By Jenna Bree, Stephen Romney
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KSTU) — The Congregation Kol Ami synagogue had to evacuate during its Simchat Torah morning service after they received a bomb threat late Sunday morning.
Rabbi Sam Spector tells FOX 13 News they received the threat via an anonymous email around 10:30 a.m. This led the congregation at the Salt Lake City synagogue to interrupt their service and evacuate to Tanner Park, down the road from the synagogue at 2660 East Heritage Way.
The building has since been cleared by Salt Lake City Police. It’s one of three Jewish institutions in the city they have had to search, and may be part of a number of threats made against Jewish institutions throughout the state.
“The Salt Lake City Police Department is aware of unspecified threats directed toward several Jewish intuitions throughout Utah, including two locations in Salt Lake City,” SLCPD said in a statement. “Currently, no further information is available as the investigation is ongoing. Since Saturday morning, the Salt Lake City Police Department has increased its patrol presence at the synagogues and Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City.”
SLCPD found nothing suspicious. However, they say will continue to have increased patrols in the area of the three buildings.
Ogden Police confirmed that Congregation Brith Sholem also received a bomb threat Sunday. The synagogue told FOX 13 News that their threat came in an email and was the same as those sent to other synagogues across the state. Police responded and a bomb squad swept the building, confirming that there was no bomb.
Gov. Spencer Cox responded to Sunday’s threats with a statement, saying: “We stand with unwavering support for Utah’s Jewish community. Acts of terrorism will not be tolerated and are unconscionable.”
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill added: “We are with our Jewish brothers & sisters. You are not alone, you have friends, allies & a community with you.”
“Antisemitism is not a new thing, and yet, Judaism provides a beautiful message of how to treat others with kindness how to make our world a brighter, better place in moments of darkness,” Spector said.
He says whenever there’s conflict in Israel, the United States sees a rise in antisemitism.
“Fortunately, we had Salt Lake City Police Department here already,” he said. “We have to do that for all of our services given the rise of antisemitism here in the United States.”
“When an attack like this occurs, it signals to all of our minorities, and also to the responsible majority, that there are angry, often isolated, lonesome, and ill-informed people who react to the news with anger and hatred,” said Jay Jacobson, a leader of the United Jewish Federation.
Jewish leaders say congregants will continue to practice their faith and be proud of who they are.
“Speak out, put something on your social media about how you stand with your Jewish friends, call your Jewish friends and see how they’re doing,” Spector said. “That’s the best thing that you can do to help us recharge our batteries, is to let us know that we’re not alone and that we are loved.”
Congregation Kol Ami is planning to hold a solidarity event for Israel this Tuesday at 5 p.m. All community members are welcome to attend.
The Salt Lake City Council also showed support for the Jewish community after the threats:
“As a city, we are committed to being a safe and welcoming place for all regardless of race, color, origin or creed. We emphatically reject any attempts to sow fear and intimidation in our community,” their statement read in part. “While we can’t control what happens across the globe, we can and should hold ourselves to a high standard of acceptance, respect and safety for all. We stand in solidarity with our local community and wholeheartedly uphold the rights of every individual to live peacefully.”
In addition, St. George Police said the Red Cliffs Mall received a bomb threat before it opened for the day. A bomb squad and specially-trained dogs were brought in and cleared the mall of any threats. Police said the threat was made in an email to the mall’s general manager, and it claimed that there were also bombs in every mall in the state. They also said the email they received and the threats to the synagogues were “similarly worded.” Once the mall was cleared and the threat was determined to be not credible, the mall was opened about an hour after the scheduled opening time.
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