El Paso and Ohio shootings: Jewish leaders ‘shocked’ and ‘heartbroken’

ADL says documented increase in extremist activity both online and offline in the United States.

A police officer stands next to a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso (photo credit: JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ/REUTERS)
A police officer stands next to a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso
Shocked and heartbroken were the words used by Jewish leaders around the world on Sunday as news circulated of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“Our hearts and our profound condolences go out to the families of those who have lost their lives, and we pray for a quick recovery of those injured,” the Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso wrote early Sunday in a statement.
Federation leaders said they were “shocked and heartbroken that the irrational and devastating plague of violence sweeping this country has arrived at the door of our traditionally peaceful and congenial homes,” but commended local, state and federal law enforcement for their reportedly “quick and decisive response.”
They likewise announced that an interfaith community vigil would take place on Sunday night.
On Saturday, the alleged shooter, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, drove from his suburban Allen, Texas, home to El Paso, where he – having previously posted a racist tirade on 8chan – he opened fire at a Walmart shopping center, killing 20 people.
“Yet again, we turn our thoughts and prayers to a community grieving after another mass shooting potentially motivated by hate and extremism,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “But thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. We have documented a rise in extremist activity, both online and in our communities – as with too many of these incidents.”
He said that ADL experts have again been reviewing the apparent manifesto of alleged shooter Crusisu, as well as other elements of his online footprint, to evaluate potential extremist ties, and have also reached out to law enforcement to provide expert analysis and support.
The organization said that if the suspect is the author of the manifesto, this latest act of domestic terrorism will be, according to records of its Center on Extremism, the third deadliest act of violence by a domestic extremist in more than 50 years and the second deadliest act of violence by a right-wing extremist in the same span, second only to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“Carnage is validated and celebrated on social media platforms like 8chan,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote in a statement on Sunday, referring to the alleged manifesto.
“They demonize minorities, Jews and immigrants before deadly shootings from Pittsburgh to New Zealand to Poway. Those cheering hate, racism and antisemitism 24/7 must be stopped.”
American Jewish Committee and Reform Movement leaders used the shooting attacks as a catalyst to discuss the need for stricter gun laws. AJC called for “common sense gun control now” in a short statement following the El Paso shooting.
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs also called for “strong and effective gun laws.”
Jacobs said that he had returned from El Paso just a few days prior where he joined Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and hundreds of faith leaders “for Moral Monday at the Borderlands to protest the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.”
“Now our hearts turn again to El Paso, in the face of this slaughter of innocents by a gunman who authorities say was inspired by anti-immigrant rhetoric,” he wrote in a statement. “Our hearts – indeed the hearts and prayers of all people of good conscience across the nation – are with those families,” stressing that “there is also a righteous rage that wells up in the hearts of so many of us, as we call on responsible leaders of our nation to act decisively to address the growing epidemic of hate that too often is manifested in America’s plague of mass shootings.”
Jacobs made it clear that it’s “not enough for elected officials to muster their ‘thoughts and prayers.’
“Like millions of Americans, I’m sick of the pathetic excuses offered by too many lawmakers for not passing strong and effective common-sense gun laws,” he said. “And if we are to call on the leaders of our nation to address this epidemic of hate – a goal that, hopefully, almost all Americans cherish – we must ask: When will this [US] President [Donald Trump] stop demonizing asylum seekers and immigrants, which serves to embolden those like today’s shooter?”
Leaders from the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton expressed similar sentiments to those in El Paso. They disseminated a statement that described how they “woke up this morning to the heartbreaking news regarding the shooting in Dayton’s very own Oregon District last night,” in which nine people were killed and dozens injured by a gunman dressed in body armor who opened fire in a downtown district.
Dayton police were able to respond within less than a minute of the shooting, reportedly drastically reducing the carnage, as the attacker was also killed.
“As the investigation continues, we will keep you informed regarding what we as a community can do to help the families, friends, and loved ones of those killed and injured, and to help the city heal,” the Ohio statement continued. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by this morning’s events.”
Marshall Weiss, editor and publisher of the Dayton Jewish Observer, likewise called the local police, “true heroes in the face of this horrific shooting. Because they arrived on the scene in less than a minute, they undoubtedly saved dozens, maybe even hundreds of lives,” he said.
ADL experts said they are also monitoring the mass shooting overnight in Dayton for any apparent ties to extremism.