CHERRY HILL -- The FBI and Justice Department are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country, including the Katz JCC here, which was evacuated after a bomb threat Monday morning, an agency official said.
"The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence, and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner," according to a statement from the FBI in Philadelphia.
The threat, which came as a phone call around 10:50 a.m., was condemned by local leaders in New Jersey and led to a call for federal funds to help keep Jewish centers safe.
The Camden County bomb squad responded to the center and gave an "all-clear" around 12:30 p.m.
Right after being allowed back in the building, Amber Greenett, a personal trainer and nutritionist, came back out holding a sign over her head that read, "Hate Has No Home Here." It is part of a campaign spreading the nation to denounce hate speech and spread a message of inclusion."
She also works at a Jewish community center in Delaware that has been targeted twice with threats, so this was her third evacuation.
"I'm not angry. I'm not scared. I'm sad," she said. "I'm sad that this is the way the country is going since January."
Sarah Weldoff-Kern left the center with her daughter, Pearl Kern, 3, perched on her shoulders.
Weldoff-Kern said the center held a meeting with parents a few weeks ago about the possibility of a threat being called in, so she was prepared for what happened.
"I'm relieved, but I find it disturbing that this is going on after so long and they don't know who is doing it," she said of the numerous bomb threats that have been called in to Jewish community centers around the country since the start of the year. "Someone thinks this is a funny thing to do."
Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli pointed to the recent vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia over the weekend, saying the communities "will not stand for it."
"This threat to the JCC was not just a threat to the Jewish religion, heritage, culture and values, but a threat to our overall community," Cappelli said in a statement. "This incident is appalling in every sense of the word and we will not stand idly by while these types of despicable acts are used to compromise our strong social fabric."
U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross said more federal funding needs to be directed toward South Jersey. He's already written a letter to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which administers the area's Urban Area Security Initiative funding, to request they share the resources with South Jersey to protect all of the Philadelphia area's Jewish communities.
"Unfortunately, federal funds to protect our area and Jewish communities from terrorism aren't being shared with South Jersey," U.S. Rep. Don Norcross (D) Camden, said in a statement Monday. He said FEMA provides funding to the metropolitan area but funds are being used exclusively for Pennsylvania. "Antisemitism doesn't stop at the state line -- nor should funding to combat these threats."
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