Metro Detroit Synagogue Bomb Threat Believed to be a 'Cruel Hoax'

Originally published: The Detroit News

A synagogue in Farmington Hills on Friday said it received a bomb threat that turned out to be a hoax, according to an email sent to members of Temple Adat Shalom.

According to the email from Rabbi Aaron Bergman, the synagogue's office received a call from an out-of-state area code about 3 p.m. Friday. The caller reportedly claimed to have planted a pipe bomb at the synagogue.

The building at 29901 Middlebelt Road was evacuated "without incident," Bergman said, and no bombs were found by police or police dogs that swept the site.

The incident appears to be "a cruel hoax designed to terrorize our communities," Bergman wrote. 

Farmington Hills police confirmed to The Detroit News the department responded to a bomb threat at the synagogue Friday and expect to release more information Monday.

The incident followed the conclusion Thursday of Purim, a celebratory Jewish holiday commemorating the survival of Jews in the ancient Persian empire from a plot to kill them.

"Purim reminds us to always be strong and never give up who we are," Bergman said in the note to the congregation. "It was true for our ancestors. It is true for us today."

The incident occurred as U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, joined by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, visited Metro Detroit Friday to tout increased funding for a security grant program for faith-based institutions.

"When it comes to homeland security, we all want to be safe in our homes and our communities," said Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, from a conference room in the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills. "The one place you go to that you expect to be safe would be a place of worship, where you can pray and know you are safe." 

Domestic violent extremism "is the greatest terrorist threat we face on the homeland today," Mayorkas said during the Friday press conference, "and we have seen a steady, consisted growth in targeted violence."

ADL, an organization that tracks antisemitism in the U.S., recorded more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment in its most recent audit — an increase of 12% from the previous year and the highest level of antisemitic incidents since it began tracking them in 1979. 

Earlier this month, a man is accused of breaking into St. Mary Catholic Church in Royal Oak and damaging a 92-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary. Sungwon Lee, 30, a South Korean national, is charged with breaking and entering and malicious destruction of property over $1,000 in connection with the incident.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski