On Saturday, January 15, 2022, there was an 11-hour standoff at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, in which the rabbi, Charlie Cytron-Walker, and three congregants were taken hostage by Malik Faisal Akram, a UK citizen. The ordeal ended after the rabbi threw a chair at their assailant, allowing the group to escape through a nearby exit. As new information about this story continues to emerge, the New York Times article ‘Grateful to Be Alive’: What We Know About the Synagogue Hostage Rescue provides an updated summary.
This act of terror is part of the rising climate of antisemitism across the globe. The Washington Post notes that due to the spike in antisemitism in recent years, Jewish houses of worship have become “forbidding gauntlets of protective measures: armed guards, searches, identity checks, questioning.”
The members of Congregation Beth Israel received training from police, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League, and other Jewish groups on how to respond to threats and acts of violence. Rabbi Charles Cytron-Walker credited this training with saving his and the other hostages’ lives.
This Teaching Idea is designed to help guide an initial class discussion on the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. The activities below support students to process their feelings, explore the long history of antisemitism, and learn ways in which they can stand up to hatred and bigotry.