Op-Ed: Antisemitism is Rising

Photo+illustration+of+children+lighting+candles+on+traditional+menorah+purchased+at+BigStock.com

Photo illustration of children lighting candles on traditional menorah purchased at BigStock.com

On January 15, a British citizen named Malik Faisal Akram traveled to the United States with the intent to terrorize the Jewish population.

His goal—push U.S officials to free Aafia Siddiqui, in prison for killing an American journalist. Siddiqui was also charged with the murder of several U.S. military officers.

Akram also wanted to get in touch with the “main rabbis” in New York. There are no “main rabbis” in New York. In fact, there are no “main rabbis,” period.

January 15 started as a tranquil Saturday morning at Congregation Temple Israel, a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, a suburb near Dallas.

The service had started with a peaceful prayer when Akram arrived at the synagogue, requesting tea while pretending to be homeless. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker invited Akram inside. Soon thereafter, chaos began.

The service was live-streamed for viewers at home, who heard the commotion and contacted the police. Victoria Francis, a Colleyville resident who was watching the service from home, told the Associated Press that “[Akram] was pretty irritated and the more irritated he got, he’d make more threats.”

As the situation unfolded, Akram became more threatening.

At one point, Akram told hostages to kneel so that he could more easily shoot them. Luckily, Rabbi Cytron Walker thought quickly and threw a chair at Faisal Akram, allowing the hostages to escape while law enforcement secured the scene. Akram was shot dead.

After the attack, Congregation Beth Israel experienced tremendous support from the Jewish community.

I often forget how many people hate me simply because of my faith. These disgusting attacks remind me that by even going to synagogue, I risk my life.”

In subsequent interviews with the media, Cytron-Walker cited multiple safety-training programs that helped ensure the survival of the hostages. He emphasized the importance of congregations taking safety courses.

“We are alive today because of that education,” Cytron-Walker said.

A week afterward, another antisemitic incident occurred in Brooklyn, New York. A 21-year-old woman, Christina Darling, approached an 8-year old boy and his younger siblings outside of the Kehal Tiferes Avrohom Ziditshov Orthodox Synagogue, telling the children, “Hitler should have killed you all, I’ll kill you, and I know where you live.”

After the boy told Darling that he would protect his siblings, she spat on him. Darling was charged with three counts of harassment.

The incidents in Brooklyn and Colleyville are a harsh reminder of how antisemitism continues to thrive.

From House Republicans comparing vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany, swastikas being found at schools, and cases of arson at Jewish places of worship on the rise, it’s a scary time to be Jewish in America.

We must learn to accept religious diversity and to treasure our First Amendment rights to worship freely, and hopefully, without fear.

As an American Jew, this attack has deeply troubled me. I often forget how many people hate me simply because of my faith. These disgusting attacks remind me that by even going to synagogue, I risk my life.

For a long while, I felt that I would be safe in my synagogue, that a hateful, antisemitic gunman would never endanger my life, that that could never happen in my place of worship. Now, I’m not so sure.

However, I will not give in to fear. I will continue to proudly celebrate and practice my religion. There is strength in unity, and my community is staying strong.

Editors’ Note: An earlier version of this article stated that January 15 was a Sunday. January 15 was a Saturday, the Sabbath for people of the Jewish faith and those attending Congregation Temple Israel.