FBI, New Jersey Authorities Are Monitoring ‘Credible Threat’ to Synagogues

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey authorities are closely monitoring a “credible threat” to New Jersey synagogues, Governor Phil Murphy said on Thursday, and law enforcement officials stepped up patrols.

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Murphy said he has been in contact with the state attorney general, New Jersey Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s field office in Newark to “ensure that all houses of worship are protected.” The governor didn’t elaborate on what information officials had received.

The FBI field office said it had received credible information of a “broad threat” to synagogues in New Jersey, which is home to about half a million Jewish people. In a tweet, it said it was taking a “proactive measure” with the warning and asked houses of worship to “take all security precautions to protect your community and facility.”

“Law enforcement will be increasing patrols in sensitive areas,” Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a statement. “Some of these patrols will be in marked vehicles and others will not -- but please do not be alarmed if you observe an increase in police presence as we are taking these steps in an abundance of caution.”

Neither the FBI nor Murphy gave any specifics. “We will share more information as soon as we can. Stay alert,” the FBI said in its tweet. Doreen Holder, an FBI spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return a phone call for comment. The New Jersey State Police referred questions to the FBI.

The threats come amid a rise of antisemitic incidents across the US and an outcry over antisemitic speech from celebrities including rapper Kanye West, who goes by Ye, and basketball star Kyrie Irving.

This week, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sponsored an ad that aired during Sunday’s football games asking people to denounce “Jewish Hate.” The White House and businesses like Adidas AG and Gap Inc. also condemned a spate of antisemitic comments on podcasts and social media by Ye.

Antisemitic incidents in the US hit an all-time high in 2021, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to the Anti-Defamation League. In the last few weeks, a sign was vandalized with swastikas and set on fire in Chico, California, while a bomb threat was called into the Jewish Community Center in Detroit.

New Jersey’s Jewish population is about 6.1% of the total, trailing only New York among US states, according to World Population Review data.

The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ sent a security alert to its more than 80 affiliated synagogues in five counties, according to its chief executive officer, Dov Ben-Shimon.

“The federation is liaising with authorities and partners,” Ben-Shimon said by telephone. He said he couldn’t disclose how he was contacted about the threat, or at what time. The federation identifies itself as the largest Jewish philanthropy in New Jersey.

(Updates with attorney general statement in fourth paragraph)

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