FBI Director Chris Wray vows to act against anti-Semitism at ADL conference

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NEW YORK — An 18-year-old New Jersey man has been arrested and charged with using social media to post a manifesto containing threats to attack a synagogue and the state’s Jewish people, authorities announced Thursday.

The threats last week prompted the FBI office in Newark to issue a unusual warning on Twitter urging Jewish leaders to take security measures to protect their communities. New Jersey law enforcement officials said the following day that they had identified a suspect and the individual no longer posed a threat.

On Thursday, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office said Omar Alkattoul was charged with one count of transmitting threat in interstate and foreign commerce. Alkattoul reportedly wrote in the manifesto that he targeted Jews because they “promote the utmost hatred against Muslims,” which is the Arabic word for Muslims.

As the Justice Department announced the arrest, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray was at a conference in New York, decrying a recent spate of anti-Semitic acts across the country and saying the federal agency charged with of law enforcement “responds head-on” to national authorities. and foreign threats to American Jews.

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Wray addressed more than 1,000 people at the “Never Is Now” summit organized by the Anti-Defamation League, an organization created to combat anti-Semitism and extremism that has tracked anti-Semitic incidents since 1979. The group says anti-Semitic acts in the country have tripled in the past six years.

The FBI director, who did not mention the arrest, said Thursday morning that “Jews continue to face repeated violence and very real threats.”

“We at the FBI see — up close, day in and day out — the actions that hate drives,” Wray said.

To combat the increase in incidents, Wray said, the FBI sent more agents and analysts to work on hate crimes cases across the country. In 2019, the FBI created the Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell, which addresses the intersection of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

Sixty-three percent of religious hate crimes in the country target Jews, who make up 2.4% of the U.S. population, Wray said.

His speech cited several attacks on Jews that have occurred since Wray took over the FBI in 2017, including a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 that left 11 people dead.

“There are too many grim examples to choose from,” he said, citing a synagogue shooting near San Diego that killed one worshiper and injured three others in 2019. Earlier this year, noted Wray, a man took congregants hostage at a Texas synagogue, apparently motivated by his anger over the U.S.’s imprisonment of a Pakistani woman being held in Fort Worth federal prison for attempting to kill American soldiers.

“It demonstrates the tragic reality that the Jewish community uniquely finds itself receiving hate-fueled attacks from all sides,” Wray said. “And I would venture to say that no community feels more threatened by this boiling in violence than yours.”

The Anti-Defamation League holds training at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for all new FBI special agents and intelligence analysts, Wray told the group. He said officers and analysts learn about how widespread anti-Semitism is and about people’s “willingness to turn hate into action.”

Wray’s speech kicked off a day-long summit on anti-Semitism at the Javits Center in New York. Other speakers included actor David Schwimmer and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

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