Following shootings at Kansas Jewish institutions earlier Sunday that left three dead, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio said the New York Police department was taking steps to ensure the safety of possible Jewish targets.
“The NYPD is taking all steps to ensure the safety and security of Jewish individuals and institutions as Passover is being ushered in,” the mayor said in a statement.
The fatal shootings took place at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and nearby assisted living center, Village Shalom. A 71 year old suspect carrying multiple firearms has been detained and the FBI is on the scene.
While according to multiple reports the suspect shouted “Heil Hitler” as he was detained, and a chaplain with the Overland Park Police Department said that the shooter specifically targeted Jews, asking his victims about their religion before shooting them, police have said it is too early to say if the murders were motivated by hate.
De Blasio also expressed his sympathies to the families of the victims. “On behalf of New York City, we’d like to offer condolences as well as our thoughts and prayers to the victims of the tragic incident this afternoon in the greater Kansas City area, as well as their families and the entire Jewish community,” he said.
Jewish human rights group, the Anti-Defamation League called the attacks “unspeakable” and “heinous” and called on the public not to draw any conclusions until authorities have released the results of the ongoing investigation.
“The attacks on the Jewish community centers in Overland Park are a cowardly, unspeakable and heinous act of violence,” said Karen Aroesty, ADL St. Louis Regional Director. “While it is too early to label these shootings as a hate crime, the fact that two Jewish institutions were targeted by the same individual just prior to the start of the Passover holiday is deeply troubling and certainly gives us pause. We have reached out to local, state and federal law enforcement and stand willing and able to offer guidance and assistance to the community if this incident turns out to have been motivated by anti-Semitism.”
Last week, the ADL said it sent out a security bulletin to Jewish community institutions across the country warning of the increased potential for violent attacks against community centers in the coming weeks, which coincide both with the Passover holiday and Hitler’s birthday on April 20.
“ADL is not aware of any additional threat to Jewish institutions at this time,” said Ms. Aroesty. “Nevertheless, it is appropriate for Jewish institutions to make sure that all of their security measures are in place and in good working order.”
American Jewish Committee head David Harris said, “Our hearts go out to the victims of this heartbreaking tragedy.”
“As we await more details on the attack and its motive, we join in solidarity with the entire Kansas City area community, both Jewish and non-Jewish, in expressing shock, sadness and dismay,” Harris added. “We can’t help but note that this attack comes on the eve of Passover, a celebration of Jewish freedom from oppression and violence.”
The leadership of B’nai B’rith International also expressed condolences to “the victims, families and entire Jewish community in the Kansas City area.”
The group seemed more willing to peg hatred as the likely motivation behind the attack.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time there has been a shooting at a Jewish Community Center. Comments attributed to the shooter after police had him in custody demonstrate a blind hatred toward Jews,” B’nai B’rith said.