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NH synagogues targeted with bomb hoax; US Attorney vows ‘zero tolerance’ for acts of hate

Manchester Chief Allen Aldenberg, left, with U.S. Attorney Jane Young and New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella during a discussion Tuesday.
Todd Bookman
Manchester Chief Allen Aldenberg (left) with U.S. Attorney Jane Young and New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella during a discussion about acts of hate and intimidation, Dec. 19, 2023.

Five synagogues in New Hampshire were among hundreds nationwide that received bomb threats in recent days. The emailed threats, which the FBI said Tuesday don’t appear credible, come as the state is set this year to record the highest number of reported acts of hate and bias in recent history.

On Sunday, Temple Beth Jacob in Concord, as well as other synagogues in New Hampshire, received an email alleging multiple bombs had been placed in their respective houses of worship, according to Rabbi Robin Nafshi. The threats appear to have started on Friday, she said, at synagogues across the country, with several hundred individual threats now reported.

“Our members — I can’t speak for all of them — but it puts people a little bit more on edge,” she said. “It is very disturbing to know you have been specifically targeted.”

Nafshi said she believes the threats are meant to terrorize the Jewish community, and are part of an uptick in incidents of bias in recent months, which have been heightened since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7.

With these threats, the state is now on track to exceed last year’s record number of 186 reported acts of hate, according to New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella.

Formella, along with Jane Young, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, held a previously scheduled roundtable discussion on Tuesday to discuss the local, state and federal efforts to combat the rise in bias.

They were joined at the event by Special Agent Tim DeMann of the FBI, Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, and Colonel Mark Hall of the New Hampshire State Police.

Sitting in a row at folding tables inside Manchester’s police headquarters, the law enforcement agents said they were ready to use their collective powers to respond to threats, and that there would be zero tolerance for hate-motivated violence in New Hampshire.

“This isn’t a game. This isn’t a joke. These are peoples’ lives,” said Young. “And when you cross that line and you commit a crime, there will be a consequence.”

Young said her office has heard concerns from a variety of religious leaders in recent months about an increase in tension and fear, including from Jewish and Islamic communities. “People want to go and worship their creator in peace,” she said.

Authorities spoke about the need to develop trust with protected groups, so that they feel comfortable reporting threats or concerns about activities in their community. Aldenberg, Manchester’s police chief, said he has assigned more patrol units to visit houses of worship, including during services and other special events, to provide a sense of security, and would encourage departments around the state to do the same.

In Concord, Nafshi said local police have become a welcomed, regular presence outside of her temple. She expressed optimism for “better days ahead,” but admitted that “none of us think that the incidents are going to go down anytime soon.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. He can be reached at tbookman@nhpr.org.