In the wake of the horrendous massacre that took the lives of 50 people and wounded at least 50 others at two different mosques in Christchurch, the Jewish community of New Zealand decided to close its synagogues on Shabbat for the first time ever, in an act of solidarity with the country’s Muslim community.
Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, tweeted, “For the first time in history synagogues in NZ are closed on Shabbat following the shocking massacre of Muslims in Christchurch. The Jewish Agency and the NZ Jewish Council stand in solidarity with the bereaved families. We are united in fighting violent hatred and racism.”
For the first time in history synagogues in NZ are closed on Shabbat following the shocking massacre of Muslims in Christchurch. The Jewish Agency and the NZ Jewish Council stand in solidarity with the bereaved families. We are united in fighting violent hatred and racism.— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) March 15, 2019
The change was also due to security concerns, according to the UK’s Jewish News. The Auckland Hebrew Congregation told members it had taken the “unprecedented step” of canceling all Shabbat services over “concern about the security” of the community.
The Community Security Trust cautioned all places of worship to be careful. A statement from them read, “Access control is of vital importance. Doors should be closed, to be opened for worshippers, school pupils etc, then closed again.”
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old fitness trainer from Australia, has been charged with murder in connection with the shootings. An 87-page manifesto published under his name was posted on social media shortly before the shooting began.
Tracey Gray, a gym manager for whom Tarrant worked for a few years in the late 2000s, told CNN affiliate Nine News that he was “as normal as one person as to the next,” adding, “He never showed any extremes of extremist views or any crazy behavior.”
Five guns were used in the shooting, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, all of which were reportedly acquired legally, CNN reports. As a result, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed to amend the country’s gun laws.