Mirowitz receives bomb threat, students and faculty cleared safely

Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in Creve Coeur received a bomb threat on Feb. 9, 2016.

Eric Berger, Staff Writer

The Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in Creve Coeur received a bomb threat Tuesday morning.  The threat was one of many made recently against Jewish day schools in the United States and Great Britain.

Mirowitz staff, faculty and students evacuated the building at 348 S. Mason Road within minutes of receiving a garbled phone call at 9:15 a.m. in which someone who sounded like a male said, “A bomb will go off.”

In an email sent to the Mirowitz community late Tuesday afternoon, school officials wrote, “We moved quickly to evacuate the building according to our crisis plan. Teachers calmly and professionally escorted students to our ‘safe house’ locations.”

Creve Coeur and St. Louis County police officers quickly arrived and use bomb-sniffing dogs to check the building. After nearly four hours of investigating, they did not find a bomb.

Whitfield School, which is across the street, was also placed on lockdown. Mirowitz is adjacent to Congregation B’nai Amoona, a conservative synagogue. 

At noon, the administration decided to cancel school because students were getting hungry. The police had initially advised them not to cancel school because they wanted to keep the area clear of traffic, according to Patty Bloom, the school’s director of marketing.

Faculty members at the Jewish elementary and middle school had received previous training in how to handle such threats and students had completed drills.

“No one was overly anxious,” said Bloom. “None of the younger kids were anxious, and the older kids who had more info were also not all that anxious because their teachers were with them, and we let them know that their parents knew everything that was going on.” 

There have been bomb threats at other Jewish day schools around the world in the last month. Jewish schools in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Munster, Ind., and Philadelphia, Pa., also received threats Tuesday morning, according to the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri and Southern Illinois.

On Jan. 26, the Atlanta (Ga.) Jewish Academy was evacuated after receiving a phone call of a bomb threat. The next day, the same thing occurred at two Jewish day schools in Florida. And on Monday, eight Jewish schools in Great Britain received bomb threats. No bombs were found at any of the buildings.

“Jewish families in the region are understandably anxious due to an increase in anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world,” ADL regional director Karen Aroesty said in a statement.  “The capacity for these bomb threats to wreak emotional havoc, particularly for the school’s youngest students, is substantial.”

Local police will connect with other departments around the country to investigate possible connections among the different threats, Captain Jon Romas of the Creve Coeur police said. The police will temporarily increase patrols at schools and synagogues in the area.

“If anybody gets suspicious phone calls, don’t shrug if off, let us look into every one,” said Romas.

Parents at Mirowitz trusted the staff to make the right decisions, Bloom said. Younger students were told that there might be something wrong with the building and older students were given slightly more information.

“They know they can drop their kids off here, and they have a bunch of surrogate parents looking out for their children the best way we know to be possible,” she said.

One parent wrote on Facebook, “Thank you Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School staff and teachers.  A very scary day was handled extremely well with calm and excellent communication.”