Jewish community reacts to the Charleston shooting

It is beyond belief that in the year 2015 we wake up to headlines reading: Nine Dead as Gunman Strikes a Black Church… Police Call Attack a Hate Crime.
June 18, 2015

Please join in the comments section below to share your thoughts.

Rabbi Sharon Brous / IKAR

It is beyond belief that in the year 2015 we wake up to headlines reading: Nine Dead as Gunman Strikes a Black Church… Police Call Attack a Hate Crime. 2015. Sixty years after Emmett Till was murdered and Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. A lifetime after Little Rock and Woolworths and Freedom Summer, after Bull Connor and Medgar Evers and the dream that awakened the conscience of our nation and reminded us the great promise of this country. Fifty-two years after four girls were murdered at 16th Street Baptist in what King called one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity, nine African Americans were murdered in church, as they came together for their weekly Wednesday night prayer service and Bible study.

There are moments that define each one of us as human beings. And there are moments that define us as a nation. Let this moment, this tragedy – a lifetime after Montgomery and Selma, less than a year after Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, one week after Dajerria Becton – let this moment define us as a nation.

    Are we a people who denies, lies and hides from the reality of the lingering effects of racism in
    this land of the free and home of the brave?

    Or are we a nation that can rise up from tragedy and collectively affirm one another’s humanity, 
    see one another’s struggle as our own? 

   Are we a nation that obfuscates and repudiates and perpetuates the devastation that comes
   from hundreds of millions of weapons of war on our streets, available to every hate-filled or
   broken-hearted person with a credit card and a grudge?

   Or will we finally now – after yet another mass shooting – stand up together and say NO  

Let this moment be the moment.

Let our collective grief and anguish bring us together as a nation, with our love and our fear, our dreams and aspirations, with a fierce and sacred hunger for change. We need to cry together and sing together. We also need to address the root causes and name the painful manifestations of racism in our society. And we need to change gun policy. It’s time.

L'shalom – with blessings of peace for Charleston, and for us all –
Rabbi Sharon Brous
PS. Send a message to the people of Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC, to let them know that they are not alone – that the Jewish community and good people everywhere reach out in solidarity with condolences and prayers for healing. Click here to send your note

David Siegel / Consul General of Israel

On behalf of the State of Israel, I wish  to convey our deepest sorrow at the tragic killing of innocent worshipers at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The people of Israel stand in solidarity and prayer with the families and loved ones of the victims, and with the people of Charleston, the State of South Carolina, and the United States at this very painful time of mourning.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley / Ohr HaTorah Synagogue and the Academy for Jewish Religion, California

My broken heart joins the heartbreak of our nation in contemplating the horror that occurred at Emanuel AME in Charleston. A young man filled with an evil and murderous hatred unleashed it on the innocent, again. We have seen this at an elementary school, at a move theater, at the Boston Marathon, and now at a most sacred center of American and African American religious life. I think of the victims and their families, and my sorrow filled heart goes out to them. I pray that the grief, love and resolve that is now filling our nation will be some measure of condolence in the midst of this horror. I pray that the commitment to God and God’s teaching, that the victims were living in their last moments of life, will be a guide for us. They would want us to continue that work, each of us in our own way. May this teaching one day conquer the hearts of hatred, and have those bent hearts bend to law of love.

Pastor “J” Edgar Boyd / First AME (FAME) Church, Los Angeles

and Rabbi Zoë Klein / Temple Isaiah

Please join us TONIGHT at 8 p.m. at First A.M.E. Church (2270 S Harvard Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018) for a prayer vigil in response to the shameful shooting in Charleston.

Isaiah and FAME have been blessed with a long-standing loving partnership for many decades. Together we are a multi-faith family devoted to serving God through social justice toward humankind. Join us.


The First AME Church Family of Los Angeles and The Jewish Faith Family at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, join with other peace-loving individuals across racial and religious lines in sharing words of comfort and solace to the families of Pastor Clementa Pinckney and the other eight women and men who were so senselessly gunned down while attending a Prayer Service at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night.

There is no earthly justification as to why this sinister and heinous act would be carried out, and in, of all places, a church during prayer time.

While the facts and other vital information about the incident are still being gathered and discovered, we encourage peace-loving people within and without institutions of faith, to reach out to God and to each other, offering prayer and consolation in wake of this senseless attack against life and liberty.

Efforts are underway to draw our communities of faith together in Los Angeles for prayer and conversation, seeking to console each other and to secure fragile racial and religious bonds across multiple communities, while we explore ways to minimize the risks of subsequent acts against life and innocent individuals.

A city-wide Prayer Vigil, including invitations to clergy persons from all faiths, will be held at First AME Church on this evening, Thursday, June 18, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. PST.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper / Simon Wiesenthal Center

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is horrified by the apparent hate crime at a historic Black Church, where nine people attending a Bible class at the Emanuel AME Church were gunned down, reportedly by a young white gunman,” Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, Associate Dean and Director of Interfaith Affairs respectively of the leading Jewish Human Rights NGO.

