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Fake bomb threat reported at Sanibel Island synagogue

FBI Tampa aware of numerous hoax incidents
Bat Yam Temple of the Islands
Posted at 11:50 AM, Dec 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-28 19:26:55-05

SANIBEL, Fla. — More than a year after Hurricane Ian damaged the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands on Sanibel, a different threat came Thursday, an e-mail threatening the lives of the people who worship at the synagogue.

The Rabbi of Bat Yam Temple Islands told Fox 4's Briana Brownleethat around 600 Jewish congregations around the nation received the same threat.

"About 8:30 a.m., we were one of 25 congregations in Florida that received similar email threats; basically, we want you all dead," said Rabbi Sunny Schenitzeer. "Antisemitism has always been with us, but with the recent war between Israel and Hamas and Gaza, things have blown up."

He provided the email that was sent; it reads:

I placed multiple explosives inside of your synagogue. The explosives are well hidden, and they will go off in a few hours. I will make sure you all end up dead.

Bomb threat email

"Something has happened in this country that it's suddenly okay to act out on this hatred, and that's a shift in our American society," Rabbi Schenitzeer said. "It's a great danger to everyone, because we learned from World War II that when they come for the Jews, they come for others as well."

The Rabbi said a shift needs to happen, but people must speak up if they hear or read anything anti-Semitic.

"These remarks aren't acceptable, and they are dangerous, because there are people that we sadly know who will act out on their hate."

FBI Tampa provided the following statement about the threat:

The FBI is aware of the numerous hoax incidents wherein a bomb threat at a synagogue is made. The FBI takes hoax threats very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk. While we have no information to indicate a specific and credible threat, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.
FBI Tampa

Sanibel Police said the property is also shared with the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ. After searching the building and property, the threat was deemed not credible.

“The Sanibel Police Department and our partner law enforcement agencies take these threats very seriously,” said Deputy Chief Anthony Thompson in a statement. “The threat was deemed a hoax and the scene has been cleared by the Sanibel Police Department.”