Orlando Jews Call for Unity With Muslims as Nation Reels From Nightclub Massacre
By Nathan Guttman
ORLANDO — Central Florida’s Jewish community started laying the groundwork for interfaith cooperation with Muslims Monday as the nation reeled in grief and anger after an anti-gay gunman killed 50 people in the worst-ever mass killing in recent U.S. history.
Rabbi Steven Engel of the Congregation for Reform Judaism, the largest synagogue in Orlando, and Imam Muhammad Masri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, spoke by phone to plan a joint memorial service for the victims at the Pulse nightclub attack, which was carried out by an American Muslim with roots in Afghanistan.
“(We want) to support each other, to support the whole community,” Masri said outside the bullet-scarred club on a busy Orlando artery.
Like Jewish leaders, Masri emphasized that suspected gunman Omar Mateen was an American who would not have been affected by proposals spearheaded by Donald Trump to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.
“He came from two hours away. You can’t put a border to stop someone like this,” Masri said, adding that he did not consider the gunman to be a Muslim.
Rep. Alan Grayson, the first Jewish congressman from central Florida, called the mass shooting a challenge for America to protect itself without discarding our basic constitutional values.
“We don’t engage in preventive detention here, that’s unconstitutional. We don’t engage in racial profiling or religious profiling – that’s unconstitutional,” Grayson said. “There’s not much to do except to watch people like that as closely as we can.”
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders led a chorus of Jewish political, religious and cultural leaders who expressed outrage at gun violence after the mass shooting that killed 50 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“All Americans are horrified, disgusted and saddened by the horrific” mass killing, Sanders said.
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz planned to attend a Sunday night Miami gay pride event in solidarity with the victims.
“Like those before it, this mass shooting is senseless & horrifying,” she Tweeted.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his thoughts were with the victims.
“Horrified and saddened by the appalling attack at Orlando LGBT nightclub,” he Tweeted.
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, called the attack another sign of the failure to curb gun violence.
“The staggering loss of life, yet again facilitated by a military-style weapon that has no place on the street, causes us deep pain,” Pesner wrote in a press release. “The attack is also further proof, as if any were needed, of the imperative to end the culture of gun violence that grips the nation.”
Lena Dunham took to Instagram to express solidarity with the gay community in Orlando — and speak out about gun violence.
“Our hearts break for the queer community in Orlando, unsafe even in a space they created for themselves,” she wrote. “Our hearts break for a country where this is what the news looks like day after day.”
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin offered condolences to the victims.
“On behalf of Israelis and the government of Israel, I wish to extend our sincerest condolences to the American people in the wake of the heinous attack on the LGBT community in Orlando last night,” the prime minister said in a statement.
In Tel Aviv, Mayor Ron Huldai ordered the city municipal building lit up in rainbow colors to express solidarity with the shooting victims.
Read more: http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/342536/orlando-jews-call-for-unity-with-muslims-as-nation-reels-from-nightclub-mas/#ixzz4BRzfGhWO