The names of 11 people shot dead in a synagogue in Pittsburgh were expected to be released on Sunday morning as Jewish organisations around the world expressed horror at the carnage and synagogues across the US stepped up security.
The gun attack during a Shabbat service was the deadliest assault on Jews in US history, according the to Anti-Defamation League, which monitors antisemitism.
Hundreds of people gathered for a candlelit vigil near the Tree of Life synagogue in the Pennsylvania city on Saturday night to stand in solidarity with the local Jewish community.
“This was a very emotional, beautiful vigil, so proud of our community. Our hearts are broken from this senseless, senseless hate crime against the Jewish community,” said Mike Doyle, a Republican member of Congress for Pennsylvania.
Stephen Cohen, the co-president of New Light Congregation, which rents space at the Tree of Life, said: “When you spew hate speech, people act on it. Very simple. And this is the result. A lot of people dead. Senselessly.”
A gunman entered through the unlocked door of the synagogue on Saturday morning bearing an assault rifle and three handguns and allegedly shouting “all Jews must die”. He opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring six, including two police officers.
Robert Bowers, a Pittsburgh resident, was later charged with 29 offences, including obstructing the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, 11 counts of using a firearm to commit murder, weapons offences and seriously injuring police officers.
Bowers had posted antisemitic comments and material on social media. The FBI said it was investigating the shooting as a federal hate crime.
Donald Trump called the attack “an act of pure evil”. In response to questions about gun control, however, he appeared to suggest the synagogue should have had armed guards.
“If they had protection inside the results would have been far better. If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, maybe it would have been a much different situation,” he said.
Michael Eisenberg, a former president of the Tree of Life, said he was not aware of any threats made against the synagogue before the shooting, but that security was a concern and the synagogue had started working to improve it.
Security at synagogues in other US cities was stepped up after the attack. Authorities in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and elsewhere deployed extra patrols at synagogues and other places of worship.
Pittsburgh’s mayor, Bill Peduto, said the names of those killed in the attack would be released at 9am local time on Sunday. There was “really strong insistence by the FBI that we identify everybody with 100% accuracy before giving out any information, for the families’ sake,” he told CNN.
Under Jewish law, the dead should be buried as soon as possible, but burial can be delayed to allow for postmortems.
Reaction from Jewish leaders was delayed until the end of Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, at sunset on Saturday.
The Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, said his country’s thoughts and prayers were with the Pittsburgh community. “I am sure that the law enforcement agencies and the legal authorities in the US will investigate this horrific event thoroughly and that justice will be served on the despicable murderer.”
Israel’s minister of diaspora affairs, Naftali Bennett, flew to the US on Saturday night to visit the scene, attend funerals and offer assistance. Israeli teams were heading to Pittsburgh to provide psychological support and community rehabilitation.
The UN said the shooting was “a painful reminder of continuing antisemitism. Jews across the world continue to be attacked for no other reason than their identity. Antisemitism is a menace to democratic values and peace, and should have no place in the 21st century”.
António Guterres, the UN’s secretary general, called for a united front “to roll back the forces of racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hatred, bigotry, discrimination and xenophobia gaining strength in many parts of the world”.
The World Jewish Congress said it was “shocked and horrified by the heinous act of terror” at the synagogue.
“It is unfathomable that in the United States of America, Jews or any one else should have to live in fear of being targeted simply because of who they are and where they choose to worship. This was an attack not just on the Jewish community, but on America as a whole,” its president, Ronald Lauder, said.
Marie van der Zyl, the president of the British Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Innocent worshippers [were] gunned down in cold blood … The UK Jewish community stands in solidarity with everyone affected in the US.”
Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the UK, tweeted: “This attack, which is being reported as the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States, is a tragic reminder that, somehow, within living memory of the Holocaust, we still live in a world where antisemitism exists and deadly attacks on Jews take place.”
Theresa May, the UK prime minister, tweeted her deep shock at “this sickening and cowardly act”.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, who has been accused of allowing antisemitism to take root in the party, tweeted: “My thoughts are with those killed or injured in this horrific act of antisemitic violence, and with their loved ones. We must stand together against hate and terror.”