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By William Wan
As news of the shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Museum has spread, reactions among the Jewish community have ranged from outrage, analysis on the big-picture implications, and even increased security at other Jewish institutions.
“This is a cowardly attack,” said Ron Halber, executive director of Jewish Community Relations Council of Washington. “Like all acts of terrorism, the point is to install fear in Americans and specifically Jews. We’re not going to let that happen.”
M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, one of the largest in the region, said the attack feels especially atrocious because of the apparent intent and location.
“I’m a Holocaust survivor’s child, and we in the community all know Holocaust survivors who work and volunteer at the museum,” Lustig said. “So for someone to walk into a sacred place like the Holocaust Museum with a rifle is just heinous.”
Lustig, likened the shooting to the recent killing of high-profile abortion doctor in Kansas and the murder of a Jewish student at Wesleyan University last month.
“The Torah says we’re not supposed to stand idly by blood of another. When anyone is attacked, we’re all attacked,” Lustig said. “These incidents make us understand that we as society need to respond. We need to be vigilant and protect each other. Maybe that means rethinking our sense of gun control in this country.”
Other leaders in the Jewish community say with ever-present tensions in the Middle East, many Jewish institutions are on alert most of the time anyway, but this afternoon’s shooting has many on edge.
Within minutes of the shooting, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles was contacted by LAPD about upping its security.
The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg is looking to do the same. Halber said his group in Washington has arranged surveys by security firms for several synagogues in past years about their layout and vulnerabilities. “We’re in ongoing contact with law enforcement and our communities about security right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism issued this statement: “That today’s shooting at the United States Holocaust Museum should take place at a site expressly created to teach the world about the destruction and devastation brought about by human evil deepens the resonance of this terrible act.”
Another statement of note: this one issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties org: “We condemn this apparent bias-motivated attack and stand with the Jewish community and with Americans of all faiths in repudiating the kind of hatred and intolerance that can lead to such disturbing incidents.”