When 21 Jewish Community Centers across the U.S. received bomb threats on Feb. 27, the JCC staff in Rockville, Md., knew what to do: notify the authorities and confirm the evacuation routes. The group’s national office had immediately alerted all its centers, and while Rockville was not specifically threatened this time, a January bomb scare had given officials a head start adjusting to a world in which swim classes and book clubs are interrupted by evacuation drills.
“We’ve now been through five waves of these calls,” says Michael Feinstein, CEO of Rockville’s Bender JCC. “We’re stressed out on a daily basis.”
The Feb. 27 scare at Jewish community centers is among the latest in a recent series of chilling incidents targeting Jews, Muslims and immigrants. Since January, at least 73 Jewish centers and schools have received bomb threats in 30 states. Vandals desecrated gravestones in Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and Missouri. Arsonists set fire to mosques in Florida and Texas. And on Feb. 22, a man in a Kansas bar reportedly yelled, “Get out of my country,” before shooting two Indian men, killing one.
The Department of Justice and the FBI have opened civil rights investigations into the JCC bomb threats, the Philadelphia cemetery vandalism and the Kansas shooting.
The episodes have intensified concerns that President Trump’s election has emboldened anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. “When we’re having this intense public discussion about who belongs, who’s real, who’s a threat, then the anti-Jewish sentiment flares,” says Hasia Diner, a professor of Judaic studies at New York University.
Trump attempted to mend those divisions at the start of his address to Congress Feb. 28, saying the threats and the attack in Kansas are a reminder that “we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” Earlier that day, however, the President reportedly suggested in a meeting with state attorneys general that the bomb threats could be a political ploy.
In Rockville, JCC officials have increased their surveillance and security staff. But there’s another new addition: a lobby filled with cards and letters of support from Christian and Muslim families from as far away as Ohio and Tennessee. “It makes everybody feel much better knowing there is concern across the country,” Feinstein says.
This appears in the March 13, 2017 issue of TIME.