As Texas synagogue hostage situation unfolded, Jewish community worried, prayed and sought solidarity
The Forward noted our call, along with other Jewish organizations and elected officials, for solidarity and a peaceful outcome to the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. The hostages were eventually released later that day, January 15, 2022.
As the hostage situation at a synagogue near Fort Worth, Texas, continued into Saturday night, Jewish leaders shared calls for solidarity and prayers for the hostages and their community.
A man took four people hostage in Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel late Saturday morning, professing to be the brother of Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence in a facility near the synagogue. Siddiqui, a relative by marriage of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, a primary organizer of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is serving time for an attempt on the lives of American military personnel after her 2008 arrest in Afghanistan on suspicion of planning attacks in New York.
Just after 7:30 Eastern time, one of the hostages was released, uninjured. Texas governor Greg Abbott announced just after 10:30 that the other three, including the synagogue’s rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, had been successfully rescued and were safe.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson shared that the city was taking extra precautions to secure Jewish sites in the area. While the man, who was reportedly armed, is believed to have made bomb threats, Michael Masters, director of the Secure Community Network — which offers security consultations to Jewish organizations — said his team had not found credible threats to other synagogues.
Jewish organizations and leaders in Texas, as well as across the country and world, shared on social media that they were monitoring the situation and praying for those within the synagogue. But as the country awaited a resolution to the ongoing situation, many abstained from offering further comments.
Elected officials, including Jewish senator Jacky Rosen and Jewish representatives Jerry Nadler, Jamie Raskin, Lee Zeldin and Josh Gottheimer, weighed in as well.
Some drew a connection between the situation and other recent antisemitic attacks on Jewish communal spaces, especially the 2018 Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, Pa.
And some remembered that Cytron-Walker had himself shared powerful words after the tragedy at the Tree of Life.
Journalist Lauren Zakalik, who reported on a memorial service Congregation Beth Israel held for the 11 victims of the massacre, particularly remembered Cytron-Walker’s perspective on the long impact of such tragedies: “Jewish tradition tells us that when we see tragedy, we come together,” he told her.
And a Facebook post that Cytron-Walker published after that event also began to circulate, shared by organizations like Bend the Arc.
“When it comes to hatred and violence,” he wrote, “we all must stand together.”
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