The Stroum Jewish Community Center in Mercer Island was evacuated at 4:45 p.m. Monday after a bomb threat was called in. It was one of 31 threats made to 23 JCCs and eight Jewish day schools on Feb. 27, according to the JCC Association of North America.
As of 7:45 p.m., everyone in the facility, along with individuals from the nearby French American School, was safely reunited with family members, according to city spokesperson Ross Freeman. No injuries were sustained. About 250 people, including many children, were evacuated.
Exterior and interior searches of the building were completed and no suspicious items were located, according to police.
The Mercer Island Police Department responded to the incident, along with the King County Sheriff’s Bomb Squad and K-9 unit, and is investigating with the Seattle chapter of the FBI.
There was no threat to the Early Childhood School’s Seattle campus. The SJCC on Mercer Island and both ECS campuses opened as scheduled Tuesday morning.
Jewish Community Centers and day schools in at least a dozen states received bomb threats Monday. JCCs in 31 states and two Canadian provinces have received 100 bomb threats this year, according to the JCC Association.
The city of Mercer Island’s Department of Youth and Family Services (206-275-7611) has mental health counselors and resources available to those seeking their services.
The city released a statement on the incident on Tuesday, noting that “due to the nature of these threats, the FBI is treating this case as a hate crime.”
“Over recent months, the city has been working closely with both community facilities to plan for unfortunate episodes like last night, and continues to maintain very close contact with all educational organizations on the Island,” according to the statement.
Prior training by the city’s emergency staff was directly applicable in this incident, and the city opened its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate the response.
“While I am so relieved this seems to be a hoax and that everyone was safely evacuated, I cannot emphasize enough how appalled we are by the perpetrators of what seems to be domestic terrorism,” Deputy Mayor Debbie Bertlin said in the statement.
Last fall, the Mercer Island City Council issued a proclamation on civility and diversity, underscoring its role in bringing people together, and not dividing them.
“The principles we enumerated are even more appropriate today,” Bertlin stated. “We continue to welcome all people of all faiths, in recognition that we truly are stronger and smarter together.”
Lavin and Eric Thuau, head of the French American School of Puget Sound, were also quoted in the city’s statement.
“The SJCC, Herzl-Ner Tamid, City Police and Fire Departments and our school have been working together for a while now in coordinating our security efforts,” Thuau stated. “Yesterday’s event and our efficient reaction has shown how important it is to continue to cooperate closely with our neighbors and the authorities.”
Lavin stated that “the community’s steadfast support has been heartening and together we will rise above this,” and “we will not surrender to such efforts designed to induce fear.”
For more reactions and statements, see the Reporter story here.