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Birmingham Levite Jewish Community Center target of second bomb threat since January

Updated: Feb. 20, 2017 at 9:39 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - For the last five months, Octavia Kuransky has found her workout fix at the Levite Jewish Community Center.

"I was going to another gym but I got a better offer here. Better facilities, closer to where I live, convenience," Kuransky said.

She's not of Jewish faith. In fact, 67-percent of those who use the facility aren't. But someone has chosen to target the center.

The first time bomb threat happened Jan. 18 and it happened again Tuesday morning. Officials say the threat was made by phone and has to do with religion.

"Anti-Semitism is not something that's new," said JCC Executive Director Betzy Lynch. "But, in this day and age, it is significantly disappointing that it continues to happen."

But the Birmingham center is not alone. Lynch says within the last month or so, nearly 50 Jewish community centers across the country have received similar threats.

While Lynch believes the purpose is to create fear and disruption, she also believes it reinforces the very purpose of the center.

"To build those bridges and to give people understanding and for people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to be together.  It's the only way to overcome this type of prejudice," Lynch explained.

Kuransky agrees, saying the threats cause her to remember September 11, 2001.

"The President said, 'Let's go on,'" Kuransky said. "This is not who we are. We'll find out who that was. But let us continue about our business."

The Jewish Community Center (JCC) Association of America says that the FBI is investigating these threats.

Read a full response from the JCC Association of America here:

"On Feb. 20, 11 Jewish community centers received called-in bomb threats, which were ultimately determined to be hoaxes. Our centers have in place security protocols to ensure the safety of their program participants and facility visitors. All JCCs have now received the all-clear from local law enforcement and resumed regular operations, with a heightened level of security.

As always, safety is our top priority, and we are continuously impressed with the JCC professionals on the ground who are relying on established best practices and strong relationships with law enforcement agencies to ensure the wellbeing of all who use and benefit from their facilities. Our JCCs are strongly rooted in communities across the country, and we will not be cowed by threats intended to disrupt people's lives or the vital role Jewish community centers play as gathering places, schools, camps, and fitness and recreation centers.

While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life. Local JCCs serve not just the Jewish community, but the entire community. Participants from all different backgrounds come to their local JCCs for activities, Jewish cultural and religious programming, and opportunities to come together as a community.

We are in regular communication with the FBI, which is investigating these threats, to ensure the FBI has the most updated information. We hope to hear updates from the FBI on progress very soon.

JCC Association is coordinating updated security trainings for JCC executives and staff, to ensure that our community of professionals across the country is prepared with critical tools, resources and contacts."

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