California synagogue shooting “hurt us all”

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A gunman opened fire at Chabad of Poway (pictured) in Poway, Calif., April 27, killing one person and injuring three others. Photo: Google Streetview

A gunman opened fire inside a Poway, Calif., synagogue April 27, the final night of the Jewish celebration of Passover, killing one woman and injuring three other people, including the synagogue’s rabbi.

The attack at Chabad of Poway took place six months to the day after a mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn., in which 11 people were killed.

The alleged shooter, 19-year-old John Earnest, was arrested after fleeing the synagogue and calling 911.

The gunman entered the synagogue 20 minutes into a Passover celebration that began at 11 a.m. and opened fire with an assault rifle, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. About 100 people were in the synagogue at the time. More casualties were prevented because the shooter’s rifle jammed during the attack, authorities say.

Lori Kaye, 60, died in a nearby hospital. She was shot after stepping between the gunman and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who had been shot in the hand.

In a statement Saturday evening, the Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said they were “shocked and saddened” by the attack. “On the final day of Passover, the sanctity of the Sabbath services was destroyed when a hateful anti-Semitic murderer killed one worshipper and injured three others,” the statement reads.

The statement also says that the CIJA and its National Community Security Program were in contact with Canadian law enforcement to track the situation. “While there is no information whatsoever to suggest an elevated threat to Jewish communities in Canada, we are grateful that law enforcement across Canada were aware and responded accordingly with the necessary resources to safeguard our community.

“We encourage all members of our community to be vigilant; if you see something suspicious, you should contact police immediately.”

The Anglican Church of Canada sent out a prayer through its Facebook page, writing, “We are watching the horrific scenes unfolding in California…. We pray for the soul killed at prayer. We pray for those wounded. Lord, grant the families in grief, your comfort.”

National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Susan Johnson tweeted a prayer “for an end to all forms of anti-Semitism.”

The World Council of Churches (WCC) condemned the attack in a statement, in which WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit stated that people have the right to gather at places of worship in peace, and that violence in such places is “appalling.”

“These murderous assaults on people as they gather for prayer hurt us all,” said Tveit. “In response, we must not allow our communities to be driven apart but must redouble our efforts to live together in peace and respect.”

Canon Kevin George, rector of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in London, Ont., felt “bereft” when he heard the news. The priest posted a video to the church’s Facebook page decrying “hatred, violence and extremism.”

In the video, which has been viewed more than 1,500 times, George says, he is “convinced that we can work towards a world where extremism and hatred and violence and empire-building at the cost of putting others down can be changed; that a world that includes all of that is not necessary. We can eradicate this stuff. We just need to have the courage to speak up, to call on our elected officials to do better, to not fan the flames of this for political gain.”

An anti-Semitic “open letter” was posted on an online message board under the name John Earnest hours before the attack.

The post, to the message board 8chan, was almost identical to the post made on the same site by Brenton Tarrant, who is charged with killing 50 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March. It also references Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers, arraigned in U.S. federal court in February.

The letter also claims responsibility for the attempted arson of a mosque in nearby Escondido, Calif., in March, a claim which is now being investigated by authorities. The arsonist left a note at the scene referencing the New Zealand massacres.

The shooting follows on the heels of several violent incidents targeting religious groups. Earlier this month, the 21-year-old son of a sheriff’s deputy was arrested and charged with hate crimes in connection to the arson of three historically black churches in Louisiana. On Wednesday, April 24, a driver in California injured eight people when he drove into a crowd of pedestrians. Police say the driver believed the people he attacked were Muslim. And on Easter Sunday, an Islamic militant group in Sri Lanka carried out a series of suicide bombings, many targeting Christian churches, that killed more than 250 people.

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Joelle Kidd
Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

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