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FBI interviews New Jersey man whose online posts triggered threat to synagogues

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FBI: NJ man with extremist views made threat against synagogues
FBI: NJ man with extremist views made threat against synagogues 01:56

NEWARK, N.J. -- A New Jersey man with extremist views was the source of a threat against Jewish houses of worship and the threat "no longer poses a danger," the FBI said Friday. 

The man's online postings triggered an unusual alert for synagogues to boost security and police to step up patrols. 

Police across the region were keeping a closer-than-usual eye on Jewish houses of worship after the feds cited "credible information of a broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey" on Thursday. 

The FBI spent hours interviewing the man on Friday, but said little about him. It's unclear if he will face charges. 

 

Heightened security expected for foreseeable future

FBI: NJ man with extremist views made threat against synagogues 01:56

Newark Police continued to make regular stops at Congregation Ahavas Sholom on Friday, even after the FBI announced it located the source of an online threat that triggered a safety alert, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported. 

"They're talking with this person and trying to figure out obviously what his motive is and what his intentions were," said Scott Richman from the Anti-Defamation League.

Richman, ADL regional director, joined a Friday morning briefing on the investigation.

The synagogue threat was made in an online forum. Police stepped up patrols after the FBI determined the language went beyond a hate-filled rant and formed a credible threat. 

"It was a nonspecific threat. So you know it could be any synagogue anywhere in New Jersey. We didn't have a region," said Richman. 

The ADL said reports of antisemitic incidents are at a 42-year high. So, Jews attending services can expect heightened security, both obvious and discrete, for the foreseeable future. 

"Even here in Bergen County, the prosecutor's office informed us they were deploying the rapid deployment team to do spot checks, the SWAT team to do drive-bys," said Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern Jersey. 

Shames urged the community to stay alert and report anything unusual. 

"Take action as opposed to saying, oh I don't want to bother the police, or I don't want to make a stink. No, this is the time to absolutely say something. They're expecting it, they need it and it will only help us," said Shames.

The FBI said little about the man who posted the threat. It's not clear if he broke the law, but agents continue to investigate.

By Tony Aiello
 

Questions remain about investigation

Congregation Ahavas Sholom in Newark was one of many synagogues in New Jersey that saw extra police patrols after Thursday's unusual FBI alert warning of credible information of a broad threat against Jewish houses of worship. 

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reports, local police across the region took the threat seriously. 

FBI identifies source of threat to NJ synagogues 01:51

Overnight the FBI continued to investigate, and Friday morning released a statement, reading, "We identified the source of the threat who no longer poses a danger to the community."

That is a relief, but also a reminder at a time of high concern over antisemitism. 

"Stay alert, be vigilant and never hesitate calling law enforcement if there's something that is concerning to you. We need people, if they see something, to say something," said Rabbi David Levy, director of the American Jewish Committee. 

As Aiello reported, there is still a lot unknown about the situation with the threat. The FBI said the source of threat "no longer poses a danger," so it is not clear if an arrest was made. 

CNN reports the FBI spoke to someone who posted in a forum used by antisemitic extremists. The man reportedly told agents he was angry but he was not planning anything harmful. 

The specific language in the online post, though, raised a lot of fear and concern and prompted extra security.

By Tony Aiello
 

Mayor Adams meeting with Jewish leaders

Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell say they will meet virtually with Jewish leaders to discuss the recent threat.

By CBS New York Team
 

ADL: "Remain vigilant"

The Anti-Defamation League urged the community to "remain vigilant" but added "no heightened state of alert is required."

By CBS New York Team
 

Gov. Murphy thanks law enforcement

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy thanked the FBI and state law enforcement agencies for "their tireless efforts in mitigating the immediate threat to our Jewish synagogues."

By CBS New York Team
 

"No longer poses a danger"

The FBI says the source of a threat against New Jersey synagogues "no longer poses a danger." 

The agency released the following statement Friday:

Upon receipt of threat information against an unspecified New Jersey area synagogue, the FBI notified community leaders and our law enforcement partners. We identified the source of the threat who no longer poses a danger to the community. As always, we would like to remind the public, to remain vigilant and if they observe suspicious activity to report it to law enforcement immediately.  

By CBS New York Team
 

Police keeping a close eye on Jewish houses of worship

Police keeping a close eye on Jewish houses of worship in New Jersey 02:32

Police across the region kept a closer eye than usual on Jewish houses of worship Thursday night.

It comes after the FBI cited "credible information of a broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey."

As CBS2's Tony Aiello reports, the FBI alert focused on New Jersey, but cops in Rockland County, Westchester County and New York City also boosted patrols.

The Hudson County sheriff joined Jersey City Police with visibility outside Temple Beth-El on JFK Boulevard.

It was reassuring to neighbor Gigi Shahin.

"I feel secure. I really do. For everyone, not only the synagogue, for everyone," she said.

