(May 17, 2022 / JNS) While no Jewish people were victims of Saturday’s shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., in which 10 people were killed and three injured, Jewish communal organizations reacted strongly to the incident, which was allegedly inspired by the suspect’s racist and anti-Semitic views.
At about 2:30 p.m., 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, N.Y., arrived at the parking lot of Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo. Wearing a tactical helmet, body armor and a body camera through which he livestreamed his actions, he shot four people in the parking lot before entering the store, where he continued shooting at customers and employees. He was engaged by the store’s security guard, a retired Buffalo Police officer, but the guard’s shots were ineffective against Gendron’s body armor, and he was shot and killed.
Upon exiting the store, Gendron was confronted by Buffalo Police. He attempted to shoot himself in the neck before he was talked out of doing it and taken into custody. The shooting was livestreamed on the popular gaming streaming platform Twitch before it was quickly taken down.
Jewish organizations, all too familiar with white supremacist attacks in recent years, quickly expressed outrage at the shooting and sent condolences to the victims. What also upset the Jewish organizations was Gendron’s rambling 180-page manifesto—posted online before the shooting and which has since been removed—where he not only explained that he chose the site of the shooting because of the high percentage of black people living in that area, but he also espoused the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory.
The theory, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, argues that Jews are responsible for the immigration of non-white people into American society with the goal of eventually replacing the white race.
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) tweeted it was horrified at the news of the shooting, as well as the existence of the racist and anti-Semitic manifesto—much of which was plagiarized from a similar manifesto written by the terrorist who shot and killed 50 parishioners in 2019 at the mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“We must all stand together to defeat the vile hatred of racism,” tweeted JFNA. “Our hearts are with the victims and their families, and we mourn with the Buffalo community.”
According to a JFNA spokesman, on the day of the attack, the Secure Community Network put out a bulletin about the incident, and the local Jewish Family Services organized mental-health resources in response to the tragedy.
The Buffalo Jewish Federation also joined community members the following morning in a memorial vigil for the shooting’s victims.
ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt said that Gendron was inspired by the same hateful, anti-Semitic ideology that inspired the shooters who attacked Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue; Chabad of Poway, Calif.; a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; and the 2015 shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C. He emphasized the ADL’s solidarity with the African-American community, as 11 out of the 13 victims of the shooting are black.
“This was yet another predictable attack by an avowed white supremacist who imbibed hateful conspiracy theories online and then turned to violent action, this time targeting mostly black victims. We cannot remain complacent in the face of this continuing and serious national security threat. More must be done—now—to push back against the racist and anti-Semitic violence propounded by the far right,” Greenblatt said in a statement.
“This shooting is a deadly reminder of the dangers of white supremacy, and the need to call out these hateful views at every opportunity,” he continued. “We need our elected leaders at all levels to have the political will to pass meaningful legislation that will hold anyone involved in spreading white supremacist conspiracy theories to account and to stop potentially violent terrorists before they commit a crime.”
In a press release, the American Jewish Congress said it worked with Australia’s Online Hate Prevention Institute to monitor the spread of the attacker’s video and contacted the parent company of the U.S.-based streaming service Streamable to get the video successfully removed the next afternoon. By that time, the release stated, it had already received more than 3.2 million views.
“American Jewish Congress will continue to monitor and lead the way through monitoring and taking action on online extremism and radicalization, advocating for a toughening of the mechanisms that allow the proliferation of radicalizing content online, and with the support of our Advisory Board to Counter Domestic Terrorism and White Supremacy,” the organization said in a release.
In a statement, the Zionist Organization of America noted that “the shooter reportedly chose his target because the Buffalo Tops supermarket was located in a ZIP code with a high percentage (78%) of African-Americans. The overwhelming majority of Americans from both parties are united in being horrified and repulsed by the shooter’s violent, fringe anti-black racism and white supremacism.”
Still, added the ZOA, “it is disappointing that some left-wing pundits are using this horror to divide us by wrongly blaming the shooting on mainstream Republicans and Conservatives who oppose unvetted immigration for valid security reasons.”
‘Every one of us deserves to be safe’
Empathy also came from across the spectrum of Jewish observance, including the Orthodox and haredi communities.
The Orthodox Union issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attack, standing in solidarity with the community and expressing condolences.
“This tragic incident is but the latest in a series of violent crimes fueled by a toxic combination of racist hatred and online media platforms,” said the OU. “We renew our call upon leaders of government and the corporate sector to take real and meaningful actions to rein in the river of hate that flows through the online landscape. Congress should pass the bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (H.R. 350), and leaders of online corporations must implement policies that thwart the spread of violence-motivating actions.”
“We join in sincere prayer for peace and goodwill to dominate our culture,” it continued. “With unity and the purposeful action of people of goodwill, we can hope to be able to deter and prevent the next hate crime from occurring.”
Agudath Israel of America, which represents haredi communities, expressed its condolences and offered prayers to the victims’ families.
“The shooter, a self-proclaimed white supremacist and anti-Semite, killed 10 and injured three more—almost all of whom were black—in a deadly massacre. In a 180-page hate-filled racist and anti-Semitic manifesto, the shooter labeled his forthcoming attack as ‘terrorism,’ ” Agudath Israel said in a statement. “We agree, and we call upon the full force of the judicial system to punish the shooter to the extent the law allows. We stand in solidarity with the black community which suffered the deeply painful blow of yesterday’s shooting. In our grief for their loss, we must all renew our efforts to combat racism and hate.”
Even the largely insular Satmar Chassidic sect issued a tweet on the shooting.
“The Satmar community expresses its grief after the horrific Buffalo massacre shooting in Buffalo, our condolences to the victims’ families and our prayers for those injured. We stand in solidarity with the black community. We must all renew our efforts to combat racism and hate.”
The left-wing organization Bend the Arc: Jewish Action also responded to the shooting. “Our hearts are once again torn apart and we are filled with rage in the aftermath of the act of white supremacist terror in Buffalo, N.Y., targeting black Americans,” said interim CEO Jamie Beran said in a news release. “Whether we are walking through the doors of our community’s supermarkets, shopping centers, synagogues, mosques or churches, every single one of us deserves to be safe.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Buffalo Jewish Federation issued a statement assuring that “Buffalo’s Jewish community stands shoulder-to-shoulder linking arms with Buffalo’s black community as they deal with the aftermath of this weekend’s horrific shooting that took the lives of 10 people and injured three others at the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue. The Talmud tells us that: ‘Whoever destroys a soul; it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world’ (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).”
It continued, noting that “the Jewish community knows well the manifestation of white nationalism, and collectively, we are devastated that our friends and neighbors are experiencing this firsthand yet again. Our hearts and prayers extend to the families and friends of the deceased and to the larger community that mourns with them. May their memories always be for a blessing.”
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