NEW YORK (Dec. 20)
Jewish organizations have joined civil rights groups in expressing shock and dismay over series of letter bombings directed at public officials and the offices of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Law enforcement officials now believe that the bombs, which have killed two persons, were sent by white supremacists.
American Jewish organizations, realizing that they could also become the target of attacks from such groups, are taking extra security precautions.
The bombings began Sunday at the home of Judge Charles Vance of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Birmingham, Ala. Vance was killed and his wife was seriously hurt.
On Monday, a similar bomb fatally injured Savannah, Ga., Alderman Robert Robinson. A third bomb was found later Monday in the courthouse where Vance worked.
Both men dealt with the issue of drug enforcement, leading authorities initially to suspect that they had become targets of the Colombian drug cartels.
But the FBI and the Justice Department are now pointing the finger at white supremacist groups. Both Vance and Robinson had been involved in the issue of busing to desegregate schools.
Vance had worked on a case of school busing in Jacksonville. Police found a package bomb Tuesday at the Jacksonville NAACP office.
FBI Director William Sessions said Tuesday that a racial motive “is one of the factors in the back of our minds.”
HEIGHTENED STATE OF ALERT
Ira Silverman, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee, sent a letter Wednesday to the Rev. Benjamin Hooks, NAACP’s national director, expressing condolences and offering the NAACP any help it might need.
“These bombs remind us that the fight for social justice is not without danger. If we can do anything to help in this time of pain, please let us know. Our thoughts are with you,” he wrote.
Later in the day, Albert Vorspan, senior vice president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, sent a mailgram to Hooks, saying that UAHC “stands with you against threats and violence by racists and haters.”
“Their vicious assaults cannot undo the gains or intimidate the coalitions of decency in America” he added.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith issued a statement on Tuesday calling for the further strengthening of “ongoing surveillance and prosecution of violence-prone extremists.”
ADL “stands ready to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for the heinous murders,” said Abraham Foxman, the organization’s national director.
The threats also mandate heightened alertness at ADL offices, Foxman said.
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council is coordinating a security strategy with other Jewish organizations, which would include a rehearsal of what steps to take in the event of an attack.
Jerome Chanes, the group’s co-director for domestic concerns, said NJCRAC would soon be sending out a “security alert for Jewish organizations and agencies, as we normally do when situations as this arise.”
The alert would detail “prudent and necessary steps” that Jewish groups “should always be taking, particularly with regard to suspicious packages.”