- Shelia M. Poole The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Metro Atlanta is not immune to anti-Semitism and threats against Muslim institutions.
On Jan. 9, a bomb threat was received by the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in Dunwoody, and last week at least two metro Atlanta mosques received threatening emails that were detailed enough for the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to alert federal authorities.
MJCCA spokeswoman Keely Sime would only confirm the Dunwoody center received the threat. She declined to say whether it came by phone call, email or letter or release further details.
CEO Jared Powers assured MJCCA members via email that same day that everyone was safe.
“The MJCCA’s layered security operations and protocols were immediately implemented,” he wrote in the email. “The response team assessed the threat, contacted the Dunwoody Police Department, and determined the appropriate response, which included a full search of the campus. An evacuation was not deemed necessary.”
There has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents reported across the nation in recent months, including bomb threats against Jewish community centers and the toppling of dozens of headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in suburban St. Louis.
On Tuesday, after complaints that the White House seemed silent about the incidents, President Trump denounced them as “horrible … painful” and said more must be done to root out prejudice and evil.
Dov Wilker, regional director of the Atlanta regional office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) , said he has not heard of other anti-Semitic acts in metro Atlanta.
After the incidents elsewhere, though, “There is heightened concern around the security of our Jewish institutions,” he said. “There seems to be an open willingness to engage in anti-Semitic behavior over the past year. It’s deeply troubling.”
Threats and vandalism are not limited to Jewish targets.
Edwards Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of CAIR-Ga, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said leaders at one mosque asked that their identity be withheld.
He said mosques have been urged to take security precautions such as installing security cameras, using armed guards during major events, hosting self-defense seminars, and working with local law enforcement.
“Georgia Muslims are not afraid,” said Mitchell. “We refuse to allow an anonymous bigot to scare us out of visiting our houses of worship or otherwise practicing our faith.”
In 2016 there 139 incidents against the Muslim community from arson, armed anti-Islam demonstrations and threats against mosques, according to the national office of CAIR.
Earlier this month, the Birmingham Islamic Society and the Huntsville Islamic Center received emailed threats warning Muslims, blacks and Mexicans to”run or die.” It appears to be the same email that the mosques in metro Atlanta received.
CAIR has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who threatened to bomb at least 10 Jewish community centers around the nation over the President’s Day holiday.