Jewish Community Center in Mercer Island evacuated after bomb threat, one of many across U.S.

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. - The Jewish Community Center in Mercer Island was evacuated Monday after a bomb threat, one of more than a dozen Jewish centers and day schools across the U.S. that faced bomb threats.

No bombs were found at any of the locations.

The city of Mercer Island said in a news release Monday night that the Mercer Island Police Department responded to the Mercer Island Jewish Community Center (JCC) at about 4:45 p.m. "regarding a telephone bomb threat received by a JCC staff member."

The city provided no details on the threat itself.

Staff members began evacuating the building of about 250 people, the news release said, and police requested assitance from the King County sheriff's Bomb Squad and K-9 unit. "The nearby French American School was also evacuated as a precaution, and neighbors were notified," the release said.

"Exterior and interior searches of the building were completed and no suspicious items were located," the city said.

Nadine Strauss, the executive director of Herzl-Ner Tamid synagogue on Mercer Island, said they had “prepared for the possibility” and evacuated people from the center to the synagogue.

Strauss said everyone at the synagogue was “safe and comfortable, entertained and fed.”

Bomb threats were called into Jewish community centers and day schools Monday in at least 12 states, according to statements from the Anti-Defamation League and JCCA.

Many affected institutions were declared clear and have returned to regular operations.The threats targeted JCCs in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Virginia. They had not included Washington state.

The Anti-Defamation League said 20 threats were made and the JCCA said 21. Since January 1, there have been 90 incidents at 73 locations in 30 states and one Canadian province, the JCCA said.

The calls prompted the ADL to issue a security advisory.

"While this latest round of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and day schools across the country again appears to not be credible, we are nonetheless urging all Jewish institutions to review their procedures," said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the group.

ADL officials said its San Francisco regional office was evacuated late Monday afternoon after it received a bomb threat. It was the second bomb threat that an ADL office has received in a week.

This is the fifth wave of bomb threats targeting JCCs across the U.S. and Canada since the beginning of 2017, according to the ADL. A number of JCCs have received multiple threats.

David Posner, director of strategic performance at JCCA, an association of JCCS, said in a statement, "Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities."

"Members of our community must see swift and concerted action from federal officials to identify and capture the perpetrator or perpetrators who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in our communities."