By Sharon Wisch-Ray
The crisis at Congregation Beth Israel this past Shabbat ended with the best-case scenario: Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three of his congregants set free.
Expert law enforcement negotiators kept the terrorist engaged until the elite FBI Hostage Rescue Team arrived from Quantico. Inside the building, Cytron-Walker waited for a chance to break free. They all helped bring the terror to an end.
The incident hit home for Jews everywhere as they imagined the unimaginable: their sacred space, no longer being a place of safety and solace, but one of violence.
The day also showed us that we are a strong, resilient community with an infrastructure of support — the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County; the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, its Jewish Community Relations Council and its Community Security Initiative; and the Anti-Defamation League among others. We have friends outside the community as well as evidenced by the support shown from the White House, the governor’s mansion, and Catholic, Christian and Muslim communities in Colleyville among others.
It boggles my mind that in the United States of America in 2022 there are people out there that want to harm and defame us just for being Jews.
Make no mistake: that this terrorist picked a synagogue to perpetrate his crime was an antisemitic act. He chose carefully to rain his hatred down upon Jewish people, and it reverberated worldwide. When one Jew is hurt in this way, we all hurt.
Antisemitism continues to rise globally, nationally and across Texas. So, what are we to do?
How do we move forward and feel safe in our own houses of worship?
First, as a community, we need to fortify our synagogues and other Jewish institutions to the best of our ability with a strong security plan to protect ourselves from evildoers.
Second, we need to take personal responsibility to educate ourselves about how to deal with crisis situations which we know now can happen here in North Texas.
Third, we can follow the Golden Rule and treat others as we would like to be treated.
We were lucky this time, no one was harmed physically, but surely the trauma of Jan. 15 will stay with us for some time. Healing has already begun with Monday night’s powerful healing service led by Rabbi Charlie, as he is known. “It is up to us to build the world we want to see, the world we envision God has planned for us,” he said in his concluding remarks.
We are grateful that our friends at Congregation Beth Israel are safe and out of harm’s way. We pray for their healing. And we pray that we can help make the world a better place for Jews and indeed all human beings.