Reflections on Colleyville

Left to right: Jonathan Greenblatt, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and Cheryl Drazin

By Jonathan Greenblatt

CEO and National Director ADL

 

I want to take a moment to look back on the hostage crisis in Colleyville, TX that happened January 15. I’m heartened to see the outpouring of support for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and Congregation Beth Israel as well as the larger Jewish community during this alarming time.

 

The Colleyville crisis drove home many points all too well. Dangerous tropes about Jewish power, as the gunman espoused, are putting Jewish lives at risk as these conspiracy-minded ideas continue to spread. We cannot wait a moment longer for another house of worship to be taken hostage before Congress takes our protection seriously and increases support for security. And stepping up to show leadership, as Rabbi Charlie and other Jewish leaders do every day, can be both necessary but also terrifying.

 

All in all, I would say that this has been one of the most intense weeks that I’ve ever experienced since coming on board as ADL CEO in 2015. From the moment we heard about the unfolding hostage situation on Saturday afternoon when the FBI called, ADL was activated and mobilized.

 

Our team from Dallas was on the scene in Colleyville by mid-afternoon, aiding the authorities and counseling the families. Our law enforcement team and the Center on Extremism watched the livestream and worked directly with the FBI to identify the suspect and ascertain his motives. Our 2010 analysis covered Al Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui and her virulent antisemitism. Our Center for Technology and Society staff worked to manage the representation of the incident on social media. Our regional directors engaged with their counterparts in Jewish Federations and other local leaders across the country. And we were in continuous communication with elected officials in Texas, the White House, members of Congress and leaders across the Jewish community, particularly our partners at the Union for Reform Judaism as well as the Security Community Network and the Community Security Service. 

 

We were touched when Rabbi Charlie name-checked ADL in his first interview after the attack, crediting our organization and others with the preparation that had saved his life.

 

I had the privilege to host a webinar with Rabbi Charlie and FBI Director Christopher Wray for a gripping conversation that was watched by more than 8,000 people. The event made headlines when Director Wray clarified the earlier FBI misstatement and said unambiguously that the attack was terrorism targeting the Jewish community. “This was not some random occurrence. It was intentional, it was symbolic, and we’re not going to tolerate antisemitism in this country.” Rabbi Charlie also shared the resilience of his community and said they will continue to hold Shabbat services; he will continue to publicly wear a yarmulke (a traditional Jewish head covering) and he and his community will work to get past their current sense of fear.

 

As FBI Director Wray and Rabbi Charlie explained, two vital steps in helping to improve your safety are embracing security training and building strong bridges within your community before a crisis happens — to other faith groups, to law enforcement, to city officials and others.

 

Here are ways you can take action: Report an incident of antisemitism or bias to ADL; Join ADL in calling on Congress to increase funds to secure our houses of worship and religious institutions; Download ADL and URJ’s Toolkit on responding to antisemitic incidents and best practices for your congregation; Urge your Senators to confirm Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism; Contact your regional ADL office to get support; Get security training for Jewish institutions from Secure Community Network and Community Security Service; Stay informed about the Colleyville crisis, its roots and its aftermath.