A surge in anti-Semitism, including 150 bomb threats made against Jewish schools and community centers across the country and in the Twin Cities, has prompted the Minneapolis Foundation to create a fund to help local Jewish groups add security.
The foundation has seeded the fund with a $50,000 donation and is encouraging people to contribute.
“Ideally philanthropy is about making things better. Sometimes when there is a threat, the job is to keep things from getting worse,” said R.T. Rybak, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation. “This foundation stands for systemic change, but because of the immediate threat, this is very much about the bandage.”
The foundation will set up a parallel fund for Muslims this spring.
“The Faith In Each Other Fund” will help pay for staff training, coordination and technology to amp up security at synagogues, schools and the two Jewish community centers in the metro area.
The work will be done in partnership with law enforcement agencies and private security firms.
The Minneapolis Foundation joins a growing coalition of politicians, law enforcement officials and faith-based groups vowing to help protect faith communities now under attack.
FBI special agent in charge Richard Thornton, Acting U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell stood together at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center last week to provide an update on the investigation into telephoned bomb threats to Jewish community centers in both St. Louis Park and St. Paul this year.
Authorities in Israel arrested a prime suspect in the bomb threats on Thursday — a 19-year-old dual Israeli-American citizen. Investigators say his motive is unclear.
Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League said despite the arrest, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a major concern. “JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar met Sunday with leaders at the St. Paul JCC to pledge more federal aid for security.
There are between 35,000 and 40,000 Jewish people in Minnesota, primarily in the Twin Cities. The Jewish community has always prioritized security but it’s taken on a new urgency, said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.
“Now there is a greater appreciation for the need in our community — in all communities,” Hunegs said.
Hunegs said there has been a rise in hate speech directed at the Jewish community. In addition to the bomb threats, anti-Semitic fliers and postings have popped up on the University of Minnesota campus.
“Three thousand years of Jewish history is 3,000 years of anti-Semitism. It waxes and wanes with times,” Hunegs said.