The Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville was among the Jewish centers across the nation to receive bomb threats in the last two weeks.
The calls were made on Jan. 9 and 18, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency website. All threats were false according to the website.
“We did get a call in the first round,” said Michael Feinstein, chief executive of the Rockville JCC. “But we did not get a call in the second.”
Feinstein said they evacuated the center in response to the call in which a person who, he said, sounded like an older woman, said, “There is a bomb in the building.”
He said the protocol is to keep the caller on the phone as long as possible and get as much information as possible. The hope is to learn where the bomb is and when it will go off. In the case of the Jan. 9 call he said the phone number was blocked and the caller hung up without saying anything further.
The FBI is investigating the calls.
The Rockville JCC remained closed for about 90 minutes while Montgomery County Emergency Response personnel check for a bomb and the fire marshal allowed the building to reopen, Feinstein said.
In a press release, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America said 27 centers in 17 states received bomb threats on Jan. 18. The Jan. 9 calls were made to 16 institutions, mostly in the Northeast and South. The second round of calls were spread across the country.
Feinstein said the JCC has a plan to evacuate to other facilities nearby and when the call came in they did evacuate.
“We did the whole drill,” he said.
That included moving about 200 preschoolers across the street to another location, he said.
Feinstein said he has been at the JCC of Greater Washington for 10 years and he has not seen a cycle of bomb threats like those of mid-January during that time.
“If the goal is to accomplish fear and disruption, they are succeeding,” he said.