On January 15, 2022, members of the Congregation Beth Israel community in Colleyville, Texas gathered together to worship. Some attended the service in person and others watched from home on a livestream. They gathered to find peace and comfort on their day of rest when suddenly their lives were endangered. When Malik Faisal Akram entered the synagogue that morning, he took four people, including a rabbi, hostage. The hostages were held for eleven hours. The disturbing events of that Saturday contributed to a long list of antisemitic attacks in America.
In numerous interviews, one of the hostages, lead rabbi of the synagogue Charlie Cytron-Walker, attributed their survival to his years of security training. He stated that after the fatal shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018 he felt he needed to be prepared in the event that the same thing happened to him and his community. It is alarming that Rabbi Cytron-Walker had to go to training so that he could protect himself if his life was threatened. His life should not have been threatened in the first place. But that is the reality in America. Americans normalize things like this. America has a long history of discrimination towards people who do not fit the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant mold. And yet, so many people do not care to be aware of this country’s disturbing history, including the history of antisemitism. The fact that people are denying that the hostage situation was an antisemitic attack is frankly, not suprising. We deny our faults in America. We never admit when there are deep issues of ignorance and hatred, and as a result oppression towards people because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and religion is perpetuated. Yes, training saved the hostages’ lives but we must also recognize that their lives should never have been endangered in the first place.
As a religiously affiliated school, we fight against religious discrimination and remain educated on issues affecting other spiritual communities pertinently. One’s beliefs should be uplifted, not targeted or used as an excuse for harm. Importantly, our community needs to unlearn how deep seated anti-semmitism is in our lives, how it is not something of just the past despite how it is commonly painted. Most of all, the struggle of bringing attention to these issues should not be placed on members of the Jewish community. People of Jewish faith must not be held responsible for educating others about the traumatic situations that are often not covered in the media. On the contrary, people outside of the Jewish community must relieve such ignorance and remain compassionate.
This thumbnail was designed by Katie Nelson ‘22.