The broad threats against New Jersey synagogues that prompted a statewide warning by the FBI on Thursday has been “neutralized,” a state official speaking on background told NJ Advance Media on Friday morning.
A second source who had been briefed by the FBI, but requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, told NJ Advance Media that the bureau had made contact with the suspect and interviewed them, though it was not immediately clear if that person would face charges.
“I am grateful to the FBI, as well as state law enforcement partners including the (state). Attorney General’s Office, the State Police, and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, for their tireless efforts in mitigating the immediate threat to our Jewish synagogues,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday morning in a statement.
“While this specific threat may be mitigated, we know this remains a tense time for our Jewish communities who are facing a wave of anti-Semitic activity,” Murphy’s statement said. “We will not be indifferent. We will remain vigilant. We will take any and every threat with the utmost seriousness and we will stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish congregations.”
The FBI disclosed the threats on Thursday afternoon but did not release any further information on the nature of the threats. It said it was “taking a proactive measure with this warning while investigative processes are carried out.”
On Thursday, the FBI said Jewish houses of worship should be vigilant.
“We ask at this time that you take all security precautions to protect your community and facility,” FBI Newark wrote on its social media pages. “We will share more information as soon as we can. Stay alert. In case of emergency call police.”
Lakewood police said they would also boost patrols in the township, which has a large Orthodox Jewish population.
“In response to the statement issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warning of an broad threat to synagogues in New Jersey, the Lakewood Police Department along with assistance from the Ocean County Sheriffs Department has increased patrols, in both a marked and unmarked capacity,” Lakewood police spokesman Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith said in a statement.
Anti-Semitic graffiti found on two religious schools on Thursday was not related to the threat, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday.
“This incident is currently under investigation and there is no evidence to indicate that there is any connection with the FBI warning,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Antisemitic incidents were reported in 19 of New Jersey’s 21 counties in 2021, according to the ADL, with the highest numbers in Bergen County — where 70 such incidents were recorded — and in Ocean County, with 44.
The number of antisemitic incidents in the state rose by 25% last year — the most recorded by the ADL since it began keeping track in 1979.
Statewide in 2021, there were 252 cases of harassment, 112 reports of vandalism and 6 alleged assaults. At least 7 Jewish institutions were vandalized with the display of a swastika, the ADL audit found.
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Jeff Goldman may be reached at [email protected].