Response to the violence at a white nationalists rally Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va., that resulted in three deaths came quickly from Jewish groups and others in the area and around the world.
A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting in the Virginia college town, leaving Heather Heyer, 32, dead and more than one dozen injured. Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, 48, and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40.
“The hate and violence that played out in Charlottesville is something the ADL has been warning about for months,” Anita Gray, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Cleveland, told the Cleveland Jewish News on Aug. 13.
“Most tragically, three people lost their lives on Saturday. We mourn the loss of the two Virginia state troopers who were killed in a helicopter crash while assisting with public safety, and, the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed when James Alex Fields drove his car into a group of counter-protestors, an incident that also injured 19 people. Fields has been identified by ADL’s Center on Extremism as someone who earlier marched with Vanguard America, a known white supremacist group.
“We have been working on the ground and behind the scenes leading up to during and after the rally. Our Center on Extremism has been collaborating with law enforcement for weeks, providing intelligence on the various white supremacist groups who subsequently showed up in Charlottesville, and investigating specific threats in real time. We remain in close contact with law enforcement, elected officials, community leaders and others and continue to provide critical research, resources and community support. All of our offices have been working around the clock to respond, inform and take action. We are thankful so many organizations and individuals have stepped forward to show their support for human dignity and condemnation of the events in Charlottesville. I personally appreciate all of our community partners who have taken the time to email me expressing their support.”
Charlottesville descended into violence after neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists gathered to "take America back" and oppose plans to remove a Confederate statue, and hundreds of other people came to protest the rally. The groups clashed in street brawls, with hundreds of people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and beating each other with sticks and shields.
The turbulence began Aug. 11, when the white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus. It quickly spiraled into violence the next morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays.
President Donald Trump condemned "in the strongest possible terms" what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" after the clashes. He called for "a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives."
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
Trump said he had spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and "we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now."
Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism, said, “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazis. We must all come together as Americans – and be one country united.”
Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that white nationalists had come to his town and blamed President Donald Trump for inflaming racial prejudices, which led to three deaths and at least one dozen injuries.
"I'm not going to make any bones about it,” said Signer, who is Jewish and previously has been the target of anti-Semitic tweets. “I place the blame for a lot of what you're seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the vehicle that struck a crowd of counter-protesters was purchased from a Greater Cincinnati car dealership and last registered in Ohio, online records show. It is not known if the driver, who has been taken into custody, is the owner of the vehicle, the newspaper said.
The Ohio license plate number seen in photographs taken by The Daily Progress of Charlottesville tracks to a vehicle identification number of a 2010 Dodge Challenger last registered in Maumee, near Toledo, the Enquirer reported.
A Carfax report shows the vehicle was purchased by its latest owner in June 2015 from Kerry Toyota in Florence, Ky. The title for the vehicle was updated the next month in Maumee.
The vehicle was not listed as stolen by the National Insurance Crime Bureau as of Saturday afternoon. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles also lists the vehicle as registered out of Lucas County, where Maumee is located.
The Charlottesville Police Department said that Fields, of Maumee, was charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene.
Bishop Tony Minor of Community Faith Assembly in Cleveland is organizing an interfaith prayer rally against hate and racism to be held at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 14 on the steps of City Hall in downtown Cleveland.
"Faith leaders and people of good must lift their voices against evil in all its forms and speak against hate, racism, and the white supremacy of the KKK, Alt Right, and the Nazi movement," Minor said. "We stand united and declare 'not in our town.' We will stay together to advocate and organize for a more just and peaceful society."
Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple in Beachwood told the CJN he will speak, along with pastors across all lines of race, culture, religion to unequivocally condemn the hateful actions, terror anti-Semitism and violence of the white nationalists and Nazis who sought to harm Charlottesville.
Nosanchuk said his colleagues at Fairmount Temple, Rabbi Joshua Caruso and Rabbi-Educator Jordana Chernow-Reader, plan to attend as well as other area rabbis.
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland said in a statement signed by Stephen H. Hoffman, president; Gary L. Gross, board chair; and Bradley J. Schlang, community relations committee chair: "The Jewish Federation of Cleveland is appalled by the hate and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. The display of bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism by white supremacists and neo-Nazis is contrary to everything America must stand for. We cannot and will not tolerate hate in our midst.
"The tragic consequences of hate were all too evident with the deaths of Heather Heyer, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates. We send our deepest condolences to their families and wish a speedy recovery to all those who were injured.
"The Federation stands together with our faith and community partners in fierce opposition to hatred in all its forms, here in Northeast Ohio and across the nation."
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said, “When rage, racism and intolerance rear their heads, we as a civilized, multi-cultural community must stand up and say, ‘We are not this. We will not tolerate these acts of terrorism.’
“My thoughts and prayers are with Heather Heyer’s family and with all the wounded who were simply and peacefully standing up against hatred spewed by white supremacist and Nazis.”
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican from Beachwood, tweeted, “So sad what happened in VA today. No place for hate and violence in America.”
So sad what happened in VA today. No place for hate and violence in America.— Josh Mandel (@JoshMandelOhio) August 13, 2017
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, tweeted, “Ohio stands behind Virginia as the state copes with this senseless violence.”
Ohio stands behind Virginia as the state copes with this senseless violence. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/7lAXMmzkbD— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) August 12, 2017
Steven Dettelbach, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District and an attorney with BakerHostetler in Cleveland, tweeted, “A terrible tragedy. My prayers for the families of those who died today. Thanks to law enforcement for their bravery.”
