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Jewish Community Centers Targeted With Bomb Threats Across The East Coast

TENAFLY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - Authorities on Monday said bomb threats have targeted Jewish community centers in several states – including New Jersey.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported, a bomb threat was called in to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, prompting an evacuation and cancellations.

JCC facilities in Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware were also targeted.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman Amanda Hils said in an email that the agency was aware of the threats and its field divisions were ready to assist state and local law enforcement.

Late Monday, programs had resumed at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, after police conducted a sweep and determined that the threat was not credible.

The Tenafly facility is rather large – 185,000 square feet -- with fitness centers, pools, a nursery school, and a dance and drama school.

The facility has programs for children, adults and seniors in the Jewish community.

Shortly after noon Monday, everyone in the JCC was evacuated when the bomb threat call came in. Everyone in the JCC was evacuated to the church next door, CBS2's Jessica Layton reported.

"Unfortunately, these are the times that we live in – you know, what happened in Florida on Friday, and we understand that we were part of a string of these threats throughout the country," said Kaplen JCC chief marketing officer Tzipora Cohen, "and it's just really a sad reality of today."

The JCC in Tenafly has its own private security, but Tenafly police also provide security on certain days. A police officer was on site when the call came in, and Tenafly police said they are in contact with other law enforcement agencies around the country about the calls.

In Maitland, Florida north of Orlando, The Maitland Jewish Community Campus was evacuated Monday for the second time in a week because of a bomb threat. The complex includes a school, community center, a Holocaust museum and the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.

Police said no explosives were found after bomb threats were received at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue evacuated the Alper Jewish Community Center, which had about 450 children and 70 adults in it at the time. The bomb threat came via a phone call, CBS Miami reported.

"As a community, we must always be vigilant when it comes to security,'' the Greater Miami Jewish Federation's director of community security, Brenda Moxley, said in an email.

In Nashville, Tennessee, police responded to the Gordon Jewish Community Center after a security guard received a bomb threat over the phone.

No explosives were found, but 225 people in the building and an adjacent school were evacuated, said Mark Freedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

In Delaware, the Siegel Jewish Community Center in Wilmington was evacuated after a bomb threat was called in.

A building was also evacuated and authorities investigated a similar threat in Columbia, South Carolina. In Maryland, threats also were called into Jewish community centers in Baltimore and Rockville.

In all, 15 JCCs nationwide were targeted with calls.

"These kinds of threats do affect communities," said Evan Bernstein of the Anti-Defamation League.

The incidents are all deeply concerning to Bernstein, who said they represent a disturbing sign of the times.

"Institutions need to do everything they can to protect themselves, look at their security measures, analyze their security, and take every single one of these threats as seriously as possible and bring it to law enforcement," Bernstein said.

Last week, bomb threats also targeted two Jewish preschools in Tampa and an Orange County, Florida Jewish community center.

The multiple incidents have left nerves a little rattled, and prompted security measures to be tested in Tenafly.

"Every day we're reviewing, making sure that we are safe and secure as we can be," Cohen said.

Several facilities reported an older woman making the threatening calls. Authorities late Monday said they were still investigating who was responsible.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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