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Gov. Cuomo Speaks At Albany’s JCC Amid National Threats

Wave after wave of bomb threat hoaxes have been called into Jewish Community Centers across the country in recent weeks. At the Albany JCC this morning,  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared in a show of solidarity.

Cuomo has ordered an investigation after the latest wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish Community Centers including those in Albany, Tarrytown and New Rochelle.  "There has been a rash of anti-Semitism, as you know, all across this nation. Canada also. And this state has not been spared. There've been bomb threats. Desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Swastikas, racist slogans, that literally have appeared from one end of the state to another. We've seen it in Tarrytown, Staten Island, Manhattan, Syracuse, New Rochelle, Buffalo, Plainview on Long Island. It doesn't seem like it's getting better. If anything it seems like it's getting worse."

The JCC Association of North America says Jewish community centers and day schools in at least a dozen states received bomb threats Monday. No bombs were found.  Cuomo brands the threats "repugnant to everything we believe as New Yorkers."  "This state was founded on the premise of equality and the promise of freedom from discrimination. We are all immigrants in this state. We are all from someplace else, unless your're a Native American.  And the operating principle is that we open our arms and we embrace all."

Cuomo noted many of the JCCs primarily offer services for children.  "And when you talk of ugly, reprehensible behavior, I don't think there's anything worse than racist activity, bigoted activity, and targeting of facilities that serve our children."

Albany JCC Executive Director Adam Chaskin says the two threats at Sidney Albert have taken their toll. "We've had close to 15, 12 to 15 children that have left our early child care program at this point. Parents are concerned. Most of them made comments that certainly if an arrest is made or something else to indicate that this is over, every single one of them I spoke to personally, every single one of them was very complimentary of the center, and this was the only reason they were leaving."

Cuomo pointed out that the FBI and the Justice Department are also investigating the bomb calls. "Everything that can be done is being done. And I'm confident that we will find the people behind this illegality and ugliness.”

Cuomo says state police have been organized and given additional resources to investigate these types of activities. "We've offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of anyone in any of these instances. I've already put $25 million in the state — MY state — budget proposal, for security for facilities such as this one so they can have the resources to provide security on their own. But I also want to assure the Jewish community that the people of the state of New York speak with one voice in condemning this activity."

The Albany JCC holds regular drills, and protocol has been to evacuate when a threat is phoned in, wait for police to arrive, conduct a search then give the all-clear. Chaskin says he and his staff are always in "ready" mode.   "A lot of my days now start with a conversation with the Albany Police, particularly if there's something else going on in the local community that might affect what we would do, if we were to get a bomb threat so, normally my days don't start with conversations with the Albany Police, but for the last month there's a lot them that have.

Chaskin adds the center appreciates the governor stopping by as well as tremendous outpouring of support from the community.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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