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Despite Bomb Threat Suspect Arrest, Ohio's Jewish Community Centers Stay Vigilant

Though a suspect has been arrested for calling in bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers around the country, a Jewish community leader says they won't let down their guard.

Columbus' JCC was one of more than a hundred Jewish centers across the country that received phoned-in bomb threats in the first few months of this year.  A Jewish-American teenager living in Israel was taken in by authorities and named the "primary suspect" behind the threats.

Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, says that while he’s relieved intelligence agencies apprehended a suspect, that doesn’t necessarily mean Jewish organizations in Ohio can relax their guard.

“We have a confirmation of an increase in white supremacists and white nationalist recruiting around Ohio, so it’s, again, a relief, but it’s with apprehension," Beigelman says.

Beigelman says the next steps are two-fold.

“Number one, I think, is to ensure we don’t relax our guard and we don’t feel like, this is, now that it’s over, we can rest easy," Beigelman says. "And that goes for our community, but also again for law enforcement and the intelligence community, and our elected officials and policy makers."

The second step, he says, is for civic leaders to continue denouncing hate crimes, bigotry and anti-Semitism when they see it.

"I think they still need to be on guard on that as well, and make sure any attack on American values and on America as an ideal and an idea is forcibly pushed back against," Beigelman says.

Senator Rob Portman urged President Trump in early March to take action in response to the threats. In a statement Thursday, Portman commended the FBI and  law enforcement authorities in Israel on their swift action and said the attacks “did real damage” to communities across the country.

In a statement yesterday, Senator Sherrod Brown said he was grateful for the work of law enforcement officials and that the threats of violence were a failed effort to divide Ohioans.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.