The brutal shooting of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night has stunned Charleston’s Jewish community.
“We’re always on alert when there’s a hate act,” said Judi Corsaro, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Charleston, South Carolina, adding that there was very little reason for the Jewish community to suspect a rise in anti-Semitism. Last night, she said, was “an isolated incident” and “a horrible shock to us all.”
Corsaro stressed the importance of solidarity and prayer for those affected by the murders. The Jewish community will join a vigil at noon at Morris Brown AME Church, she said.
The gunman, identified by the FBI as 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, is reportedly in custody.
Charleston’s chief of police, Greg Mullen, called the incident a “hate crime.” His team worked with the F.B.I to identify the suspect.
Roof allegedly opened fire on nine people attending a prayer meeting at the historic African-American Church. Among the dead is Rev. Clementa Pinckney, also a state senator.
A survivor from inside the church reported that Roof said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
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.”
“Our prayers go out to the victims, their families, and the members of their congregation and community,” they added. “We hope they can find some measure of strength and comfort in the support of the countless people around the U.S. and the world whose thoughts are with them today.”
The Jewish Federations of North America said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the entire Charleston community today,” in a statement, and hoped that “their memories be for a blessing.”
Likewise, the Rabbinical Assembly is “horrified by the brutal attack” and called it “a true act of evil.”
The Orthodox Union said the hate crime “has no place anywhere in the world” and offered their deepest condolences to those affected by the tragedy.