MATT MCKINNEY, STAR TRIBUNEJennifer Bagdade, far right, takes a photo of her son, Alex, standing with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center on Sunday,
Sen. Amy Klobuchar met Sunday with local leaders at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center to discuss security.
She pledged more federal aid for security at community centers after telephoned bomb threats earlier this year terrified patrons of two Jewish community centers in Minnesota,
Some 140 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers and schools nationwide so far this year, including one each against the St. Louis Park and St. Paul JCCs.
“What’s so horrific about these threats to safety and to people’s sense of well-being is that the Jewish community centers have been places where they’ve brought in people of all religions,” Klobuchar said.
A federal bill would provide $20 million in extra funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, an existing program that has provided grants to Minnesota community centers and nonprofits in the past. Klobuchar is co-sponsoring the Faith-Based Community Center Protection Act, which would also double the penalty for those convicted of making bomb threats against the centers, from five to 10 years.
The center is a place for people of all faiths to come together, said Michael Waldman, executive director of the St. Paul JCC.
“If people are afraid to do that, it’s not just bad for business, it’s bad for humanity,” he said.
Hate crime incidents are rising nationally, and Klobuchar said last year’s presidential campaign and President Donald Trump’s tone have not helped. While giving Trump credit for condemning the wave of JCC bomb threats, Klobuchar said she’d like to see less inflammatory rhetoric.
“When you keep condemning people in ways that aren’t civil, it gets people going, and we know that. As a leader I get that,” she said.
Klobuchar said she also spoke on Sunday to a Delano, Minn., family that was targeted in another high-profile hate crime. The family on March 12 found their house ransacked, with racist graffiti and swastikas sprayed inside and outside the home. The family had moved in only recently and considered the house their dream home; they have now moved out of the community.
“So it just makes you realize that no one is immune to this. We just have to stand up,” she said.