Dealing with the bomb threat at Jewish Academy of Orlando
On Jan. 26, the Roth Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Orlando’s Facebook page posted a letter from Executive Director David Wayne explaining that the Jewish Academy of Orlando had received a bomb threat, but that the area was found “clear” and everyone was safe.
The story circulated throughout both the local and global Jewish media, but a Jan. 28 Google search for “maitland bomb threat” brought up no results more current than the actual day of the incident, Jan. 26.
Even if the outside world forgets, the Jewish Community of Central Florida must continue to live with the threat hanging over our heads. We must consider whether it is safe enough to attend an event a day or 100 days after the threat on the same premises. The families who sent their children to the Jewish Academy of Orlando, along with the other two Jewish schools targeted on the same day elsewhere in Florida, must try to put aside concerns for their children’s safety that would warrant pulling out of the respective schools.
Such an overall effect on the daily lives of Jewish Floridians leads to a crucial point in addressing the incident, namely, that the perpetrator must be sought as a terrorist and prosecuted according to the highest judicial means available. The incident at the JCC was a terror attack. Terrorism does not only include actual physical violence itself; it also includes the threat of violence with the intent to induce fear. Not taking incidents like the bomb threat as seriously as incidents of actual physical violence is a grave mistake and allows for both to continue.
As I advocated for on the occasion of the Paris terror attacks, legal counterterrorism standards must be tightened. The greatest threat to domestic safety in the United States is domestic, not a group an ocean away. The group across the sea, be it the Islamic State or neo-Nazis based in Germany, has its roots in an ideology and a system that it is as present in the American homeland as it is wherever in the world a terror group may be located.
Because of these points, domestic legal standards for addressing terrorism and terror related threats must be tightened. The “terror watch list” mentality must be dropped. People of the sort who are behind the JCC bomb threat must be taken much more seriously than they are at present by the authorities and by the general public.
Of course, the persons affected by the bomb threat take the incident very seriously. So, what about as an individual Jewish Floridian? How does the individual Jew living near and attending events on the premises of the affected three Florida Jewish Community Centers move forward?
One Jew living abroad had these simple words of support for the Central Florida Jewish Community: “Stay Strong. Hashem veils over His children.” Indeed, to change our daily lives because of the threat goes along with what the terrorists want. We must find the strength to operate in the appropriate balance of maintaining our daily lives while still exercising effective safety measures to protect ourselves from potential attacks in the future.
Caleb R. Newton is a global affairs analyst living in Central Florida and the founder of Global News Breakdown. Find him at Global News Breakdown, Dissecting Society, and the Times of Israel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.