A terrible tragedy. My prayers for the families of those who died today. Thanks to law enforcement for their bravery. #Charlottesville— Steve Dettelbach (@SteveDettelbach) August 12, 2017
Lee C. Shapiro, regional director of AJC Cleveland, said "We mourn the senseless and tragic loss of life this past weekend in Charlottesville and pray for the full recovery of the many injured. The white supremacist hate rally and the act of vehicular terrorism should be condemned unequivocally by elected officials and community leaders.
"The KKK, neo-Nazi and other hate groups that traffic in racism, anti-Semitism and violence are anathema to the social fabric and values of America. This moment in our history calls out for moral clarity. We thank the members of the Ohio congressional delegation who have issued condemnations and call on all elected leaders – starting with the White House – to denounce and oppose these purveyors of hate.
"AJC Cleveland will join with others in our community, to pray for Charlottesville, and stand united against hatred," Shapiro said. "We will work hand-in-hand, collaboratively, to advocate for a more just and peaceful society for all."
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said, it “mourns the loss of life in Charlottesville, Va., and strongly condemns the violence and neo-Nazi, racist and anti-Semitic symbols and language used by some of the participants, including reported chants of, ‘The Jews will not overtake us.’ Neo-Nazism in any form is antithetical to American values and has no place in American society.
“Holocaust history teaches that the targeting of Jews was central to Nazi racist ideology and that it began with hateful rhetoric. By the end of World War II, the Germans and their collaborators had murdered 6 million Jews and millions of other innocent civilians, many of whom were also targeted for racial reasons.”
The Rabbinical Council of America, the leading organization of Orthodox rabbis in North America, strongly condemned the violence and bigotry displayed at the White supremacist, alt-right, neo-Nazi and pro-Confederate gathering and mourned the deaths and injuries that resulted.
"We are appalled by wanton displays of violence and hatred that erupted in Charlottesville on Saturday," said Rabbi Elazar Muskin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America. "We pray for the injured and express our condolences to the families of those who were killed. We join our voices with all those who embrace the best of our country's values of respect, tolerance and decency.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder harshly condemned the violent Neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville.
“The World Jewish Congress unequivocally condemns the inconceivable violence exhibited at the neo-Nazi demonstration today in Charlottesville," he said. "Our prayers are with the victims of this violence and their families.
“It is utterly distressing and repugnant that such hatred and bigotry still run rampant in parts of this country. There is no place in our democratic society for such violence and intolerance. We must be vigilant and united in our opposition to such abhorrence.
“We commend the Charlottesville authorities and local government for their quick action in quelling these protests and restoring calm, and sincerely hope that this will serve as a deterrent for future demonstrations of violence," Lauder said.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said, "The vile presence and rhetoric of the neo-Nazis who marched this weekend in Charlottesville is a reminder of the ever-present need for people of good will to stand strong, to speak loudly against hate, and act both to delegitimize those who spread such messages and to mitigate the harm done to the commonweal of our nation and to those that are the targets of hate messages.
"Racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic views have no place in a society that cherishes freedom and liberty for all. The right to speak and to hold repugnant views is not a right to circumscribe the ability of others to live in peace and security. Torch-lit marches of hate evoke the KKK; the image of a heavily armed “militia” standing among the neo-Nazi protestors should send an alarm to every person of good conscience in our nation.
"Once again hate has killed," Jacobs said, "We mourn the loss of life and those injured in the violence. We call on all, no matter what their views, to eschew violence and condemn in the strongest terms the car attack that killed and injured protestors.
"We commend the opening of President Trump’s statement condemning the 'egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence' but are deeply troubled by the moral equivalence evident in President Trump’s statement today. White supremacists wielding Nazi flags and spewing racist vitriol need to be specifically condemned, not only violence and hate 'on many sides.' If our leaders can’t call out this virulent strand of hate we will surely fail to stop it.
'As we bid farewell to the Sabbath, we pray that the week to come will be filled with calm and safety, and that those who have committed crimes will be brought to justice," Jacobs said.
Rabbi Jake Rubin, the Hillel director at the Brody Jewish Center at the University of Virginia, posted the following on its website Saturday:
"It has been a difficult 24 hours in Charlottesville. The violence, loss of life, and hatred displayed here today is heartbreaking.
"While it would be easy to be consumed by despair, we are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support from so many around the country, most of whom we have never met.
"To our students: We are always here to listen, talk, and support you. Hillel will always be a safe space for you and all students at UV seeking refuge. There is much work to do to repair this broken world in which we live. We look forward to your return next week and for the opportunity to work with you to make our community and this world a better place.
"We are proud of the Jewish Leadership Council for their leadership and their statement below.
"The Jewish Leadership Council strongly condemns the violence and hate that has taken place within our community this weekend. The white supremacist groups who have come to rally in Charlottesville stand for exclusion and inequality, and those things have no place in our community.
"We stand firmly on the side of love and acceptance; it is the diversity at our University and in the city of Charlottesville that makes it such a wonderful place to be. We believe in creating a place where no person feels unsafe or unwelcome, both here in Charlottesville and throughout the United States. No individual should feel unsafe or unwelcome anywhere based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes them who they are as a human being.
"As the new school year approaches, we hope we can all join together once again to reject all bias and hate within the University of Virginia and greater Charlottesville community. We are eager for all students to return to Grounds in a few short days and work together to fulfill the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of violence."
Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennett said, "The unhindered waving of Nazi flags and symbols in the U.S. is not only offensive toward the Jewish community and other minorities, it also disrespects the millions of American soldiers who sacrificed their lives in order to protect the US and entire world from the Nazis. The leaders of the U.S. must condemn and denounce the displays of anti-Semitism seen over the past few days."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.