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Kids safe, back in school after bomb threat at Ann Arbor Hebrew school

Feb 27, 2017

A bomb threat forced children to evacuate from Hebrew Day School in Ann Arbor Monday morning, as similar threats were reported in Florida, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New Jersey and other states.

An unidentified man called the Hebrew Day School just after 9 am, claiming there was a bomb in a backpack that was about to detonate, according to police.

“What makes this threat somewhat unique is the specificity of the caller, indicating that the bomb was in a backpack, the backpack was in the school, and the bomb was about to detonate,” says Detective Lt. Matt Lige. “That is not typical of previous bomb threats that we have gotten to this facility and other Jewish centers in Ann Arbor.”

The school shares a campus with the Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, and an early childhood center, which says it cares for infants as young as 8 weeks old.

All children were immediately evacuated to an undisclosed, off-site location. Community Center staff waited in the parking lot while police brought in a bomb-sniffing dog from the Michigan State Police in Lansing.

After their search of the school came up empty, kids were brought back in and classes resumed.

With news vans and helicopters still circling the area, Detective Lt. Matt Lige says this same community center got another bomb threat about a month ago. So was this part of a wave of anti-Semitism?

"I can't ignore the possibility, given the political climate that we're in and the events that have occurred across our country,” he says. “My instincts tell me this is all part of a coordinated effort targeting the Jewish Community."

He says they’re working with the FBI to determine the source of the call. “In the political environment, [police] have increased our presence here for several weeks,” Lige says. “This will only increase that.”

“A lot of people suspect that the whole goal may be to create a situation where people are afraid to send their kids to Jewish institutions,” says David Shtulman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor. “The thing I’d like to stress is, there is no reason to be concerned. That this is one of the safest buildings you’re ever going to send people to. We’re well-secured, we have terrific protocols, we’re in close touch with the police and the FBI. And I can’t think of a safer place to be.”

Shtulman says he thinks today’s bomb threat is part of a larger wave of attacks against Jews.

“We want the message to be that life goes on as usual. We are not intimidated. We are not afraid. We take all of the appropriate precautions. And Jewish life is going to go on as it always has. We hope that people will find the best response to this is to fully engage in Jewish life.”

Shtulman encouraged posting messages of support on the school and center’s Facebook pages. 

This post was updated at 4:00 pm Monday.