Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Two bomb threats to Central Florida Jewish community


Chabad of South Orlando

Wednesday morning, Jan. 4, the Jewish Academy of Orlando received a phone call stating that there was a bomb in the building. The specific message from a distorted voice said "There is a bomb in the Jewish Academy."

This kind of threat is taken very seriously. The Maitland police were called and they acted quickly to contact the FBI and other local law agencies. According to the campus's emergency response procedures, the entire campus, including The Roth Family JCC and Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center were immediately evacuated. Head of School Alan Rusonik told the Heritage that the Jewish Academy students and the children in the Early Childhood Learning Center were evacuated to a designated evacuation site where parents came to pick up their children. The Maitland Police Department closed off Maitland Avenue and portions of Maitland Boulevard as the buildings were checked by bomb-sniffing K-9s.

After about an hour, the campus was reopened after no suspicious devices were found. The Jewish Academy re-opened on Thursday, Jan. 5.

Keith Dvorchik, The Roth Family JCC CEO, stated that it was very obvious that those who called wanted to terrorize the Jewish community. He also stressed that he is pleased with the relationship the JCC campus has with the Maitland police and commented them on the promptness of their response and the thoroughness of their investigation.

Andy Brennan, who just started his job as security director on the JCC campus on Jan. 3, thanked the entire Maitland Police department for their diligence and resources. "We have a strong relationship with both agencies, who have always, and will continue to, make the security of our campus a top priority," he stated in an email to all JCC members.

Shortly after the call came into the Jewish Academy, a similar call was received at Chabad of South Orlando. The office manager who took the call initially hung up on the caller stating she couldn't hear what he was saying because his voice was very distorted. The caller called again and asked in a digitized-sounding voice if she could hear him, then stated, according to her, "there is a bomb in the shul."

Rabbi Konikov wasn't sure if she heard correctly that the person said "shul" because of the distortion. "Perhaps he said school," Rabbi Konikov stated, since the Maitland call was directed to the Jewish Academy.

As in Maitland, the police response – this time the Orange County Sheriff's Office, was quick to respond and very competent. There were 50 children in the building and about 20 staff who were all evacuated to Chabad's other location.

Were the children afraid? "No," said Konikov. "We said it was practice for an emergency."

The parents were informed and told exactly what had happened and were given the choice to pick up their children or let them return to classes. All of the children returned.

"We, too, have a great relationship with the Orange County police. They quickly handled the situation and within one hour had gone through the entire building with the K-9 dogs."

Konikov also stated that Mayor Theresa Jacobs called him to share her concerns.

"It's pretty clear that it's anti-Semitic motivated intimidation," Konikov told the Orlando Sentinel. "Typically people full of hate want to intimidate places of love."

One year ago this month, The Roth Family JCC was forced to evacuate after receiving a similar bomb threat. There was no bomb found at that time.


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