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Members of local Jewish community react to Colleyville synagogue hostage situation

Hostages held for nearly 12 hours
Congregation Beth Israel.jpg
Posted at 2:57 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 13:31:53-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Saturday, four members of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville were taken hostage for nearly 12 hours.

The hostage-taker was identified as 44-year-old British citizen, Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed by SWAT team members. The hostage situation happened on 'the Shabbat', or the day-of-rest in the Jewish faith.

“They’re attacking the sanctity of the synagogue, the sanctity of worship, the sanctity of community, as we join together to worship God, to be in community, and they are shattering that,” said Rabbi Ilan Emanuel, the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Corpus Christi.

In the Coastal Bend, members of Congregation Beth Israel watched the coverage of what was happening.

“Having it happen on a holy day, whether it’s Shabbat, or a high holiday, it makes it very personal, it makes you very vulnerable,” said Inna Klein.

Rabbi Ilan Emanuel said he heard from a friend what was happening in Colleyville, and was worried about his friend, Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker.

“Obviously it was a shock, horror, terrifying to see what was going on,” Emanuel said. “As time went by, I was just hoping and praying that everything was going to resolve well.”

Emanuel said the local Congregation Beth Israel has several security measures in place, including an armed security guard, and has for many years.

“It was prompted by an attack on a synagogue,” he said. “I can’t remember which one, which is an awful realization, that it is not as uncommon as it used to be.”

Emanuel said security measures, like those in Corpus Christi, are not uncommon for synagogues.

“It’s important for people to understand that Jewish institutions, synagogues, have had security of some kind for 20-30 years, and that threat is getting worse; as we see with this, as we see with Poway, as we see with Pittsburgh, etcetera.”

President Joe Biden called the event ‘an act of terror.’

Emanuel believes the event was brought about by anti-Semitism.

“Almost every time there’s an attack on a synagogue or a Jewish institution, it’s motivated by anti-Semitism,” he said.

For Klein, the event, like any event involving an attack on a religious institution, brought back bad memories of her childhood growing up in Russia.

“My family and I have been part of several physical attacks where our home or the place where we have frequented was attacked,” she said. “So, this definitely brought those feelings back, kind of like pretty well-settled PTSD.”