcus said JCC personnel followed security protocols and quickly evacuated the building.

READ: CALGARY JCC RECEIVES BOMB THREAT, EVACUATES

After the incident, Marcus was concerned but defiant. “We’re still shaken by it,” she said. “We’re at the offices and we’re not leaving. We are not closing our doors.”

Marcus said the phone message appeared to be a computer-generated male voice, though on the last occasion, it appeared to have been a woman who phoned in the bomb threat.

Following the police investigation in Toronto, the Prosserman JCC issued a news release saying, “At this time, everyone is safe. No threat was found. Law enforcement conducted a sweep of the building and has given the all clear.”

“While we are relieved that no one has been hurt, and that all calls have been hoaxes, anti-Semitism of this nature should not, and must not, be allowed to endure in our communities. We condemn and are deeply concerned about the continuing threats called into our institution, but we are also confident that we have the right measures in place to keep everyone who uses our facilities safe,” the release stated.

Commenting on the incidents, Ryan Hartman, director of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ (CIJA) national community security program, said, “CIJA’s security team is working closely with the affected institutions and local law enforcement. These alarming incidents, combined with similar threats targeting Jewish community centres across North America, remind us of the need for continued vigilance in the fight against antisemitism.

“Our community has strong security protocols in place and benefits from a close working relationship with police agencies, which have proven extremely responsive in dealing with these terrible acts. We thank police for their exceptional support. We encourage community institutions to follow existing security procedures, call 911 immediately should they witness suspicious activity, and reach out to CIJA’s security team for follow-up support.

“As Canadians, we will not tolerate antisemitism – or any other form of hatred – in our society. While maintaining vigilance, Jewish Canadians will not be deterred from actively enjoying our community centres.”