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After arson threat, Jewish center remains ‘open and welcoming’

An apparent arson threat against Yale’s Jewish center has produced extra security measures but no raising of the drawbridge.

“We are planning to proceed with all scheduled services and events . . . including programming for the Shavuot holiday, Senior Week, Commencement and Alumni Reunions,” says an e-mail from senior staff and the board chair at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life. “The Slifka Center prides itself on being an open and welcoming environment for all members of the Yale community. This will continue unchanged.”

University Vice President Linda Lorimer ’77JD revealed the arson threat last night in an e-mail to the entire Yale community. She reported that graffiti, discovered on April 22 in a bathroom at the Sterling Chemistry on Prospect Street, “appeared to threaten arson at the Slifka Center on May 16.”

“The University immediately began an investigation, reached out to the FBI and New Haven Police, and stepped up security in the area around the Center,” Lorimer's message said. “The Slifka Center also has taken extra security precautions. In addition to working with law enforcement agencies, we have been working closely with the Board and staff at the Slifka Center, and have consulted with the Connecticut Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League.”

Her message did not report the exact content of the graffiti or explain why the university waited three weeks to reveal the threat publicly.

May 16 is the second day of the Jewish festival of Shavuot. It’s not clear whether the threat was connected with that holiday or any other significant date.

The Slifka Center, on Wall Street across from Silliman College, is a gathering place not only for Jewish students (and their non-Jewish friends) and faculty, but also for Jews throughout greater New Haven, who come for cultural, educational, and religious events.

In an e-mail this morning to Slifka alumni and friends, the center wrote: “Both the University and the Slifka Center are taking appropriate steps to protect the safety of our students and community members. The Yale Police have conducted a security audit of our facility and their recommendations are being implemented. Additional security in and around the building has been added.”

The message to alumni—signed by board chair David Slifka ’01, interim executive director David Raphael, and Rabbi and Jewish Chaplain James Ponet ’68—emphasizes that the Slifka Center is “deeply grateful for the assistance provided” by “a variety of partners” and for the “remarkable demonstration of support and solidarity from all quarters of the Yale and Jewish communities” since Lorimer revealed the threat yesterday evening.

“Difficult times can serve to remind us of our many blessings,” the message says. “Slifka Center is fortunate to be a vibrant hub of Jewish and interfaith life within a welcoming community, in which incidents such as this one are very rare.”

Filed under Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life, threats
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