Although shouted down by the President during his press conference this afternoon, a reporter attempted to ask Donald Trump about the recent spate of bomb threats that have been made against Jewish Community Centers — which often house preschools and daycares — across the country. It didn’t go well.
Repugnant: Trump just shouted down a reporter who was trying to ask about bomb threats against Jewish community centers.— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) February 16, 2017
A Jewish reporter asked about rising anti-Semitism, and Trump called him a liar, told him to stop talking, and didn't answer the question.— Casey Malone (@CaseyMalone) February 16, 2017
Trump says a question from a reporter for a Jewish publication about rising anti-Semitism is "not a fair question."— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 16, 2017
It’s an issue that continues to get scant coverage, although CNN’s religion editor, Daniel Burke, did write a piece today about the “telephone terrorism” directed at JCCs. It’s not something that’s been reported on widely, but in January, 48 JCCs in 27 states received bomb threats over the course of three different days. CNN reports that the threats were to the effect of, “Bombs have been placed in your school, and ‘a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered.’”
Trump called a question asked about these bomb threats “insulting.”
One of those bomb threats was directed the Jewish preschool where my daughters attend, and my son before them. It was snowing in Portland on the day the call was received, and the teachers — who are unbelievably amazing — managed to get 50 or 60 two-to-five-year-olds into snow boots and coats in a matter of moments, and take them on a “field trip” to a safe location a quarter of a mile away while bomb-sniffing dogs explored the building.
It’s a harrowing ordeal for parents (or at least it was for me), and surreal to know that the FBI and local law enforcement are needed to respond to threats at a preschool (they have been *incredibly* responsive and helpful). In fact, parents have been pulling their kids from other JCCs around the nation over fears stoked by the bomb threats (50 kids left an Orlando preschool, and another 12 in an Albany JCC).
I understand that parents might feel anxious and take their kids out of schools where anti-Semites are threatening to “slaughter Jews.” I won’t deny that the thought didn’t fleetingly cross my own mind. My daughters go to a Jewish preschool, my son goes to Jewish day school, and all three go to a Jewish summer camp, but we’re not Jewish ourselves. I can sympathize with other non-Jewish parents who might think twice before sending their kids to a school being targeted by hate groups.
I get it.
Today the FBI took down a white supremacist who was plotting to blow up a Florida synagogue.— Neal Pollack (@nealpollack) February 16, 2017
On the other hand, there is a lot of danger in the world right now, in all kinds of unexpected places. Unfortunately, and almost unbelievably, schools have become a target for horrific violence in places all over the country. As parents we have to rely on our teachers and administrators to do what they can to keep our kids safe. And unfortunately, the Jewish Community has a lot of experience with this. For years, Jewish communal organizations have maintained stringent safety protocols, because they have known it was necessary because of the reality of ongoing antisemitism.
There is something important, I think, to be said for solidarity. Where we live, we have the benefit of participating in an amazing preschool and an incredible community, one that draws strength from its diversity. Our kids learn so much from their exposure to Jewish values and practices. Whatever our religious identity or background, we can actively make choices to help defeat antisemitism. It’s terrible that anyone would target a school of preschool children, in any way or for any reason, but what we shouldn’t do is ignore or distance ourselves because we have the privilege of doing that when we see any group being targeted. After all, there’s no more important time to show up than after a threat or an attack when a community is at its most vulnerable. And right now — thanks to a President who would rather call a reporter a liar than answer a simple question about growing antisemitism — is a damn good time to show up.