Days after five New Hampshire synagogues were victims in a nationwide bomb threat stunt, local law enforcement leaders delivered a message to would-be criminals.
“If you threaten people, if you commit crimes, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This isn’t a game, this isn’t a joke,” said United States Attorney Jane Young. “People want to be able to worship their Creator in peace.”
Young, along with New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Timothy DeMann, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Mark Hall, and Manchester Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, spoke Tuesday at the Manchester Police Department about how they are fighting back against rising hate and, particularly, antisemitism in the Granite State.
“There is no greater priority for us than protecting the people of this state,” Formella said.
Threats targeting the New Hampshire synagogues were part of a nationwide effort to call in bomb threats at synagogues and Jewish spaces throughout the weekend. According to DeMann, the threats were not credible. The point seemed to be causing alarm among the Jewish communities.
Jews are not the only targets. There have been threats targeting a broad spectrum of people, particularly people of faith, like New Hampshire’s minority Muslim community. There is also national intelligence pointing to potential threats at upcoming holiday gatherings, especially religious services, DeMann said.
“It’s a heightened threat environment,” DeMann said.
DeMann and Formella cited the current war in Israel as one factor behind the recent surge in antisemitism. While there are known threats to Arabs and Muslims living in the United States, Formella said antisemitism is the driving force in recent weeks.
Police and FBI agents have been working with synagogues throughout the state to ensure congregants are safe. Hall said State Troopers are working with synagogues to make sure security plans are in place, and to make sure police are visible during worship times. One synagogue told him parents with children won’t come if there isn’t a police officer on duty.
Police are reaching out to Jewish communities and other minority groups to make sure they know they can call for assistance. Aldenberg said people are frightened and need to know they can rely on the police.
“We have to recognize and be aware of the fear and concern the community feels,” Aldenberg said.
Aldeberg interrupted his comments during the press conference in order to respond to a text from a Manchester rabbi.
Young is adding a civil rights prosecutor to the United States Attorney’s Office as part of the response. It is the first time New Hampshire’s federal prosecutor has had a dedicated civil rights attorney. It comes as Formella is adding three staffers to the state’s civil rights unit.
“We are really putting our money where our mouth is,” Formella said.
The bomb threats come in the wake of an attack on the Merrimack facility of Israeli-owned Elbit Systems USA, in which antisemitic protesters with the group Palestine Action US blocked access to the building, broke windows, and took flares onto the roof. Three people, all from out of state, were arrested and face charges of criminal trespass, riot, and sabotage.
Hate crime reports in New Hampshire have exploded in the last five years, going from 40 to 186 and counting for 2023. Formella wants people in the Live Free or Die state to be free to worship, love, and simply be — without fear of harassment or violence.
There is also worry that events like the weekend bomb threat hoax may not be a hoax next time. That is part of the reason Formella and the others are trying to get out in front of the trend of hate-inspired crime.
“We’re not going to wait,” Formella said. “We want to be proactive.”
Hate crime victims should not hesitate to contact local police, the FBI, or the state’s Civil Rights Unit, Formella said.