‘An act of resistance’: American Jewish leaders defiance at 1st Shabbat since hostage siege

AP – On the eve of her 100th birthday on Saturday, Ruth Salton told her daughter she was going to congregation Beth Israel for Shabbat services on Friday night, just days after an anti-Semitic gunman killed her in Fort Worth 10 Four worshipers were taken hostage for hours. -Area synagogue.

“I want to support my people,” said Salton, a Holocaust survivor.

She said she told her daughter, “If she doesn’t take me, I’ll go on my own, because I think that’s where I belong. I’m Jewish, and that’s my belief, and I’m supporting it.” “

He is far from alone.

In synagogues around the US, Jewish leaders marked the first Shabbat since last weekend’s hostage-taking at Beth Israel in Colville, Texas, with demonstrations of defiance against it and other acts of anti-Semitism.

Many called for a strong turnout to show unity among believers, and rabbis, public officials and others spoke out during Friday night and Saturday services against acts of violence, hatred and intimidation aimed at Jews. .

At Beth Israel’s service on Saturday, Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker and three others who were taken hostage last weekend stood in front of the congregation, folding arms as they performed rituals before and after the weekly reading of the Torah. Blessings sung.

And in Friday night services marking the start of Shabbat, Citroen-Walker said: “The words Shabbat shalom, to be able to offer this to each of you, those words have never felt so good. While we have a lot of processing to do, God willing, the worst is over… and we can have a rest of peace.”

Rabbi Charlie Citron-Walker speaks to reporters outside White’s Chapel United Methodist Church after a special service on January 17, 2022 in Southlake, Texas. (Emile Lippe/Getty Images/AFP)

Viewers of Beth Israel’s Facebook Live broadcast sent greetings from Jerusalem, Florida, North Carolina and elsewhere for its Saturday service’s broadcast.

Similar events took place in other circles as well.

“A terrorist tried to steal Shabbat from us last week. Claiming it this week is an act of resistance,” said Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of the Central Synagogue in New York City during a Friday night service.

During the standoff, hostage-taking Malik Faisal Akram forces Citroen-Walker to summon Buchdahl to win the release. Anti-Jewish terrorist convicted Aafiya Siddiqui, according to officials. Buchdahl then reported the call to law enforcement.

Christian and Muslim clergy attended the Central Synagogue’s Friday service in a show of solidarity, with the congregation singing a song of thanks while linking arms and waving with Buchdahl and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

“Once again, we are faced with the horror of everything that is happening in our city and country,” Adams said, recalling how New Yorkers fought back after the September 11 attacks. “In New York, it’s our obligation: to rise again to make sure people know we’re resilient, we’re loving, we’re kind.”

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl speaks at an interfaith prayer meeting for victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting at the Central Synagogue in New York City on October 30, 2018. (Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images via JTA)

In Pittsburgh, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Congregation struck out in a similarly defiant tone. On October 27, 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers from three synagogues at the Tree of Life synagogue in the deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime in US history.

“I, for one, did not live to be a professional victim for the rest of my life on October 27,” Myers said, adding that the anti-Semitism’s response is to engage more deeply in Jewish practice.

“We cannot let terrorists determine our Jewishness,” he said at Friday night’s services. “We will not allow the alleged shooter at Tree of Life to do this, and we will not allow the hostage taker in Texas to do so.”

Authorities say Akram, a British national, took four people hostage last Saturday at the church in Beth Israel. He was seeking the release of Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is convicted of trying to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and who is serving a long sentence in a prison in Fort Worth, 15 miles (23 kilometers) from Colleyville. is in the south-west.

Members of the SWAT team are stationed near Beth Israel, a synagogue, in Colville, Texas, on January 15, 2022. (Andy Jacobsohn/AFP)

The hostages said Akram cited anti-Semitic stereotypes, believing that Jews could seize power over US President Joe Biden to release Siddiqui.

The siege ended after the last hostage had left the synagogue and an FBI SWAT team came in. Akram was killed by multiple bullets. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled the case a homicide, which indicates under Texas law that one person was killed by another, but does not mean that the murder was a felony.

The services of the Congregation Beth Israel this weekend were being held at another location as investigations into the synagogue continue. Attendance was limited to members. Worshipers used the same portable ark that contained his Torah scrolls that he had used before the congregation’s own building.

Many Jewish leaders have said that the hostage standoff was an example of a large increase in anti-Semitic acts. The Anti-Defamation League says such incidents have reached their highest level since it began tracking them decades ago.

Salton’s daughter, Anna Eisen, said that the supportive response from local police and the FBI has made her “feel safe in my community and my country”, but also that it is important to confront anti-Semitism.

Eisen, a co-author of books about her father’s Holocaust experience and a co-author of her own books as a daughter of Holocaust survivors, said that synagogues in Nazi-controlled Europe were “attacked, and people was attacked and killed because of the same kind of hatred” the hostage taker showed last Saturday.

Holocaust survivor Ruth Salton in Westlake, Texas, October 2, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Added Salton: “This is nothing new to me. I hate antisemitism. I don’t understand why people think that way about us.”

Also, having survived the Holocaust and much more, he said that he was ready to celebrate his centenary.

“I would love to be 18, but since I’m 100, I’m grateful that I came at one point to live 100,” she said.