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Security and vigilance imperative in wake of Colleyville hostage situation
Without the help of local and state law enforcement, and the FBI, the recent attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas could well have turned fatal. Thankfully, the four hostages, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, all survived the terrifying 11-hour standoff and were left physically unharmed. The ordeal came to a head when Cytron-Walker had the courage to throw a chair at the terrorist, disarming him as the other hostages escaped and the suspect was subsequently killed.
A week later, once the dust settled, the FBI came out stating what we already knew: This was an “act of terror targeting the Jewish community,” said Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director. This was not some arbitrary act of hate, but rather an attempt at extending the hate that occurred in the last few years against Pittsburgh, Poway, and Monsey, the hate that is ongoing in cities across America and around the world.
In light of the horrifying day, Dianne Lob, chair, William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, vice chair, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following collective statement: “We are relieved by the resolution of the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel and are immensely grateful for the courage of local and state law enforcement, and the FBI, who acted quickly and effectively to rescue the rabbi and all of the worshippers inside the synagogue. This hate is the reason many must memorize the exit signs when entering a synagogue, are wary of doors opening and closing, and must consider where to shelter should the unthinkable happen.”
The statement noted the sad reality that this could happen to any synagogue in America, and any one of us could be trapped inside. The fact that this is even a possibility today is not only unacceptable but against the fabric of America. They also noted the importance of the Secure Community Network (SCN), whose mission is to guarantee every congregation the right to worship freely and safely by providing security resources and training. Only several months prior, Congregation Beth Israel received this training, which Cytron-Walker credits for their survival. He added that he and the other hostages are alive today due to the multiple security courses his congregation has taken over the years. “Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself,” Cytron-Walker said. “I encourage all Jewish congregations, religious groups, schools, and others to participate in active-shooter and security courses.”
Here in Southern New Jersey, we have these resources through Federation’s partnership with SCN and Federation’s Regional Director of Security William “Bud” Monaghan, who was in contact with law enforcement and received briefings throughout the day of the Colleyville crisis.
It is a sad and unfortunate reality that extra security and vigilance are needed in a house of worship, where people should feel safe and protected. We must learn from these horrific events and equip ourselves with the necessary resources available to safeguard our community.
This piece was originally published in the Jewish Community Voice on January 26, 2022.
The Conference of Presidents is the central coordinating body representing 50 national Jewish organizations on issues of national and international concern
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