Rabbi Brent Guttman (Credit: Brett Mountain)

Rabbi Brent Gutmann awoke horrified at the news of the mosque shootings in New Zealand, where he served as a rabbi from 2013-2016.

By Stacy Gittleman

An Australian gunman and other accomplices massacred dozens of Muslims in two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers.

According to reports from CNN, at least 49 people were killed and 20 seriously injured in two mass shootings at mosques in New Zealand’s second-biggest city. Four people have been taken into custody, including an Australian man in his late 20’s.

Though a world away, the event which is being labeled a terror attack by the New Zealand government had far reaching shock waves that reached all the way to the Jewish community in Metro Detroit.

Temple Kol Ami Rabbi Brent Gutmann and his wife, Jill, of West Bloomfield awoke to the “absolutely horrible” news. Gutmann from 2013-2016 served as a rabbi in New Zealand’s capital and also served on the board of the Interfaith Council before moving to the area. He visited Christ Church several times and served on the Auckland Interfaith Council.

Though he did not have time to reach out personally to his contacts there, he said his Facebook feed was filled with heartfelt and shocked reactions. They included the reactions of Pearl of the Islands, an organization Gutmann worked with that serves the Turkish Muslim community there. That group  released a statement on Facebook: “Our hearts are broken. We are absolutely devastated at what has occurred in Christchurch. This horrific act was violent, it was barbaric, it was evil, and has no place in New Zealand or anywhere around the world.

“We vehemently condemn this massacre. May God bless the martyrs, may the wounded urgently recover, and we pray for friends and family of the deceased.”

The New Zealand Jewish Council posted that it has no adequate words to describe how sickened and devastated it is at the coordinated attacks on Christchurch Mosques. “We offer our full support and assistance to the Muslim community today and stand united with it against the scourge of racism and terrorism and we must do all we can to banish it from New Zealand.”

Gutmann said that overall, New Zealand is a very tolerant diverse and welcoming society. During the time his family lived there, the country accepted 700 refugees per year, and added an additional 600 they agreed to accept from Syria on top of that. These are significant numbers for a country of 4 million.

Update: 12:55 p.m.

The Michigan Board of Rabbis and Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC Statement also issued a joint statement about the terrorist attack in New Zealand: “In October, a white supremacist shot a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Among the first contacts we received afterwards were from imams and members of the Muslim community from all over the Detroit area.

“We similarly stand in solidarity with our colleagues and the rest of the Detroit Muslim community in this difficult time.

“We too know what it is like to feel unsafe in our own houses of worship and appreciate the help of law enforcement and government officials in protecting our synagogues. We therefore call on all localities to afford the same degree of support for all mosques in the area.

“We look forward to working with the Muslim community to support them in any way and doing what we can to combat Islamophobia as well as other forms of bigotry.”