WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- At least 15 Jewish community centers across the United States had their nerves rattled Monday as preschools and buildings were evacuated after bomb threats were called in, and one by one every threat turned out to be a hoax.
Jewish community centers in six states received a series of anonymous calls Monday morning warning of explosives planted on their campuses, with police evacuating, searching and then declaring every one of them safe, even if the parents, children and employees there weren't so sure.
While police did not officially link the calls, many at the community centers say it's hard to believe the large number of threats was not coordinated in some way.
Some say, however, receiving threats is not a new thing -- be they messages painted on walls or phones calls warning of non-existent bombs -- and Monday's rash of hoax calls is starting to feel like the new normal.
"We've definitely seen an increase in threats made against the Jewish community in the U.S. and abroad in recent months." Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, part of the Jewish Federation of North America, told NorthJersey.com. "We're asking people to increase their vigilance."
Bomb threats were called in to community centers South Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Officials say there is no evidence proving the calls were linked but the fact that many of them happened at the same time indicates they very well may be. Some of the calls were prerecorded, while others were reported to sound like older men and women who, in some cases, screamed into the phone about a bomb somewhere near the centers.
Four of the community centers targeted by the calls were in Florida, where centers in central Florida and Tampa received similar calls last week, though there does not appear to be a link between the two sets of threats.
Jewish centers in the United States were not the only ones to receive calls as three Jewish schools in London also received hoax bomb threats.
With statistics showing an increase in the last few years of anti-Semitic crimes and the huge number of calls in the last week alone, experts say the Jewish community, similar to members of the Muslim community, is among groups of people being actively targeted for harassment and terror.
"This is a threat against the entire community," Mark Freedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, told The Tennessean. "Everyone should be aware of that."