Jewish institutions in South Carolina and around the country rushed to condemn the brutal shooting of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday night.
Eight were found dead at the scene, and a ninth victim died later. Among those killed was the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.
The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ said in a statement that it stands with the Charleston community and the church’s congregants “as they confront the most horrific of acts – the hateful slaughter of nine in a holy sanctuary.”
“This horrible act reminds us of the ugly currents of racism that still run deep in our society,” the statement read. “We must address hatred directly and justly.”
The gunman, identified by the FBI as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, allegedly opened fire on nine people attending a prayer meeting at the historic African-American Church.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement expressing “horror and profound sorrow” at the killings.
“The shooting rampage at Emanuel AME Church evokes memories of the bombing that killing four black schoolgirls at a church in Birmingham, Alabama more than 50 years ago,” wrote ADL national director Abraham Foxman and southeast regional director Mark Moskowitz. “That tragedy was a wake-up call for all of us, and this one should be too.”
The NJ State Association of Jewish Federations joined with ADL and its Jewish and faith-based community partners in condemning the crime. “We stand together in voicing support for the grieving families of the victims and for the parishioners,” wrote Jac Toporeck, the association’s executive director. “We must act collectively against hate and intolerance, for whatever reason, directed at all people.”
Chris Rodriguez, executive director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, wrote to faith-based and other groups saying his office is working closely with its federal, state, and local partners “and will continue to monitor the situation.” South Carolina authorities, the FBI, and the ATF are investigating the incident, and the Department of Justice has opened a hate crime investigation into the shooting.
Reports quoting an uncle of Roof said the alleged shooter had received a gun as a birthday present in April. Roof has previous charges for narcotics and trespassing. A prayer vigil was planned for noon at the Morris Brown AME church in Charleston in response to the shooting.
Representatives of the Jewish Federation of Charleston planned to attend the vigil.
“We’re always on alert when there’s a hate act,” said Judi Corsaro, CEO of the federation, told the Forward. The shooting, she said, was “an isolated incident” and “a horrible shock to us all.”