After hostage incident, Jewish leaders renew their antisemitism fight

The FBI initially stated that the man who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue held him captive because he was not specifically a Jewish issue. However, the captor believed that Jews controlled the world and could arrange for the release of a prisoner. Survivors said this after the escape.

After hostage incident, Jewish leaders renew their antisemitism fight

Jewish leaders and terror specialists were familiar with the words of the gunman. They saw Congregation Beth Israel's attack as another example of rising antisemitic hate crime, and a sign that there is still need for interfaith solidarity and vigilance.

Authorities identified the hostage-taker as Malik Faisal Akram. Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker told Forward, a Jewish news website, that he thought he could go into a synagogue and talk to the Chief Rabbi of America. He would then get what he needed.

After the last hostage fled the Colleyville synagogue, the hours-long standoff was over and an FBI SWAT team arrived to rescue him. Authorities have not yet to reveal who shot Akram, but Akram was killed.

This attack was reminiscent of recent attacks on synagogues in California, such as the 2018 attack on Pittsburgh's Tree of Life and 2019 attack on California's Chabad of Poway. Akram took hostages in order to get Aafia Siddiqui released. This is unlike the attacks by white nationalist assailants who went on shooting rampages shortly after entering.

Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of trying kill U.S troops in Afghanistan.

Jeffrey Cohen, another hostage in the synagogue, stated that Akram "didn't come there to murder Jews", but rather tried to use them to get Siddiqui free.

Cohen stated that Akram had "bought into the extremely dangerous, antisemitic notion that Jews control all things, that we could call President Joe Biden and have him free her," Cohen said to the Times of Israel.

Lorenzo Vidino is the director of George Washington University's Program on Extremism. He said that although Akram knew his motives, his words were indicative of a "misguided and conspiratorial mindset."

He said that the idea that Jews are overwhelmingly powerful and control America is a mainstream belief in some politically Islamist groups, much like white nationalist tropes.

He said Siddiqui’s case was a "cause célèbre" for those factions. Siddiqui herself spoke out in "chilling words" at Siddiqui's court proceedings. She blamed Israel for her conviction and asked for genetic testing to determine if there were any Jewish connections.

The FBI's Dallas field agent said that the hostage-taker was focusing on an issue not specifically related to the Jewish Community. But the FBI declared the incident "terrorism-related" and stated that the Jewish community was the target.

Nachman Shai, Israel’s Cabinet minister for diaspora affairs, said that Akram was "looking for a Jewish target." "If it wasn't about Jews, then why didn't Akram walk into a mosque, church or supermarket there?"

This attack resonated across all Jewish communities in the country, even those that were attacked previously.

Beth Kissileff (a Pittsburgh author and member New Light Congregation) said, "It's disturbing to me whenever Jews under attack, whenever humans are under attack." This congregation was among three that met in the Tree of Life building, which lost 11 members in the Oct. 27, 2018 attack that claimed 11 lives.

She hopes that survivors of the Pittsburgh attack, who were consoled by Muslim survivors from a Quebec mosque attack in 2018, can offer support to Colleyville. She said, "People reached out and we want them to reach out."

President of the Union for Reform Judaism Beth Israel, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, pointed out that many religious leaders, including Christians, Muslims, and Christians, quickly rallied to support the congregation.

He said, "While there is an increase in antisemitism, we have never lived in a place where there is more solidarity."

Anna Eisen, Beth Israel's founding president, was able to experience it firsthand. She cited support from "neighbors, strangers", churches, the governor, and others.

She said, "I feel safer." "I feel safer now that I am a part this community and this nation."

Some lawmakers and advocacy groups have used the Texas hostage situation to call on the Senate for Biden to nominate Deborah Lipstadt as special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism.

Last year, the nomination of Emory University professor was stalled. Biden had to submit her name again two weeks ago. Anti-Defamation League urged the Senate to act immediately to combat antisemitism.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL, stated that antisemitism must be treated as an everyday fact and not an aberration.

Rabbi Noah Farkas is the president and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He said that he had been talking with his rabbinic colleagues following the Texas incident, and many are anxious about leading services.

Farkas stated, "To be a Jew today in America, to wear Jewish ritual garb such as the yarmulke and a Star of David is an act of courage and I would even say defiance."

Bradley Orsini from Secure Community Network, a senior national security advisor, said that the attack demonstrates how "the Jewish Community is an affected, targeted group".

He participated in a weekend webinar with 1,600 Jewish community leaders, to update them about the Colleyville situation. He stated, "We need to be prepared for anything,"

You need to login to comment.

Please register or login.