Jewish Groups Condemn New Zealand Mosque Shooting, Call for 'Unity Against Evil'

Several U.S.-based organizations react to deadly incident, with Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish organization, calling it 'not a crime against Muslims alone, but against humanity'

Police cordon off the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.
AFP

NEW YORK — U.S. Jewish organizations condemned the mass shootings during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques in the country's worst ever mass shooting, which killed 50 people earlier that day. 

The American Jewish Committee said it was "appalled by the murderous assaults," calling the attackers “racist individuals imbued with pure hatred of Muslims.

"The answer must be unity, solidarity, and linked arms against evil," the statement added. 

Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish organization, called the attack a "horrific act," saying it "is not a crime against Muslims alone, but against humanity."

U.S.-based Interfaith Alliance said "the violent hatred against Muslims and immigrants" in New Zealand is the same as the hatred in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October, which claimed the lives of 11 worshippers. 

"Islamophobia is a deadly problem that must be addressed directly," Interfaith Alliance said, emphasizing that this is "not a Muslim problem" and that "proponents of white nationalism and supremacy aggressively tie anti-Muslim bigotry to anti-Semitism."

Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said that following the shooting, synagogues in New Zealand were closed on Shabbat for the first time ever. "The Jewish Agency and the NZ Jewish Council stand in solidarity with the bereaved families. We are united in fighting violent hatred and racism," Herzog tweeted. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the attack as terrorism, and said it was "one of New Zealand's darkest days."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the shooting, writing that "Israel mourns the wanton murder of innocent worshippers," and sent "condolences to the bereaved families and its heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded."

A gunman used Facebook to broadcast live footage of the attack on a mosque in Christchurch, mirroring the carnage played out in video games, after publishing a "manifesto" in which he denounced immigrants.

Ambulance staff take a man from outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019.
Mark Baker,AP

New Zealand was placed on its highest security threat level, Ardern said, adding that four people in police custody — three men and one woman — held extremist views but had not been on any police watchlists. 

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 50 people had been killed at two mosques and one man in his late 20s charged with murder