"We hope that nothing would happen ... We feel safe," one man said.

The unusual alert from the FBI Newark Field Office said, "We ask that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility."

Outside BMG Yeshiva, the largest in the United States, Ocean County sheriffs and Lakewood police moved quickly to boost their presence.

"Stay alert, be vigilant and never hesitate calling law enforcement if there's something that is concerning to you. We need people, if they see something, to say something," said Rabbi David Levy, with the American Jewish Committee.

Images of armed officers outside the United Synagogue of Hoboken show law enforcement is treating the "broad threat" seriously at a time of heightened concern about antisemitic words and actions.

"They're clearly serious threats, and we're grateful that law enforcement is taking them seriously," Levy said.

"So I think it's about really being diligent and aware of the situation that we're in, the rise of antisemitism, but not allowing it ... to prevent us from practicing our religion," said Evan Bernstein, with Community Security Service.

The FBI says the need for the extra vigilance is a "proactive measure" while an investigation is carried out.  

By Tony Aiello
 

Rep. Josh Gottheimer: "Antisemitism and hate will lose."

Congressman Josh Gottheimer released the following statement in response to the threats to New Jersey synagogues:

"This evening, I am holding a briefing with the Bergen County Prosecutor, Bergen County Sheriff, mayors, and rabbis from synagogues from across my District.

"Early tomorrow morning, I will pray at a shul in Teaneck. To those who made these antisemitic terroristic threats: We will not cower. We will not back down. In the greatest country in the world, religious freedom will win and antisemitism and hate will lose." 

By CBS New York Team
 

FBI's warning comes amid high-profile cases of antisemitic comments

FBI warning of "broad threat" to New Jersey synagogues 02:25

Late Thursday afternoon, the FBI posted on Twitter that it has credible information about a broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey. The FBI is asking everyone to take all security precautions to protect their communities and families.

The warning comes amid recent high-profile cases of antisemitic comments.

"It must be a serious threat if obviously they're posting that to all synagogues," New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer said.

Gottheimer told CBS2's Kevin Rincon he's already fielded calls from concerned neighbors and has been working to ensure local police are prepared should anything happen. His concern is that hate shared online could spill over into real life.

"When you put this kind of poison out there in this day and age, unfortunately, it's very influential and has a big impact," Gottheimer said. "It almost, once again, gives a green light to extremists to come out and make threats."

Gov. Phil Murphy in a tweet says they are closely monitoring the situation and working with local law enforcement to ensure that all houses of worship are protected.

Evan Bernstein, with the Community Security Service, works with volunteers who offer protection at synagogues.

"The field office from the FBI in Newark reached out to us, explained that there was a credible threat. They didn't go into any specific details, but it was enough for them to make that phone call," he said.

He says despite the threats, it's important they continue showing up to make clear hate will not win.

"We can't allow that to not let us go to the synagogue. We have to still be able to have the cadence of going to synagogue, being active Jews and not letting people that hate us prevent us from practicing our religion," Bernstein said.

By Kevin Rincon
 

Concern spreads across Tri-State Area after threat to N.J. synagogues

Concern spreads across Tri-State Area after threat to N.J. synagogues 02:28

New Jersey leaders are protecting houses of worship after the FBI warned of a threat to synagogues, and concern is spreading across the Tri-State Area.

Police in New York City, Rockland County and Westchester County are also increasing patrols out of an abundance of caution.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted Thursday that she had been briefed about the threats, adding, "There is currently no related threat in New York. We will keep monitoring the situation closely."

By Tony Aiello
 

NYPD, other departments stepping up security

The NYPD took to Twitter to say they were aware of the threat against New Jersey synagogues. 

"In an abundance of caution, the NYPD's Intelligence and Counterterrorism Bureaus are working diligently alongside the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the FBI to ensure the safety and well-being of every area that encompasses our Jewish citizens and synagogues here in New York City and the Tri-State Area," the NYPD wrote in the tweet. 

CBS2 has learned a number of suburban police departments in Westchester and Rockland Counties are also increasing patrols outside synagogues, out of an abundance of caution.    

By CBS New York Team
 

Gov. Murphy "closely monitoring the situation"

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he's been in touch with law enforcement about the threat. 

"We are closely monitoring the situation and we are working with local law enforcement to ensure that all houses of worship are protected," he wrote on Twitter. 

By CBS New York Team
 

FBI says warning is a "proactive measure"

FBI officials added they issued the warning as a "proactive measure" while their investigation continues. 

By CBS New York Team
 

FBI to New Jersey synagogues: "Take all security precautions"

The FBI on Thursday posted a tweet warning New Jersey synagogues of a "broad threat" against them. 

"The FBI has received credible information of a broad threat to synagogues in NJ. We ask at this time that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility. We will share more information as soon as we can. Stay alert. In case of emergency call police," the agency wrote. 

By CBS New York Team
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