On the morning of Jan. 18, just a few days after the country officially recognized the legacy of nonviolent social change championed by Martin Luther King Jr., Libby Parker learned of a bomb threat at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park.
Parker was on her way into the JCC for a meeting, but was turned away by a police officer standing outside. Parker said the officer told her there was an emergency inside.
Parker's two daughters, who were supposed to attend Hebrew school classes the day of the threat at the St. Louis Park JCC, took the news relatively well.
But Parker is not sure that's a good thing.
"I think they've sort of just accepted the fact that that's just a part of being Jewish, now," said Parker. "Which I think is really sad — that they have to know about that at 10 and 8 years old."
Parker said she and her husband don't believe in shielding their children when it comes to talking about anti-Semitism, but they do try and make the discussions age-appropriate. Parker said her 5-year-old son had questions about bombs and bad guys.
"I'm not sure he quite grasps the concept that people hate us because of who we are," Parker said.
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Parker, of Chanhassen, is the executive director of Jewfolk Media, Inc., a nonprofit group that uses social media to help connect members of the community with each other. Jewfolk Media also administers a Facebook discussion group of more than 1,100 Jewish mothers or women raising Jewish kids. Many Jewish parents have serious concerns and questions, she said.
"Should we continue going to the JCC? I'm not sure that I feel safe sending my kids there," said Parker, describing some of the comments she's heard. "On the other hand, I've also talked to parents who are like, 'Great. I'm joining the JCC now, because now, more than ever the community needs our support.'"
Parker also acknowledged that she and her husband have had difficult conversations about home security following the bomb threat; including whether they should keep a gun at home, something Parker has opposed in the past.
Shep Harris, the mayor of Golden Valley and a lobbyist at the state Capitol, has three school-aged children, two of whom attend school at the JCC in St. Louis Park. His kids will not switch schools.
"We can't live our lives in fear," Harris said. "If we run from one facility that has been threatened, then that, in a sense, encourages these people to call other places."
Harris said he likes the way the school addressed the bomb threat in an age-appropriate way to students.
"There are some mean, hateful people out there in the world unfortunately, who don't like people in general because of their religion, their race, their sexuality — fill in the blank," Harris said, paraphrasing a message from the school. "We're not going to change our lives based on the feelings and thoughts of those people."
"Even adults don't totally understand," said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel in Minneapolis.
Zimmerman has been fielding questions from young and old members of her congregation since the bomb threats in St. Louis Park and in St. Paul.
Throughout history, the tides of anti-Semitism ebb and flow, Zimmerman said. But anti-Jewish hatred tends to spike in times of crisis, when people need a minority group to blame. According to officials at the Jewish Community Relations Council, incidents of anti-Semitism in Minnesota have increased over the last several years.
"It seems to be, unfortunately, a story we have heard over and over and over again," said Zimmerman.
But the rabbi is encouraged by the defiant and compassionate response from people who aren't Jewish. She said the expressions of support — particularly from Christian and Muslim groups — are encouraging.
"My only hope is all the work that I and other colleagues have done in interfaith dialogue can change the trajectory of this time," Zimmerman said. "We are not isolated and alone as we have been throughout history."
Jewish community leaders praise local and federal law enforcement for their response to the threats. FBI officials say while they still don't know who made the threats, they believe the same person is responsible for both of them.
Leaders also commended U.S. senators, including Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar for pushing for an increase in funding for security at cultural and religious centers.