A bomb threat directed towards the Merage Jewish Community Center and Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School forced about 1,000 people to evacuate last Monday.
According to Irvine Police Department spokeswoman Kim Mohr, the center received the threat via phone around 4:40 p.m. Staff then began to evacuate occupants. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department brought in dogs to search for potential bombs but none were found. No injuries occurred.
The threat was just one of many on Jewish community centers and day schools across the nation, though it’s uncertain whether the threat in Irvine is related to others. Monday’s wave was the fifth round since January and prompted Jewish leaders to urge federal agencies to be more aggressive in their responses.
UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman responded to the Merage Center incident in a statement sent out to all UCI students and staff the following day.
“These despicable demonstrations of violent anti-Semitism assault not only members of our Jewish community but all people of goodwill,” said Chancellor Gillman. “Our Jewish students, faculty, staff, partners and neighbors should take strength from knowing that the UCI community stands with them during these troubling times.”
On Jan. 22, 2016, UC Regents members released their Final Report of the Working Group Principles Against Intolerance, calling on the the UC community to provide an inclusive space for all and respond to acts of intolerance. In accordance with this, Chancellor Gillman asked Douglas M. Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, to compile a report assessing campus policies specifically with regard to Jewish students.
Earlier this year, Haynes released his report titled, “Higher Ground: The Alignment of UCI’s Policies, Principles, and Programs with the UC Regents’ Principles Against Intolerance.” The report notes that UCI should be giving more attention to its Jewish students as they “still lag behind their peers at other UC campuses. They were less likely to feel they belong at UCI compared to other students at the university. In contrast, Jewish students at the other UCs were more likely to feel that they belong.”
Haynes also gave suggestions to combat anti-Semitism including developing programs that specifically address anti-Semitism and working with social justice student groups. Haynes also suggested clarifying UCI’s free speech policy, training campus police on hate crimes and hate speech, supporting Jewish culture courses for GE credit and establishing an advisory board to address the needs of Jewish students.
In his statement last week, Gillman stressed the importance of this report and stated “we will continue to work with our campus and community partners to overshadow hatred with education, research and open discussion.”
Merage Jewish Community Center officials, along with the Irvine Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, are currently investigating the threat.
Those with information are asked to call Irvine Police Detective Michael Moore at 949-724-7316.