Three people were reported dead on Sunday in a possible anti-Semitic shooting attack at two buildings serving the Jewish community near Kansas City.
A gunman opened fired in the parking lot of the Overland Park Jewish Community Center and the nearby Village Shalom retirement home, both in the Kansas City suburb.
"At around 1 p.m. today, Overland Park police received multiple calls regarding a shooting on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th Street. Additional calls were received by police of another shooting at the Village Shalom Retirement Community, 5500 W. 123rd," according to the Overland Park Police Department.
“Three victims are confirmed deceased. A person of interest has been taken into custody at this time,” the police spokesman said.
CNN reported that the deceased included a teenager and an elderly woman.
During the initial developing story, a spokeswoman for Overland Park Regional Medical Center said the hospital was treating a 14-year-old male who suffered a gunshot wound and who was in critical condition.
The gunman fired toward a total of five people, three of whom were confirmed dead, authorities investigating the incident said at a press briefing.
Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said it was too early to label the attacks as anything other than “vicious acts of violence.”
He stated that two males were killed outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas and one female at the nearby Shalom Village retirement home.
He confirmed that police had a white male in his 70s in custody for questioning. He added that the man was unknown to police until today.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City said on Facebook that no shooting had occurred inside its campus, and it had released home all the participants of its programming.
Overland Park, the second biggest city in Kansas, is a short drive away from the state’s main Jewish concentration in Kansas City.
According to Kansas’s KSHB 41 Action News, police were holding one suspect in custody, who was reported as yelling “heil Hitler” as he was being detained.
The entire JCC campus was locked down.
One witness was quoted by KSHB 41 Action News as saying that a man, presumably the shooter, had aimed a gun at him before shooting the windows of his vehicle.
US Federal Bureau of Investigation officials were helping local authorities investigate the two shootings, CNN cited FBI spokesman Joel Sealer as saying.
The JCC of Greater Kansas City announced that it would be closed on Monday.
“We will post more information following a debriefing at the Overland Park Police Command Center and a 5:00 pm press conference, which will be carried live,” the JCC said on Facebook.
The Jerusalem Post was unable to reach the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City for further comment.
The shooting comes only weeks after the Anti-Defamation League released a report describing an increase in physical assaults against Jews despite an overall 19 percent decrease of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States.
In its Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, the ADL reported that there 751 incidents in 41 states and Washington, DC — among the lowest number since 1979, when the ADL began collecting data. The number of incidents has been steadily declining for the past decade.
I am asking for my followers, Jewish and non-Jewish, to spread this like wildfire. Antisemitism isn’t often discussed in social justice circles, but I need y’all to know that hate crimes are committed against us. So far, I have only been seeing this circulate among Jews on Tumblr, but I want it to go farther than that.
I want this to lead to a larger discussion about antisemitism. I don’t want it to be derailed merely as a discussion about gun control. I don’t want people asking if the shooter had mental illness. I want people to acknowledge that the shooter is a blatant antisemite. I want people to know why we often have cop cars parked outside our synagogues. I want people to know why we are still afraid.
Antisemitism isn’t always violent. Yes, in some cases it is, such as the article above, but antisemitism in America is very prevalent in media and society.
In my experiences from high school and college, I’ve heard many people say antisemitic phrases without even realizing that they are being offensive. Most of the time they are quoting South Park, Cartman’s quips about Kyle and his family being “dirty jews”. However the term “dirty jew” seemed to have stuck in the minds of impressionable teenagers, along with the stereotype that Jewish people are frugal and manipulative to the point of absurdity.
Antisemitic rumors that Jewish people are lousy tippers and hard bargainers are of the most common. Anytime someone makes an argument over money, Jewish or not, they are said to “jew [someone] out of their money”. There’s a stereotype that Jews are “not to be trusted” in terms of setting contracts, verbal and nonverbal, as there’s some belief that Jews find all the loopholes to get whatever they want anyway, no matter the terms of the contract.
Other antisemitic rumors that the Jews are some sort of controlling entity behind the workings of the government and economy, like some secret society akin to the sensationalism of the Freemasons. Arguments for these antisemitic statements include pointing out the “large” number of doctors, lawyers, economists, accountants, bankers, jewelers, and other large-salary jobs and business owners are Jewish. And granted, if you went to the “diamond district” of NYC, you’ll see a lot of Jewish owned businesses, however there are a LOT of Jews in NYC. New York City is only a tiny chunk of the nation’s total population, and I can assure you that there are many many non-Jewish jewelers, bankers, lawyers, and doctors throughout the country.
Because of these stereotypes and rumors, the jokes get put on Comedy Central (which also has a lot of Jewish writers and actors, might I add) and get into the minds and hearts of the Jews and the Gentiles alike. Just like the perpetuation of stereotypes of other races and religions, when a group stereotypes itself, it gets harder to break the perception of others regarding false stereotypes.
So why the violent hate? Sure, we can blame Hitler and his book “Mein Kampf”, we can blame the Nazi party and ideals, but antisemitism has been around long before that. In almost every century, there is a period of time where some group of antisemites tries to make a point to “drive out the evil Jews”. Many European cultures throughout the middle ages made it shameful to even be Jewish. The Catholic Crusades in Jerusalem weren’t just against the Muslims but the Jews as well. We can even go alllllll the way back to the slavery in Egypt, the oppression that Moses saw and that God delivered us from. (Happy Passover, BTW) But where does the violent hate honestly come from? Is it religious beliefs? Is it the stereotype that “Jews control the economy”? Is it because of a race and religion that has been around since early Mesopotamia that has survived for thousands of years and that others are somehow jealous? What is it? I’d like to see some discussion on this.
TL;DR Jewish and Gentile comedians alike make stereotypes about Jews that perpetuate antisemitism throughout the country. Antisemitism isn’t always violent, but it’s all over our media and society. I don’t know why there’s hate or where the hate comes from, but it needs to stop. Thank you, and Happy Pesach!