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Philadelphia Cemetery Vandalized In Wave Of Anti-Semitic Attacks


There were more bomb threats leading to more evacuations today at Jewish schools and community centers and at least a dozen states. Jewish leaders have a term for these phone calls - telephone terrorism. And over the weekend, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was vandalized. NPR's Tom Gjelten reports on this surge in anti-Semitic attacks.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are scrambling to figure out who's behind these threats and acts of vandalism. They're not yet able to say whether it's a few people copying each other or getting a kick out of the attention their threats get or whether it's something larger. So far, no bombs have been found at any of the threatened locations, but Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, says that doesn't make any difference.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT: Because as this pattern has continued to unfold, if we fail to address it, it will continue to terrorize a large segment of the Jewish community.

GJELTEN: White House Spokesman Sean Spicer today said President Trump continues to condemn these and any other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms. But the ADL's Greenblatt is not satisfied.

GREENBLATT: The children evacuated from their schools, the elderly individuals wheeled out of their care programs, the relatives of loved ones whose graves have been defiled - something is terribly wrong, and we need more than words.

GJELTEN: The ADL today put out yet another security advisory to Jewish institutions around the country. Nathan Diament from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America says his organization is in what he calls a prevention and protection mode.

NATHAN DIAMENT: There's no way we can from our side, you know, stop the threats from coming in. We have to talk about, what are the best practices in terms of how you react to these situations? And we have to hope that the law enforcement agencies can as quickly as possible be able to catch the perpetrators and stop the threats from coming in.

GJELTEN: It's hard to say precisely why anti-Semitism seems to have been revived. Some say bigots have been emboldened by the coarse rhetoric heard at rallies during the presidential campaign. Another possible factor is the impact of social media. The ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt says Twitter and Facebook have allowed haters to connect with each other more than they could in the past. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: A previous version of the transcript misspelled Nathan Diament's last name as Diamant.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: February 28, 2017 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of the transcript misspelled Nathan Diament's last name as Diamant.
Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.