Jewish center on campus reviews security after local bomb threats shake community

The Hillel Jewish Student Center met with Tempe police to discuss strengthening its security in light of recent bomb threats

The Hillel Jewish Student Center at ASU is reviewing security measures following threats against Jewish Community Centers in Scottsdale and Tucson.

According to data gathered by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish activist organization, the two bomb threats at Arizona Jewish centers are a part of a larger trend of threats against the Jewish community in the United States. In the last three months, 165 threats have been levied against the Jewish community, Anti-Defamation League said.

Read more: Jewish Sun Devils express anger of anti-Semitic rhetoric in Tempe

Hillel, which means praise in Hebrew, is the largest Jewish student organization in the world. The group's mission is to “enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students,” according to the group's website

Debbie Yunker Kail, the executive director of Hillel at ASU, said they are reviewing their security procedures.

“There haven’t been any threats to Hillel yet, but certainly we know that that could happen to us or any other Hillel,” Yunker Kail said. "We are taking a close look at our security plans and making necessary changes to procedures to make sure that we are as safe as possible.”

Yunker Kail said Hillel met with Tempe Police on Thursday to review security measures. 

“We saw in the last election there’s a real segmentation in our county and there isn’t a clear path to resolution yet, but what it showed me was that people really aren’t really aware of the lifestyle or perspectives of the people that are different from them,” she said.  

Yunker Kail said that kind of rhetoric leads to more hate crimes or incidences of violence. 

“When we don’t know each other it’s easier to say something or do something towards them because they are more of an object then a person,” Yunker Kail said.

Joel Gereboff, graduate professor of religious studies, echoed Yunker Kail's statement that the recent divisive election cycle could be linked to these threats. 

“Generalizing about groups ... that kind of discourse has without question increased during the presidential election," Gereboff said. "So, to what degree do candidates who generalize about groups as a whole, what impact they have is the question social scientists will have to determine.”

President Donald Trump condemned the recent threats against the Jewish community while touring the national museum of African American History museum on Feb. 27, the same day the threat was called into the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale. 

"Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms," Trump said in the joint address.   

Emma Hobbs, a justice and social inquiry senior who frequents Hillel, said being in Jewish spaces is healing, admits so much turmoil. 

“Being in a Jewish space a lot of times feels healing and safe," Hobbs said. "When I’m in Shabbat services, when I’m saying the (Shema Yisrael) or central prayer surrounded by other Jewish students, I feel a sense of everything is really scary but we are going to be okay. We as a Jewish community have miraculously survived so much.” 

Correction: The prayer Emma Hobbs cited was incorrectly referenced. The article has been updated to reflect the changes. 


Reach the reporter at brookehanrahanreports@gmail.com and follow @brookehanrahan1 on Twitter.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.