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Milwaukee's Jewish Community Center Stands Strong Amid Threats

Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center

Authorities are still investigating whether an Israeli teenager was responsible for several bomb threats made against the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay in recent weeks.

The teen was arrested in connection with dozens of terror threats against other JCCs in the United States. A former journalist was charged with still more threats several weeks ago.

Here in Wisconsin, the JCC in Whitefish Bay was forced to close four times starting in late January, disrupting the lives of people who use the center, including many children who go to educational programs there.

"This has been a lot of sleepless nights for me and the leadership of the JCC since January 31st," says Mark Shaprio, president and CEO of the local JCC. 

"At some point it's not specifically about the threat. It's about trying to again focus on living life the way we want to live, running the community center that we want to run, and understanding the impact that it has on people," he says. "The threat isn't the only thing that has an impact on people, the response to it does also." 

Shapiro says that while this has been a trying time for the JCC, he's very proud of the way the staff and the community have responded. They have been working with law enforcement as the threats have come in, deciding the best course of action, which has sometimes meant evacuating the center. 

"Everyone has stepped up to the plate and really done what we need to do to keep the JCC as safe as it can be," says Shapiro. 

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Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM January 2016 as a producer for Lake Effect.