The St. Paul Jewish Community Center was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat Monday morning — one of 11 incidents nationwide and the second such scare in the Twin Cities in as many months.
The center reopened within about 90 minutes, and St. Paul police said no bombs or other "dangerous devices" were discovered.
Nearly 200 children, caregivers and adult members were hustled out of the building on St. Paul Avenue and moved to a nearby fire station while the site was searched, police said.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), said in a statement that the threat was received by phone and that "leadership at the St. Paul JCC showed tremendous poise in responding."
The threat was one of 11 made at Jewish Community Centers across the country, all of which turned out to be hoaxes, according to a statement by the organization's parent group.
"While we are relieved … that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life," said the statement by David Posner of the JCC Association of North America. JCC members "will not be cowed by threats," Posner said.
Later Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice said its Civil Rights Division and the FBI would investigate the national series of incidents for potential violations of federal law.
The St. Paul JCC, which has hundreds of Jewish and non-Jewish members, has an athletic complex with youth sports programming, swimming lessons and basketball leagues, as well as a library, an early childhood center and classrooms used for lectures and community events.
Monday's incident comes one month after a phoned-in bomb threat closed the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park. That threat was one of many in at least 17 states that day targeting Jewish institutions.
Jeff Van Nest, a spokesman for the FBI's field office in Minneapolis, said the agency was coordinating with local law enforcement much as it did after the St. Louis Park bomb threat. Van Nest declined to comment on the Sabes investigation, noting that it is an ongoing matter, but did say agents are working to identify the source of the threat. "All of the resources of the FBI are available in a case like this," Van Nest said. "Any time there's a bomb threat, even if it's a hoax, is a violation of federal law."
In a joint statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Council Member Chris Tolbert, who represents the ward where the JCC is located, called the incident "something we all fear," but added that it demonstrated the strength of the community and lauded the police and firefighters who quickly responded.
"These actions have no place in St. Paul, and they have no place in our country," the statement said. "Our nation is feeling the weight of division, but … we will stand in solidarity with the Jewish community against any who try to sow the seeds of hate in our midst."