Massachusetts man threatened to kill Jews as antisemitic incidents rise

(RNS) — Federal authorities charged a Massachusetts man Monday (Jan. 29) with threatening to kill members of the Jewish community and bomb places of worship.

John Reardon, 59, of Millis, Massachusetts, about 32 miles southwest of Boston, was charged with one count of using a facility of interstate commerce, in this case a phone, to threaten a person or place with harm via an explosive.

According to the charging documents, Reardon called Congregation Agudas Achim, a synagogue in Attleboro, Massachusetts, last week and left a voicemail threatening to kill Jews.

“The allegations here about the series of threats Mr. Reardon made against the Jewish community are deeply disturbing and reflect the increasing torrent of antisemitism across our country and right here in Massachusetts,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement.

The charges are only the latest in a spate of antisemitic incidents this past week.

On Sunday, a prominent Washington rabbi said he was kicked out of a Lyft ride and violently attacked by the driver.

Rabbi Menachem Shemtov, the 29-year-old leader of Chabad Georgetown, told The Washington Post the Lyft driver demanded he get out of the car and then followed him on foot and punched him in the face and slapped him repeatedly with his keys. Shemtov then went to urgent care for treatment.

Various groups have reported sharp increases in both antisemitic and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

In the Massachusetts case, the FBI reported the content of the threatening voicemail in which Reardon referred to the war in Gaza and suggested Jews were committing genocide against Palestinians in Israel’s retaliation for the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

“You do realize that by supporting genocide that means it’s ok for people to commit genocide against you,” he said, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement. “End the genocide, or it is time to end Israel and all the Jews.”

After hanging up, Reardon called another local synagogue as well as a Jewish-affiliated organization, the complaint said. Reardon was arrested on Jan. 25, after the calls were made. In those calls, he suggested bombing places of worship.

The charge of using a facility of interstate commerce to threaten a person or place with harm via an explosive provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

On Friday President Biden marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day and noted an alarming rise in antisemitism after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. In November, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the rise in antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas war was a “five-alarm fire.”

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