The Anti-Defamation League and local rabbis are lending their expertise to law enforcement officials, as the investigation into a bomb threat at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Needham continues.
The Anti-Defamation League and local rabbis are lending their expertise to law enforcement officials, as the investigation into a bomb threat at St. Bartholomew’s Church continues.
Needham Police briefed the ADL and rabbis from Temple Aliyah and Temple Beth Shalom about a note attached to a bomb-like device near St. Bartholomew Church on March 23. The note reportedly referenced Needham High School and included the word “Jew.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had also joined the investigation, along with the Needham Fire and Police departments, the State Police Bomb Squad and State Fire Marshall’s Office are still investigating.
“Anytime the word ‘Jew’ is attached to an explosive device, there is anti-Semitic intent there,” said New England Regional ADL Director Derrek Schulman, who lives in Needham. “There was no context, no specific property, cause or person mentioned. We don’t fully understand the meaning of the note.”
Rabbi Carl Perkins of Temple Aliyah and Rabbi Jay Perlman of Temple Beth Shalom were both kept in the loop about the bomb scare and the note. Schulman said he believes the note “at a minimum” is an attempt at intimidation.
“We take any action of this nature very seriously,” Schulman said. “But there is a reason the writer or writers chose the word ‘Jew.’ There’s a reason Needham High School is in this note.”
Perkins said Needham Police have not revealed the full contents of the note, but assured them the FBI and police are being vigilant. From what he understood, there was “nothing blatantly anti-Semitic” in the note. Perlman offered little comment except confirming he was included in the discussion.
Schulman said the ADL has offered Needham Police expertise involving cases like this. Based on his understanding, the bomb-like device was “not particularly crude” and the case appears to be isolated. He also praised Needham Police.
“The Needham Police has responded with real aplomb,” Schulman said.
Needham Police responded to a 911 hang-up call at the St. Bartholomew Church parking lot adjacent to St. Sebastian’s School and found what they described as a suspicious device with wires attached to the phone in the parking lot at around 1 p.m. on March 23. Great Plain Avenue was closed between Greendale Avenue and the Dedham town line as a result of the device.
A note reportedly attached to the device referenced Needham High School, and the school was evacuated just after the school day ended.
“It’s a climate of increasing anti-Semitism,” Schulman said, referring to folks suffering in a bad economy feeling they need a “scapegoat.” “It’s possibly related to someone affected by the economy.”
Police Chief Thomas Leary spoke to the Board of Selectmen on March 24 about those concerns – specifically citing the bomb scare and a recent attempted abduction. While hinting the affect the economy may have on town crime, he vowed police would be “on top of things.”
“As you know, in recent weeks, there has been much to be concerned about in 2009,” Leary said. “Every text message, voice message or e-mail could bring bad news.”
Leary could not be immediately reached for comment on the investigation.
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