Jewish community leaders called for redoubled action against anti-Semitism and other forms of hate as officials in the US and Israel reeled following a shooting a California synagogue on the last day of Passover Saturday.
“THIS MUST STOP. We are heartbroken — and appalled and outraged,” the Tree of Life synagogue on Pittsburgh said in a statement Saturday, hours after a gunman opened fire on a Chabad center in Poway, California, in a horrifying repeat of a deadly massacre that struck the Pennsylvania house of worship exactly six months earlier.
“We know first-hand the fear, anguish and healing process such an atrocity causes, and our hearts are with the afflicted San Diego families and their congregation. … These senseless acts of violence and prejudice must end. Enough is enough.”
One person was killed and three others were wounded in the shooting at the Poway synagogue, authorities said Saturday. The suspect, named as John Earnest, was arrest and was being questioned by police.
The Anti-Defamation League said the shooting was a “reminder of the enduring virulence of anti-Semitism. It must serve as a call to action for us as a society to deal once and for all with this hate.”
“People of all faiths should not have to live in fear of going to their house of worship. From Charleston to Pittsburgh to Oak Creek and from Christchurch to Sri Lanka, and now Poway, we need to say ‘enough is enough.’”
Speaking to supporters at a rally in Wisconsin, US President Donald Trump said “America’s heart is with the victims of the horrific synagogue shooting in California, just happened.”
“Our entire nation mourns the loss of life, prays for the wounded and stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate which must be defeated.”
Michael Masters of the Secure Community Network,which helps Jewish community centers protect themselves, said the group was monitoring the situation.
“We remind synagogues and Jewish facilities everywhere that we must take steps to prevent and protect against attacks,” he said in a statement, according to the LA Times. “Today’s shooting is a sad reminder that the need has not gone away.”
Police did not give a motive but several officials, including Poway mayor Steve Vaus and Trump said the shooting was likely a hate crime. An anti-Semitism-filled manifesto widely cited to the shooter was posted online hours before the attack.
“Moving forward this must serve as yet another wake-up call that antisemitism is a growing and deadly menace,” said Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the National Holocaust Memorial Museum, in a statement. “The Holocaust is a reminder of the dangers of unchecked antisemitism and the way hate can infect a society. All Americans must unequivocally condemn it and confront it in wherever it appears.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles said in a statement that the shooting was “a horrific reminder that the flames of hatred still burn strong among some.”
“An attack, on any house of worship, from churches in Sri Lanka and France to synagogues in Jerusalem or Pittsburgh to mosques in Christchurch, are an assault on human dignity and our rights as people of faith to pray to God,” it added.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the Los Angeles consul and told him to offer support to the Chabad as needed.
Outgoing Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett said he was closely watching the situation and thanked law enforcement for their speedy response.
“Let all who wish the Jewish people harm understand: we are a strong people and we are a united people and we will never be defeated by hatred. The people of Israel stand side by side with our brothers and sisters in America, and with all the American people against this and all forms of terror,” he said in a statement.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon appeared to link the attack to an anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the New York Times international edition over the weekend showing Trump and Netanyahu.
“The words, the demonstrators and the cartoons turn into shootings against worshipers in synagogue,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile politicians on both sides of the aisle in the US forcefully condemned the shooting.
“We reaffirm our commitment to combating the anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and gun violence that has plagued our communities, places of worship, and schools. We urge our public officials to immediately take action to prevent incidents like this in the future and ensure our community is secure. No one should pray in fear,” Jewish Democratic Council head Haile Soifer said in a statement.
“Violence, especially violence born out of religious hate has no place in our society,” Norm Coleman of the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement. “The RJC strongly condemns anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry wherever it raises its head.”
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter that “We all stand with the Jewish community against this act of hate.”
“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship, and no one should be targeted for practicing the tenets of their faith,” California Gov. Gavin Newsome said in a statement.
Several contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination also spoke out.
“This Shabbat brings another deadly attack on Jews, at worship, on American soil. Whenever anyone comes to harm because of their faith, we are all diminished. We cannot rest until hate has no home,” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said in a tweet.
“We must work every day to eradicate all forms of hatred and bigotry, and take serious action to protect Americans from gun violence,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish.
Members of the community described it as a tight-knit place known for being safe and open to those of other faiths. In December, dozens of Poway residents gathered for a vigil after a home with Hanukkah decorations was defaced with a swastika.
“I want you to know this is not Poway,” the mayor told reporters Saturday. “The Poway I know comes together as we did just a few weeks ago, at an interfaith event.”
“We always walk with our arms around each other, and we will walk through this tragedy with our arms around each other.”
Minoo Anvari, a member of the synagogue, told media outlets that her husband was inside during the shooting. She said he called to tell her the shooter was shouting and cursing.
She called the shooting “unbelievable” in a peaceful and tight-knit community.
“We are strong; you can’t break us,” Anvari said.