September 17, 2023
Dear Members of the HWS Community,
I write to you today with a heavy heart and to provide an update on a situation that occurred on campus today.
Earlier this morning, there was a bomb threat sent to Geneva’s Temple Beth-El located on South Main Street. Campus Safety, the Geneva Police Department and Ontario County Sheriff’s Department investigated and, for some time this morning, there was a heavy police presence in the area. Out of an abundance of caution, we evacuated the Abbe Center for Jewish Life. Both Temple Beth-El and the Abbe Center were investigated by a special bomb team, including a canine unit. The result is that the threat was deemed to be a hoax and that there is no danger to the community at this time. It is my understanding that this threat is identical to hoaxes that have been seen nationwide, and as in those cases, there is no immediate information to identify the culprit. The threat came during the last day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish celebration of the New Year marking the beginning of a month-long series of holy days.
I just returned from the area and can report that our students are experiencing a wide range of reactions. Chaplain Nita Byrd, Rabbi Ann Landowne and Vice President Becca Barile joined me there to offer support. The Colleges will continue to make certain that those students directly impacted have the resources and services they need.
This is perhaps the most insidious and infuriating aspect of a threat like this – that someone can hide behind a veil of anonymity to create chaos and fear. And that this threat was made at the beginning of the Jewish New Year – a time of celebration and new beginnings – is especially appalling.
We often say that Geneva is a microcosm of the world at large, a community at an actionable scale that allows all of us to make change happen. In a situation like this one, the best way to do that is to demonstrate our solidarity with one another and to fight against bigotry, hatred and bias. By gathering together – in our classrooms, in lectures, in symposia, in clubs and organizations, at religious services, at Shabbat dinners – we can continue to create community as we also lean on one another for support and solace. Quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Chaplain Byrd frequently reminds us that what affects one of us, affects all of us.
To those members of the Hobart and William Smith community who are Jewish, please know that we stand with you.
In situations like this one, I am comforted by the fact that there are a number of resources available to students, faculty and staff:
- Counselors from the Counseling Center, located at 91 St. Clair St., are available for drop-in appointments today by calling Campus Safety at 315-781-3000 and asking to speak with the Counseling Center.
- Crisis Counselors are also available 24 hours a day by calling 315-781-3388 and choosing option 1.
- The Chaplain and Dean for Spiritual Engagement, the Rev. Nita Byrd, is available by calling (315) 781-4637 or via email at Byrd@hws.edu.
- Rabbi Dr. Ann Landowne, the Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel Adviser, can be reached by calling (315) 679-6924 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Office of Student Engagement, located in Scandling Center, will be open for students from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. today.
- The Hobart Deans, the William Smith Deans and the Office of Campus Life, located in Smith Hall, are also available for students who want to talk.
- The Employee Assistance Program provides faculty and staff with immediate and free access to mental health professionals by calling (800) 327-2255.
We are grateful for the quick and professional response of Campus Life, Campus Safety, the Geneva Police Department and the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department.
Mark D. Gearan