“We wish to express our solidarity with and deep sorrow for  the families who lost loved ones, the members of the historic Black Church and the people of Charlestown. We trust that law enforcement will do everything in its power to apprehend the murderer. All Americans are again confronted with the specter of a House of Worship violated and  our religious freedoms violently debased, “ Center officials concluded.

Rabbi David Wolpe / Sinai Temple

Evil in a House of God strikes all of us with particular force. My father's first pulpit was in the gracious city of Charleston; my brother was born there and I have visited often. It is city of beauty and charm. Our prayers are with the souls who were taken and the families and friends who grieve for them. We hope for healing from this terrible crime and we pray for peace.

Rabbi Leonard Matanky & Rabbi Mark Dratch / Rabbinical Council of America

To the Members of the Emanuel AME Church,

As fellow human beings created in the image of God, as fellow Americans, and as members of a people that shares the experiences of discrimination and murder based on faith and ethnicity, we, the largest collection of Orthodox Jewish rabbis in the nation, express to you our outrage at the murders of nine of your brothers and sisters, including your pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

We extend to you, and to their families, our deepest expressions of condolence and pledge to work with you, and other people of faith, to bring an end to violence and discrimination, and to the hatreds that so many of us hoped had waned which have returned with virulent force. We act in the spirit of consolation that came to us in our recent time of need, when Palestinian terrorists entered a place of worship during services and massacred four rabbis, and letters of support came to us from fellow Americans.

May the prophecy of Isaiah be fulfilled for you and your community, “The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted (30:26)” and “Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end (Isaiah 60:20).”

Rabbi Zach Shapiro / Temple Akiba

Daienu. We have had enough.

Enough ignoring the breadth of violence.
Enough ignoring the epidemic of mental illness.
Enough ignoring the depth of racial tensions.
Enough ignoring that we are our brothers' keepers.
Enough ignoring that the bloods of our sisters are crying to us from the earth.
Enough ignoring that God is shedding tears from Heaven.

Daienu. We have had enough

Rabbi Adam Kligfeld / Temple Beth Am

Compassion must be a transcending and transcendent notion, in order for it to have merit.  We in the Jewish community rightly call for others’ prompt, forceful and compassionate response when Jews are targeted for violence and bloodshed, whether in the US, France, Denmark or Israel.  There is something profoundly noxious about hatred itself, and even more so when it explodes into violence directed at individuals who are part of an identified group—whether they are bound by a religious identity, racial identity, national identity or sexual identity. People of conscience must loudly denounce such evil, without unintentionally undercutting our moral support by trying too hard to explain the violence away.  

And so it is with the heavy heart of a person/Jew/Rabbi who identifies with the victims’ families and community, with the ethical clarity with which our prophets—of yesteryear and of today—call for us to seek and pursue both justice and peace, and with the conviction that people of good will can and must overcome and overwhelm the tide of contempt, hatred, bigotry and violence that seems to sweep across our nation and world and inboxes and Facebook feed every day…it is with these parts of who I am that I express my outrage and horror and sadness at the murder of 9 people who were worshipping at the AME Church in Charleston. From what we can gather, they were targeted and killed because they were black. 

The loss of life itself, coupled with their being murdered for the color of their skin, must awaken with us a commitment to build a better world, where race, religion, national identity and sexual identity are ennobling and humanizing categories, and where suspicion and violence towards such groupings of our fellow human beings is labeled for the insidiousness that it is, and is eventually eliminated.  We weep today with our nation, with African Americans who are more scared to enter their church today than they were yesterday, and with all those who are targeted simply for who they are, whom they love, with whom they pray, the color of their skin and the name of their god.  May the source of all that is holy and compassionate bring comfort to the mourners; may God stir within us all the righteous anger that leads to redemptive acts. 

יהי זכרם ברוך.  May their memories be a blessing.

Rabbi Denise Eger / Kol Ami, President of the CCAR 

“I am saddened and heartbroken to learn of yet another mass shooting this time in Charleston. The sanctity of human life has been destroyed in a holy place of prayer and study. A disturbed young man had too easy access to guns and ammunition. When will we learn as a nation? The Central Conference of American Rabbis [CCAR] is shocked and horrified to learn of the tragic murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.   As clergy whose job it is to gather people in the study of sacred scripture, we are appalled that the desecration of nine human lives could occur in such a holy context.  Our sympathies extend to all the victims, and especially to out partner in clergy, Rev. Clementa C. Pickney.

