Honolulu police determined there were no explosives in the Temple Emanu-­El in Nuuanu but will increase security, officials said.

The state Attorney General’s Office and the FBI will investigate an email claiming that explosives had been placed in Jewish synagogues across Hawaii, Gov. Josh Green said.

Temple Emanu-El in Nuuanu contacted the Honolulu Police Department and the FBI after staff members received the email on Saturday, according to Deborah Zysman, vice president of the board of trustees. 

“HPD came and did a walk-through of the facility to see if there was any kind of explosives and they did not find anything,” she said.

A worker uses a power washer to remove antisemitic graffiti from the wall outside Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu in Honolulu on Saturday. (Allan Kew/Civil Beat/2023)

“It was unfortunately some threatening emails, but it does not appear that it was anything more than that,” she said. “It unfortunately shows that Hawaii is not immune from the rise in antisemitism that we have seen around the world. But we are also very confident that it does not reflect the views of our larger community.”

She noted it was unclear who sent the email and if it may have been from outside Hawaii.

The email came through on the same day that a swastika and Star of David were spray painted on Leonard’s Bakery’s flagship store on Kapahulu Bakery in Waikiki. On Saturday morning, a worker was spraying bleach and trying to power wash it off the building. The bakery’s manager couldn’t be reached for comment.

Zysman said the synagogue has already increased security over the past several years and didn’t plan to cancel any events since HPD had cleared the facility. “We will proceed as normal,” she said.

“We do take the threat very seriously,” she said. “We really appreciate how responsive the law enforcement were. They came and made sure our building was safe.”

A copy of the email that was shared with Civil Beat appeared to have been sent to several Jewish leaders and synagogues in Hawaii, with the subject line “Explosives in your synagogue but also in every Synagogue from Hawaii.”

It said the explosives were well-hidden and would go off in a few hours, adding the recipients would die and deserved to suffer. 

It didn’t give other details, but there has been an increase in threats and antisemitic rhetoric nationwide since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7.

Other people and institutions on the list didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi said the temple’s rabbi had contacted his office about the threat and the police had determined there were no explosives at Temple Emanu-­El but asked for a greater police presence during upcoming events. 

Blangiardi said that would be provided but also appealed to the community to raise awareness about security. He noted that the Honolulu Marathon was scheduled for Sunday and police resources would be tied up with that as well.

“I’m hoping that there’s nothing to this,” he said of the emailed threat. “But like anything we’re going to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

“We’re going to take these threats most seriously and do everything that we possibly can, but we have finite resources so we need everybody to be on alert,” Blangiardi added.

HPD didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Green said such threats won’t be tolerated. “I’ve instructed our Attorney General and the FBI to look into these threats, and they have enlisted our local law enforcement as well,” he said in a brief statement. “My administration won’t tolerate threats or hate speech in our state against anyone, and anyone who makes such threats and behaves in this way will be prosecuted fully and likely go to jail.”

Civil Beat reporters Stewart Yerton and Allan Kew contributed to this report.

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