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U.S. President Donald Trump (R) gives the thumb-up at the Dr. Ben Carson (2ndR) exhibit while visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump condemns ‘horrible and painful’ anti-Semitic threats

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism in the United States on Tuesday in his most forceful remarks to date about a spate of threats to Jewish community centers around the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) speaks with Ben Carson, his nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), after their visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, U.S. February 21, 2017. Also pictured is Carson’s wife, Candy Carson (L). REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Several Jewish community centers were evacuated for a time on Monday after receiving bomb threats, the JCC Association of North America organization said. Vandals toppled the headstones of about 170 graves at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, according to news reports.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump told reporters. He was speaking at the end of a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he also spoke out against racism.

The comments marked a change in tone from Trump, who had declined to condemn explicitly the threats against Jews when asked last week, and had reacted at times with anger to reporters’ questions on the topic, taking the questions as though they were accusing him personally of having anti-Semitic views.

On Monday, bomb threats were called in to 11 Jewish community centers, including those in the Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee areas, according to David Posner, a director at JCC Association of North America. They were found to be hoaxes.

No arrests were made and no one was injured. The FBI has previously said it is investigating recent threats as “possible civil rights violations.”

Monday’s incidents follow three waves of bomb threats so far this year. In all, 69 incidents at 54 Jewish community centers in 27 states and one Canadian province have been reported, according to the JCC Association of North America.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Frances Kerry)

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  • Neal Schindler

    Why did this take so long? And what will his supporters who are neo-Nazis say in response? They praised the Holocaust Remembrance Day statement for omitting the 6 million Jews who were killed. I wonder if they’ll feel deeply disillusioned that Trump finally caved and acknowledged the anti-Semitic events that have been happening since Nov. 9.