A synagogue in South Portland was one of several across Maine and the nation that received bomb threats Sunday.

Rabbi Jared Saks said in a telephone interview that a bomb threat was emailed Sunday morning to Congregation Bet Ha’am and that South Portland police determined it to be a hoax.

Other similar threats were received at the Beth Israel Congregation in Bath and Temple Beth El in Augusta, according to Saks.

“It has been part of a spike in threats that we have seen in the past few days,” Saks said. “The threats are something we’ve been seeing for quite awhile, but certainly more after Oct. 7 (the day that Hamas attacked Israel).”

In South Portland, the email was received around 8:30 a.m., just about the time the Congregation Bet Ha’am was opening for Sunday school. A number of staff members got the same email, prompting congregation members to contact South Portland police, Saks said.

No one was allowed in the building while officers took about 45 minutes to sweep the synagogue and determine there were no bombs inside, Saks said. Classes and services resumed after the sweep was completed.


South Portland police Chief Daniel Ahern confirmed Sunday night that his department investigated the threat and deemed it not to be credible.

In Augusta, state police responded to Temple Beth El with a bomb-sniffing dog to determine there was no threat to that synagogue.

Rabbi Erica Asch said the congregation was evacuated for several hours and Hebrew school was canceled.

“The police were wonderful and professional,” Asch said. “Our teachers and students were very calm in evacuating the building, and everything worked in the way that it should when we have these sorts of threats.

“This doesn’t define who we are and how we go about in the world. It’s something we have to learn to deal with in the midst of all the other really important things that we do in the community.”

The Maine Council of Churches in a statement Monday morning condemned the bomb threats and “the anti-Semitic rhetoric that has fueled such acts.”


“We stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters because we believe an attack on one because of their religion is an attack on all of us,” the statement read.

Local news outlets elsewhere in the U.S. reported that bomb threats were received Sunday at a synagogue in East Lansing, Michigan, and at a congregation in Jackson, Mississippi. Bomb threats were also made Saturday to several Jewish synagogues in Boulder, Colorado.

The Anti-Defamation League posted a statement on its Facebook page Sunday evening that said it is continuing to work with law enforcement on several reported email bomb threats against Jewish institutions across the country. The ADL said most of the threats were made Sunday.

In a news release on Dec. 11, the ADL Center on Extremism reported it has tracked 2,031 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. since Oct 7 – the highest number of incidents during any two-month period in more than 40 years since ADL began tracking such incidents in 1979.

“The lid to the sewers is off, and Jewish communities all across the country are being inundated with hate. Public officials and college leaders must turn down the temperature and take clear action to show this behavior is unacceptable to prevent more violence,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO, said in statement released Dec. 11.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Jessica Lowell contributed to this story.

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