Jewish Groups Mobilizing To Support New Zealand

Jewish community members and leaders worldwide are expressing their support for the Muslim community of New Zealand after a white-supremacist murdered 49 worshippers in two mosques in the city of Christchurch on Friday morning.

“Murder of people at prayer, in their most holy and sacred place, is a depraved and despicable act,” said Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, on Twitter. “For people of all religions and of none, a red line has been crossed.”

The perpetrator, a 28-year-old Australian, published a 73-page fascist and anti-immigration manifesto on social media shortly before the attack, streaming the first 17 minutes live in a Facebook video that was widely shared. Half an hour later he was in police custody. Roughly 48 people, including children, are still being treated for gunshot wounds, according to the New York Times.

The terror attack has resonated with the American Jewish community, which in October was in disbelief over a Shabbat morning attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A white-supremacist was similarly responsible, murdering 11 worshippers because of anti-immigration views.

In solidarity after the Christchurch attack, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh organized a fundraiser to support New Zealand’s Muslim community. Another fundraiser was started on Facebook by a profile named Rachel S-mile, raising more than $100,000 as of noon on Monday from more than 3,200 Facebook users.

“Our Muslim family must know that they are not alone,” S-mile wrote in the fundraiser description. “We are here to support and show up with strength against this violent display of racism and white nationalism.”

In a statement, Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, condemned the attacks. He also offered JCRC’s director of community security, Dan Plekkenpol, the former deputy chief of the Plymouth Police Department, as a resource to Minnesota’s Muslim community.

“These anti-Islamic terror attacks, apparently perpetrated by a self-described anti-immigrant, fascist, white-supremacist, demand that we redouble our efforts to fight hate in every corner of the world and with every means,” Hunegs said. “The Muslim community is an integral part of our diverse and democratic society. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors.”

The Australian terrorist’s use of social media is also reigniting a conversation about the global influence of white-supremacist rhetoric, and how companies like Facebook and YouTube enable the spread of that influence.

The Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish organization that fights discrimination and hate, weighed in with heavy words.

“This attack underscores a trend that the ADL has been tracking: that modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, in a press release.

“The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world. Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.”

The ADL press release added: “As has become a pattern with white supremacist violence, the shooter not only meticulously planned the attack, but also designed it for social media, even live streaming it on Facebook.

“The fact that his video is still accessible on several social media websites is a reminder that these platforms need to do more to stem the flow of hateful messages and memes on their platforms, especially white supremacist memes targeting Muslims, Jews and other minorities.”