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October 27, 2018 6:32 pm

American Jewish Groups Vow to Fight Antisemitism Following ‘Deadliest Attack on Jews in US History’

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The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Photo: Reuters / John Altdorfer.

As Jews across the US registered their shock at Saturday morning’s shooting massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh by a gun-wielding assailant, communal organizations emphasized the need to confront the antisemitic hatred behind the crime.

In a statement issued on Saturday afternoon, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt observed, “It is simply unconscionable for Jews to be targeted during worship on a Sabbath morning, and unthinkable that it would happen in the United States of America in this day and age.”

“Our hearts break for the families of those killed and injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue, and for the entire Jewish community of Pittsburgh,” Greenblatt said.

The ADL chief added: “We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States. We are actively engaged with law enforcement to support their investigation and call on authorities to investigate this as a hate crime.”

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Greenblatt noted that the massacre at the Shabbat morning service — in which 11 people were murdered and several more were wounded by gunman Robert Bowers, whose social media profile has revealed him as a white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer —  “occurs at a time when ADL has reported a historic increase in both antisemitic incidents and antisemitic online harassment.”

“As we mourn those lost and search for answers, ADL will remain steadfast in its mission to fight anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it may occur,” Greenblatt pledged.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said his organization was “shocked and horrified by the heinous act of terror that unfolded this morning at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh.”

“We commend the Pittsburgh police department for responding so quickly to this terrifying situation and preventing further casualties, and for effectively apprehending the assailant,” Lauder said. He added that Saturday’s atrocity was “an attack not just on the Jewish community, but on America as a whole.”

“We must condemn this attack at the highest levels and do everything in our power to stop such atrocities from happening again,” Lauder said.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center called on President Donald Trump to “immediately convene an emergency meeting of religious leaders to help stop the slide to extremism in American Society.” 

The group’s Dean and Founder Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Abraham Cooper said in a statement, “We are sickened by this horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s historic Jewish neighborhood. … Americans need and want leadership from both sides of the political aisle to stop the continuous slide to the brink.”

Other leading Jewish and pro-Israel groups responded in similar fashion. In a statement on its website, the American Jewish Committee said it “was heartbroken and outraged by the antisemitic attack in Pittsburgh.”

The Republican Jewish Committee (RJC) condemned what it called a “senseless act of antisemitic violence.”

“There is no place in our society for violence against innocent people, especially violence motivated by race, religion, or sex,” RJC Chairman Norm Coleman declared in a statement. “The level of hate in this country is out of control. Today we mourn the dead and stand in awe of the men and women who ran toward the gun fire to help the victims and stop the perpetrator. In the days ahead, we all must come together to combat this epidemic of hate. From the left, the right, and all other corners of our political spectrum, we must come together to find a better path forward.”

The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) said in a statement, “The targeting of innocent victims in any place of worship is utterly unconscionable, and it is clear that congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue were targeted simply because they were Jews…The Jewish Democratic Council of America is more determined than ever to not let acts of anti-Semitism and terror threaten our democracy, and to end the scourge of gun violence that has plagued our country. No religious or minority group should live in fear, and it is incumbent on President Trump to ensure a culture of tolerance in our country.”

Joshua Block — CEO of The Israel Project, a Washington, DC-based advocacy organization — said that the attack was a reminder that antisemitism in the United States can no longer be ignored.

“Today is a very sad day for all of America,” Block said. “Fighting antisemitism is not the responsibility of the Jewish community alone. Fighting antisemitism is a responsibility for society at large.”

In a statement on its Twitter account, B’nai B’rith International (BBI) spoke of its  horror at “the murders of worshippers this morning at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.”

“The depth of our grief is immeasurable,” the statement continued. “We are living in a toxic atmosphere of hate that seems endless.”

The BBI statement concluded: “Politicians’ thoughts and prayers when murderous rages of hate occur are not enough. Tolerance, acceptance and sensible gun control are needed now.”

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