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Cuomo condemns threats during JCC visit

Cuomo condemns threats during JCC visit

'I am confident we will find the people behind this ugliness'
Cuomo condemns threats during JCC visit
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center on March 1, 2017.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited one of the sites of recent bomb threats Wednesday to denounce the threats, which have targeted Jewish community centers around New York and across the country.

Accompanied at the Sidney Albert Albany Jewish Community Center by State Police Superintendent George Beach and Jewish community leaders, Cuomo pledged the state's full support for the ongoing law enforcement investigations of the threats.

"We want the perpetrators to know that we are fully committed to doing justice in this case. This is intolerable for us," Cuomo said.

Cuomo said later Wednesday that he will travel to Israel this weekend, for talks and as a show of "solidarity."

The Albany JCC received two bomb threats in January, both of which required evacuations and which remain under law enforcement investigation.

"This is repugnant to everything we believe in as New Yorkers. It is an act of cowardice," Cuomo said.

There have been at least five waves of telephone threats against Jewish community centers since January. They were received at centers across New York state and nationwide. There have also been acts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries, the painting of swastikas on homes and in public places, and other anti-Semitic acts. To date, all the threats have been hoaxes.

Cuomo last week proposed $25 million in the state budget for improved security at targeted child care facilities like the JCC, and he said Wednesday there is also now a $5,000 reward for tips leading to convictions in the case.

Cuomo said state police have formed a special unit just to deal with the bomb threats.

"The state police are working hand-in-glove with local police, as well as the FBI, and everything that can be done is being done," he said.


He called the threats especially disturbing because Jewish community centers like Albany's are often working primarily with children, providing day care and after-school activities.

"When you talk of really ugly, reprehensible behavior, I don't think there's anything worse than racist activity, bigoted activity and targeting facilities that serve our children," Cuomo said.

Albany JCC Executive Director Adam Chaskin praised Cuomo as "a great friend of the Jewish community."

During his address to a joint session of Congress, President Donald Trump -- whom some have blamed for condoning intolerance -- issued his most explicit condemnation of the bomb threats to date.

"Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms," Trump said.

Law enforcement officials believe many of the threatening calls originated overseas, CNN reported Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said he believes the calls may be routed through Skype or other internet-based phone systems, which make it easier for callers to hide or disguise the originating phone number. Voice-over-internet systems don't have the same level of regulation as telephone systems.

In a letter Wednesday to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, Schumer urged the FCC to grant waivers from federal regulations to Jewish community centers that would make it easier for them to trace and identify information on anonymous callers.

"All communities and entities targeted by intimidation and fear deserve access to all of the tools needed to ensure these criminals are brought to justice," Schumer said in a prepared statement.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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