Security during Passover heightened amid rise in antisemtic incidents, warning from FBI

While there are no known threats, the FBI is focusing on making sure Passover can be observed peacefully

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Monday, April 22, 2024
Security during Passover heightened amid rise in antisemtic incidents
While there are no known threats, the FBI is focusing on making sure Passover can be observed peacefully

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The FBI is on high alert for possible threats against Jewish communities gathering to celebrate the first night of Passover.

This comes as tensions are rising at Columbia University in New York, where police have arrested more than 100 people in recent days during ongoing protests over the Israel/Hamas War.

Many Jewish students say they no longer feel safe on campus.

The atmosphere is so charged that Columbia officials announced that students can attend classes virtually starting Monday.

While there are not any current, credible threats to synagogues in the Philadelphia area, security remains an important issue heading into the Passover holiday.

Tensions have been heightened since the Israel/Hamas War began following the deadly October 7 attacks.

The Anti-Defamation League says it's seen an uptick in antisemitic attacks. Incidents have about doubled, according to the ADL's annual audit of antisemitic incidents.

When you take a look at the Delaware Valley region, the audit shows a rise in antisemitic incidents that include assault, harassment and vandalism.

Pennsylvania has seen these acts quadruple.

In New Jersey, incidents have nearly doubled, with the Garden State now ranking at the top in terms of incidents per capita.

Higher institutes of learning, including the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel, have also seen an alarming rise, showing antisemitic incidents have more than doubled since 2022.

"When we look at the proliferation of hate on social media and online spaces, when we look at the general anxieties of what's going on in society these days. People look for minority groups to blame and so, unfortunately, that has targeted the Jewish community," said Andrew Goretsky, with the American Defamation League.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia says it had to increase security after a rash of incidents, including a bomb threat against chapters in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Lehigh Valley earlier this month.

Those threats were determined to be a hoax but they came at a time when FBI Director Chris Wray warned people to be vigilant as foreign terrorists call for attacks against Jewish communities here in the U.S.

"We've increased the number of people at institutions -- armed guards, security cameras. We've increased the number of deputies we work with," said Michael Balaban, with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

The FBI will be monitoring large gatherings, as well as high-profile events and symbolic places, for acts of violence during Passover, which is observed through April 30.