Local Jewish Community Center Members Cope With Threats

Mar 13, 2017

Repeated threats have been made this year against the Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. The latest scare happened Sunday, and the JCC isn’t alone. Other Jewish organizations across the country have been targeted, so have mosques. What impact do these threats have on the people directly affected? WUWM stopped by the JCC to ask.

The Jewish Community Center plays a big role in the lives of hundreds of people. Many come to the sprawling campus in the heart of Whitefish Bay to use its massive fitness center and pool, or bring their kids here for the array of childhood learning programs.

Marc Tasman, who is working out, says his children find the bomb threats disturbing. “I was talking to my son and he said that’s so sad. I said what’s sad? He said it’s just sad that somebody can do this little thing and it creates a disruption. He’s sort of upset that it’s this thoughtless, phone call or email creates these big ripples,” he says.

Tasman says he’s been advising his son to have his coat readily available in case his class needs to be evacuated.

Following each threat, the JCC has cleared the building, police search it and in each case, have found nothing.

Karen Rice is having lunch with her friends at the center. She’s an administrator at a nearby school and has also been urging children to take precautions.

“Don’t prop the doors open because you want to play on the basketball field. Don’t just open the door for anybody, wait for somebody to buzz them in or check them out. Don’t just assume because somebody is dressed in a particular manner, that they belong in the facility,” she says.

Rice says we seem to be entering a new era of terror.

The JCC’s director, Mark Shapiro, agrees. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. I’ve been working professionally in Jewish Community Centers for more than 25 years and this is a spike in disruption that I’ve never seen before,” he says.

But, Shapiro vows the community will soldier through the threats.

“The year 5777 is the year of our Jewish calendar and for 5777 years people have tried to put hurdles in front of the success of the Jewish community and I’m really proud of the fact that when the calendar turns in the fall to 5778 we are going to clear that hurdle and keep going again,” he says.

Allison Roth is picking up her daughter from ballet class. While the mom calls the bomb threats unsettling, she says they won’t scare her away from the center.

“Members have been so supportive and are rallying around everyone and saying yes to the JCC. We’re not going to let these threats stop us from coming here and taking part in all the wonderful programs and the day care and everything that they have here,” Roth says.

Last week, Gov. Scott Walker promised state resources to help keep the Jewish Community Center safe.