As this hate crime was being perpetrated in America, our leadership gathered in Israel.  There we passed our resolution affirming our commitment to work for Racial Equality.  In the aftermath of the events in Charleston–and on top to the injustices in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, Baltimore and beyond–we are even more fully dedicated to the work of that resolution, including “Making Racial Justice a top priority for our Conference in the coming year.”  The CCAR has long recognized that racism and economic injustice perpetuate disparities in American life, and are injustices in themselves, contributing to an unjust criminal justice system.  On topics ranging from economic justice to voting rights, from disparities in educational opportunity to formal and informal residential segregation, we have lifted up the prophetic voice in our resolutions, calling for tikkun olam, for a repair of our too-often broken American society.  In this coming year we doubly dedicate our entire conference to working to solve the massive injustices of race in America.


Rabbi Ed Feinstein /  Valley Beth Shalom

There are moments when God cries. This is one of those moments. 
A great church, historic center of a community dreaming of freedom and dignity; a congregation gathered in Bible study; a young man pumped full of hatred and a thirst for violence and heavily armed; and the lives of the gentle and the committed taken down in but a moment. God is crying. And we too cry. How long? How long will it take until we learn?

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater / Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center

My prayers and thoughts are with the people of AME in Charleston, SC, and to the entire community as they mourn their loved ones.  May God provide strength and comfort in this sad and painful time.  My parents have lived in Charleston for the past 15 years, and I know it to be a beautiful, kind and generous place to live.  Yet, the scourge of racism and hatred still runs deep in many places, including the South, where racial tensions are alive and festering.  We will counter hate with love, and together, as a nation, we can and must stand on the side of peace, justice, equality and righteousness. 

“Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with Me, Your rod and staff comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) May the souls of those lost be for eternal blessings, may their memories be for a blessing, and may their leader, State Senator Rev. Clementa C. Pickney, and all those killed, rest in peace.  God grant us the strength to stand up again, together.

Rabbi John Rosove / Temple Israel of Hollywood

I share the heart break, confusion and rage with every decent human being in learning that nine innocent people studying sacred scripture together could be murdered in cold blood for any reason at all, let alone their race and faith. My heart and prayers go out to the families of these victims and to the Charleston community as a whole that they may find courage and strength to abide this horrendous loss, and may the love pouring out to them from all over the country be healing.

May their memories be a blessing to all who loved and knew them.

Rabbi Susan Goldberg / Wilshire Boulevard Temple

A Prayer

Horror has ripped open our country.
Nine lives lost.
Nine souls taken by violence and hatred.

Violence is woven into the very fabric of our nation.
Racism is woven into the very fabric of our nation.
Too much loss. Too much.

It is easy to get a gun.
It is easy to learn hatred.

Our hearts must break open.
We must ask why and then act on the answers.

HaMakom yenachem et’chem
May the source of comfort, comfort all of those who mourn

And may the Holy One guide us in our grief to mend the blood soaked tattered threads of our collective history and weave a new tapestry

Rabbi Laura Geller / Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills

Our prayer book includes the words “Pray as if everything depended on God. Act as if everything depended on you.”  This hateful killing  calls for both responses: prayers for the victims of the Charleston Emanuel AME Church massacre and their families and loved ones, and action on the part of each one of us to confront the racism that is still so powerful in our country and our world. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us:  “Some are guilty but all are responsible.”  It is time to take responsibility for the racism that has manifested itself so clearly over the past many months and to recommit ourselves to ending the easy accessibility to guns that makes crimes like this possible.

May the memory of these people murdered as they gathered for prayer and study be a blessing and a reminder that we still have so much work to do to end the racism that poisons our country and our world.

Rabbi Miriyam Glazer / Author

Our tradition teaches that to save a single life is to save a world.  And so it is also true that to destroy a life, is to destroy a world. How many worlds, how many dreams, aspirations, heartbeats, how many sweet, innocent people, how many human possibilities, were eradicated in Charleston by a vicious, troubled young man whose parents thought a gun was an appropriate gift and whose own heart was poisoned by hatred? As Jews, as Americans, as believers in justice, as ourselves mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, we are riven with profound sorrow for these tragic losses, agonizingly reminiscent of the innocent black children bombed to death in a Birmingham church in 1963.  I call upon us as Jews to fulfill the  two-fold task before us:  to join together with our black brothers and sisters to erode racism, hatred, and violence  in this country, and to keep up the pressure on a Congress in the pockets of the NRA to radically limit civilian access to weapons.

B'nai B'rith International

B’nai B’rith condemns the shooting at a historic African American church that left nine dead in Charleston, S.C. 

“We believe this is a hate crime; that is how we are investigating it,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said.

The victims were gathered for an evening prayer meeting at the Emanuel AME Church when a lone gunman opened fire after observing the service for about an hour. The congregation has been a fixture in Charleston since 1816.

Attacking people as they pray is the height of depravity.

Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims’ families and those injured in the attack.

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