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'Credible threat' focused on Jewish community in San Antonio is lifted

Synagogue.jpg
Dan Katz
/
Texas Public Radio
Services at Temple Beth El in 2018.

The threat that caused officials with Temple Beth-El to cancel Saturday's Shabbat services and that inspired the Jewish Federation of San Antonio to urge that "all Jewish gatherings be suspended" was lifted in the late afternoon.

In a statement, the Jewish Federation of San Antonio explained that it "received an official update from the FBI that there is no 'known imminent threat' in effect any longer for the San Antonio area Jewish community."

It continued: "Although we recommend staying vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times, we are pleased to share that the urgency of concern has been lowered."

The statement also thanked "our local and national law enforcement partners, along with our colleagues at the ADL and SCN, for their diligence, expertise, and professionalism."

Nammie Ichilov, president and CEO of the Federation, also reported that the FBI had apprehended a suspect. TPR had not confirmed that report by late Saturday.

Around midday Saturday, Ichilov had explained in a statement "that we have received information from the FBI identifying a credible threat to a not yet confirmed Jewish community facility in the San Antonio area."

The statement also explained that "all formal Jewish gatherings be suspended until further notice."

The nature of the initial threat was unclear.

In a statement to TPR about the threat that sparked concerns, the FBI's National Press Office explained the "FBI is investigating a potential threat targeting an unidentified synagogue in Texas. We are working to determine the credibility of the threat and sharing information with our law enforcement partners and our partners in the Jewish community."

Temple Beth-El is the oldest synagogue in South Texas.

Saturday's investigation came only days after District 9 Councilman John Courage condemned the distribution of antisemitic material, which first appeared in North Side neighborhoods in late June.

He said it was especially concerning because the District 9 office recently attended a symposium on antisemitism at the Barshop Jewish Community Center.

Courage said these agitators were hiding behind the First Amendment to bring fear to the local Jewish community and transgender individuals.

In response to a recent rise in antisemitic incidents, the FBI San Antonio Division launched a multi-faceted advertising campaign to build public awareness of hate crimes.

The goal is to help the public better understand what constitutes a federal hate crime and to encourage reporting of those crimes to law enforcement.

People who have evidence or more information about hate crimes are urged to report it to local law enforcement, or the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or online at tips.fbi.gov.

The Anti-Defamation League recently reported that the number of antisemitic incidents in South Texas have doubled in the last year.

The League’s 2021 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reported more than 2,700 incidents involving assault, harassment and vandalism in the United States last year.

A total of 1,776 incidents were categorized as harassment. This increased 43% from 2020, which had a total of 1,242 incidents.

In Texas, the organization reported 112 incidents, including 39 cases in the Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Beaumont and El Paso regions. Texas ranked sixth in antisemitic incidents behind New York, New Jersey, California, Florida and Michigan.

One of the most vivid incidents of 2022 took place in January at a synagogue in Colleyville, when a 44-year-old British man took four people hostage and commenced a standoff with police. An FBI team stormed the building and killed the hostage taker. FBI Director Christopher Wray called it an act of antisemitism.

KERA's Bill Zeeble and TPR's Steve Short, Jackie Velez and Dan Katz contributed to this report.

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