Bomb threats reported at 13 synagogues across Philadelphia and suburban counties

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Friday, December 15, 2023
Bomb threats reported at 13 synagogues across Philadelphia, suburbs
Bomb threats reported at 13 synagogues across Philadelphia, suburbs

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- More than a dozen synagogues in greater Philadelphia received bomb threats Thursday, prompting evacuations and mass law enforcement responses on the last day of Hanukkah.

The Anti-Defamation League says the threats came in the form of an email, warning of bombs within the synagogues.

"Unless we delivered $50,000 to this address in Hazelton, Pa., the bombs would go off," said Nina Peskin, the executive director of the Germantown Jewish Centre, one of the recipients of the threats.

"These are hard times," said Peskin, who added that at the time of the threat, more than 170 people were in the building, many of them were young kids in daycare. Law enforcement flooded the center and swept the grounds with K-9's.

"It was a really hard day but this silver lining was seeing our preparation in action," said Peskin.

Shir Ami Congregation in Newtown Township, Bucks County got the same email prompting a two-hour evacuation. No bombs were found in either location.

"Synagogues are experiencing what's called swatting - where anonymous emails will be sent to dozens of congregations at a time, pretty much with the same message, and it instills a lot of anxiety, fear, and panic," said Rabbi Charles Briskin.

The Anti-Defamation League says at least 13 synagogues in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Berks counties all received the same threat.

"It's very important that people are reporting it and that we hold individuals accountable," said Andrew Goretsky, the regional director of the ADL.

Antisemitism has been on the rise since the start of the Irsael-Hamas war. The ADL says there have been more than 2,000 instances nationwide; four times as many from this time in 2022.

"What's going on in the Middle East is absolutely no excuse for Antisemitism or Islamophobia here in the United States or in our region," said Goretsky.

At Shir Ami, staff says the congregation has remained calm, and continued to celebrate this holy time in the community.

"Leading to the 8th night of Hanukkah, we want to bring light to this world. There's still darkness - however, we will not let others extinguish our lights," said Peskin.


The FBI is investigating all of these threats. It says it's taking them very seriously and is encouraging more people to report acts of hate or bias.