On Tuesday, January 31, and on Monday, February 20, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque (JCC) received telephone bomb threats, which were part of a wave of similar threats to dozens of JCCs across the United States. The threats forced the closure of the JCC for up to two hours. Both times, the JCC swiftly and smoothly implemented its emergency plans, evacuating about 200 people from three buildings in just over five minutes. The Albuquerque Police Department and federal law enforcement officials responded rapidly. The APD bomb squad searched and cleared the building without incident. The JCC quickly returned to normal operations and was as busy as ever in the days following the interruption. Numerous statements of compassion, support and solidarity came in from individuals and organizations around the city.
“JCC gratefully thanks the Albuquerque community, including law enforcement agencies, for the support and solidarity in the wake of the hate crimes against our facility,” said Dave Simon, JCC executive director. “Jews have been in New Mexico for over 400 years. The JCC and Jewish people in general feel welcome and integrated into a multi-cultural New Mexico that appreciates diversity and tolerance. We shall always use care and compassion to oppose hate and discrimination wherever it exists.”
Following these incidents, JCC leadership had several productive meetings with local and federal law enforcement agencies to review existing partnerships and to identify additional steps that can be taken to further improve safety and security of the JCC campus. JCC Executive Director Dave Simon, Jewish Federation of New Mexico Executive Director Zach Benjamin, and Anti-Defamation League New Mexico Director Suki Halevi also met with Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry and Senator Martin Heinrich to discuss how to improve the safety of all Jews and Jewish organizations in Albuquerque.
A few days after the January bomb threat, JCC announced several actions to show appreciation for and to give back to the Albuquerque community, which included a special tree planting on City Open Space lands on February 5. (The Jewish holiday Tu b’Shevat, known as the New Year of the Trees, was celebrated on February 11, shortly after the bomb threat.) JCC also sent a special Valentine’s Day “thank you” card and gifts to the APD Bomb Squad officers and four-footed K-9 “officers” who responded to the scene and cleared the JCC buildings.
“Trees represent life, longevity, uprightness, renewal and stability and have the ability to survive storms and wind; they may bend and lose leaves, but still remain upright,” said Simon. “The JCC remains steadfast in our commitment to serving our community.”