The gunfire that erupted today inside the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., is a clear sign that racial bigotry continues to be
a national problem, local Jewish leaders said.
"The murderous attack that took place at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington by James von Brunn, a self-identified anti-Semite, white supremacist and hater of African-Americans, shows that the cancer of hatred,bigotry and anti-Semitism is alive and well in America," stated Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance in
West Los Angeles.
"The most astonishing fact is that the assailant, a captain in the U.S. Navy who once fought the axis of evil in World War II, became an instrument of that evil."
Hier and Cooper were meeting with Arab leaders in the Gulf region today. The gunman, who fatally shot a security guard and was wounded, is 88 years old, according to news reports from Washington. The man, who suffered a head wound, reportedly has a prison record for trying to take Federal Reserve board members hostage in 1981.
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Simon Wiesenthal Center researchers have tracked his movements, according to Hier and Cooper
"Brunn's evil attack, at the very place that was created to remember and teach about evil in the world, is an immediate reminder that words of hate matter, that we can never afford to ignore hate because words of hate can easily become acts of hate, no matter the place, no matter the age of the hatemonger," said Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director.
On Friday, President Barack Obama visited a former concentration camp in Germany, where survivor Elie Wiesel was honored.
Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss said the Washington shooting "certainly hits close to home."
"Let's face it, this is why we need institutions like the Museum of Tolerance and the Holocaust Museum,'' Weiss said. "Sure, there are people out there who have traditionally targeted the Jewish community, but our response is one of defiance. We are here. We are not going anywhere. And we will take every means -- lawful means -- to protect our community."
He said he remains confident about the security of Jewish institutions in Los Angeles.
"We've got a very close working relationship between the Jewish institutions and the LAPD when it comes to any sort of threats. Security is a well-thought out issue, not only at the Museum of Tolerance but at all of our major institutions. It's something we constantly reevaluate."