(JTA) — Some Jewish institutions will close Friday amid concerns about Hamas-fueled violence abroad, although the FBI and major Jewish security groups said they were unaware of specific threats against Jewish targets in the United States.
Concerns about pro-Hamas demonstrations appear to stem from a speech on Friday by former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal calling for street protests. Meshal made the call on Yemeni television on Tuesday, according to the Middle East Media Institute, which translated clips from Arab media; Reuters reported a version of his remarks on Wednesday.
“We should take to the streets and city squares of Arab and Islamic cities, and all cities with communities,” he said, according to MEMRI. “There is a call this Friday – Al-Aqsa Flood Friday.”
Just days ago, Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing, wounding and capturing thousands of Israelis in the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Days later, those comments heightened concerns.
Israel urged citizens abroad to avoid protests and rallies on Friday. Some Jewish schools in London, Amsterdam and a handful of places in the United States decided to close for the day. Other Jewish institutions remain open but with heightened security measures. Additional police are being deployed in many places. Some families are considering keeping their children home out of an abundance of caution.
“Right now, your Jewish mom friends are busy texting each other to see if tomorrow would be a good idea to declare tomorrow a global jihad day against all Jews and send our kids to school,” one Los Angeles mother wrote in a post said in the widely shared post. on Instagram. She later said her children would stay at home.
Striking actors union SAG-AFTRA shows fear is spreading, declare Late Thursday, it would suspend picketing for Friday due to safety concerns.
“People are very anxious about tomorrow,” Michael Masters, executive director of Safe Communities Network, a Jewish security nonprofit, said Thursday during a conference call with Jewish community leaders.
But he stressed that the organization’s monitoring had found no further cause for concern. “As of now, we have not identified any direct credible threats against the American Jewish community,” he said by phone. He encouraged Jewish organizations to “remain open and active and remain vigilant at all times.”
The Anti-Semitism watchdog Anti-Defamation League issued a similar statement Thursday night. “The ADL has reviewed these messages and is coordinating closely with our law enforcement partners and Jewish security organizations,” it said. “At this time, the (Anti-Defamation League) Center on Extremism is not aware of any credible threats to the American Jewish community.”
The scale of the Israeli attack and the pro-Palestinian protests held in various cities in the days that followed have made many Jews nervous. FBI Director Christopher Wray joined SCN on the call, a sign of how seriously authorities take the threat.
“We are working hard to confirm whether the information is valid,” he said of the idea that Americans should expect widespread pro-Hamas activity. Local news outlets issued varying warnings about a “Global Jihad Day” and a “Day of Rage,” although MEMRI’s translation of Meshaal’s remarks did not include either phrase.
SCN senior national security adviser Brad Orsini said it would be a mistake to withdraw over concerns about Meshaal’s comments.
“We don’t want the community to overreact,” Orsini said. “We need to keep our organizations open. We need to keep doing solidarity activities. We need to keep pushing our kids to go to day school.”
Some Jewish day schools canceled Friday classes on the advice of security advisers. These include all Jewish schools in Amsterdam, several Jewish schools in London, and some Jewish schools in the United States.
The principal of a California day school told parents in an email that the school would be closed “out of an abundance of caution” based on the advice of “our security advisors,” without citing Hamas directly. Three Jewish schools in the Bay Area closed Friday.
One Brooklyn school did cite Hamas’ statement, announcing that Friday classes would be canceled. The school said it understood many schools would remain open but its safety advisers recommended closures and it was up to parents to break the news to children. It also said schools would start new procedures next week aimed at keeping students safe, including suspending visits to local parks and banning meal deliveries to students.
New York City authorities held a briefing call for Jewish leaders on Thursday, stressing that they were not aware of any direct threats on Friday. Principals at several schools in the city cited the call to explain to parents why they should stay open.
Other groups, after reviewing reports of Hamas information, told their communities to carry on as normal.
“At this time, there are no known credible threats to the Jewish community in New York and New Jersey,” said Mitch Silber, executive director of the Community Safety Initiative. The Community Security Initiative is a local security organization that is part of a wider coalition, the Jewish Security Alliance. in a statement. “We therefore recommend that institutions remain open and operational.”
The Community Security Trust, Britain’s leading Jewish charity, also issued a statement aimed at quelling concerns about a global Hamas uprising. The call “does not include a call for violence against British Jews,” the statement said, adding that such statements by Hamas and Hezbollah were “not at all unusual” and “this call in itself is not sufficient to justify British Jewry.” The reason for hiding.” This Friday I am terrified. “
Shalom Austin, CEO and head of security for the Jewish Federation of Austin, Texas, explained in an email to the community that they consulted with the SCN and local and federal law enforcement before deciding not to cancel the event. Holding on, they say, represents an act of resilience.
“Rhetoric such as this (from Hamas) is a form of emotional terrorism aimed at preventing us from participating in our daily lives and activities and further adversely affecting our emotional condition,” they said.