‘We Are a Strong Community’: Congregations, US Jewish Groups Voice Solidarity With Texas Synagogue
American Jewish groups and congregations on Saturday expressed deep concern and called for focused attention on threats to Jewish houses of worship as authorities continued to monitor an active hostage situation at a Reform synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.
“We pray for the safety of those inside Congregation Beth Israel, as well as the members of law enforcement responding at the scene,” the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations said. “Collectively, we must spare no effort to ensure that American Jews are safe in their houses of worship and community centers.”
The Colleyville Police Department said it responded to an emergency call at Congregation Beth Israel at 10:41 a.m., after a man interrupted a virtual Shabbat service.
More than six hours into the standoff, police said FBI negotiators remained in contact with the hostage taker — who was reportedly demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a woman serving an 86-year US prison sentence in the nearby Fort Worth area for a 2010 conviction for shooting at soldiers and FBI agents.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt emphasized that Siddiqui had been “open and explicit in her antisemitism,” and noted that “Islamic terrorist groups, including ISIS, have attempted to exchange hostages for her release.
“Unfortunately, the crisis in Colleyville is just the latest event to show that being on edge and being vigilant is now very much part of the American Jewish experience,” he said in a statement Saturday evening.
Speaking to the Star Telegram, Rabbi Brian Zimmerman of Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth said, “People should not be fearful of going to worship.”
“We should not have to worry about worshipping,” he told the local paper. “Bigotry is a real phenomenon.”
“Prioritizing security is paramount,” said Community Security Service CEO Evan R. Bernstein in a statement Saturday evening.
“Threats to Jews in the United States remain real and dangerous, as evidenced by the events today. We will be dissecting lessons from this incident as details emerge, and redoubling our efforts to strengthen the safety and security of synagogues and Jewish institutions across the country,” he continued.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, called on all to “join in us in praying for those in harm’s way.”
“We deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support for our congregation in Colleyville, Texas. We are also very grateful to law enforcement who are working to free the hostages,” he said.
The Conservative and Orthodox movements also released statements of solidarity.
The nearby congregation Chabad of Southlake said it had organized a virtual Zoom meeting on Saturday night to pray for Beth Israel.
“We are asking everyone to please say a prayer for the peaceful resolution to this crisis and to do an additional mitzvah, good deed, particularly in the realm of kindness, such as charity,” the congregation said on Facebook. “We are one community, we are a strong community and we will overcome this together.”