On the eve of her 100th birthday on Saturday, Ruth Salton told her daughter she was going to Beth Israel’s Shabbat services anyway on Friday night, just days after a gunman voicing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories held four worshipers hostage for 10 hours in the fort. The standing square of the 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 will go alone because I feel like my place is there. I am Jewish and this is my faith and I support it.”
She is far from alone.
In synagogues across the US, Jewish leaders marked the first Sabbath since the Beth Israel hostage-taking in Colleyville, Texas last weekend with a show of defiance and other acts of anti-Semitism. Many called for a large turnout to demonstrate the unity of the faithful, and rabbis, government officials and others spoke out during Friday and Saturday services against acts of violence, hatred and intimidation directed against Jews.
At the Beth Israel Sabbath service, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three others taken hostage last weekend stood hand in hand in front of the congregation and sang ritual blessings before and after the weekly Torah reading.
And at the Friday night services marking the beginning of the Sabbath, or Shabbat, Cytron-Walker said, “The words of Shabbat Shalom, the opportunity to offer this to each of you, these words have never, never felt so good. Although we have much to think about, with God’s help the worst is behind us… and we can have a Shabbat of Peace.”
Viewers of the Beth Israel Shabbat Facebook Live Service sent cheers from Jerusalem, Florida, North Carolina and elsewhere.
Similar ceremonies were held in other parishes.
“Last week a terrorist tried to steal Shabbat from us. Announcing this this week is an act of resistance,” Rabbi Angela Buchdal of the Central Synagogue in New York City said during Friday night’s service.
During the standoff, the hostage-taker forced Cytron-Walker to call Bukhdal to secure Siddiqui’s release, authorities said. She then reported the call to law enforcement.
Christian and Muslim clergy joined Friday’s service at the Central Synagogue in solidarity, hand in hand and swaying with Buchdal and Mayor Eric Adams as the congregation sang a thanksgiving song.
“We are once again facing the horror of everything that is happening in our city and country,” Adams said, recalling how New Yorkers came to their senses after the September 11 attacks. “In New York, it’s our responsibility to stand up again to make sure people know we’re resilient, we’re loving, we’re kind.”
In Pittsburgh, Rabbi Geoffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Congregation was equally defiant. On October 27, 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers from three congregations who had gathered at the Tree of Life synagogue in what authorities say was the deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime in U.S. history.
“I, for one, did not survive October 27 to be a professional victim for the rest of my life,” Myers said, adding that the response to anti-Semites is a deeper involvement in Jewish practice.
“We cannot allow terrorists to determine our Jewish identity,” he said at a Friday night service. “We stopped the alleged shooter at the Tree of Life from doing that, and we won’t let the Texas hostage taker do that.”
Authorities say Malik Faisal Akram, a British citizen, took hostage four people who were at the Beth Israel congregation last Saturday. He demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqi, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of attempting to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and serving a long prison term in Fort Worth, 15 miles (23 km) southwest of Colleyville.
The hostages said that Akram cited anti-Semitic stereotypes, believing Jews could have power over President Joe Biden to free Siddiqi.
The siege ended after the last hostage ran out of the synagogue and an FBI SWAT team stormed in. Akram was killed with multiple gunshot wounds. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled it was homicide, which under Texas law indicates that one person was murdered by another, but does not necessarily mean that the murder was a crime.
Beth Israel services were held elsewhere this weekend because the investigation at the synagogue is ongoing. Presence was limited to members. The parishioners used the same portable Torah-scroll ark used before the congregation built its own building.
Many Jewish leaders said the hostage standoff was an example of a larger increase in anti-Semitic activities. The Anti-Defamation League says such incidents have peaked since they were tracked decades ago.
Anna Eisen, Salton’s daughter, said that with the support of local police and the FBI, she “felt more secure in my community and in my country,” but it was also important to confront anti-Semitism.
Eisen, co-author of books about the Holocaust, her father’s experience and herself as the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said that synagogues in Nazi-controlled Europe “were attacked and people were attacked and killed because of the same hatred” shown in the past. Saturday hostage-taker.
Salton added: “This is nothing new to me. I hate anti-Semitism. I don’t understand why people treat us like that.”
At the same time, having survived the Holocaust and more, she declared that she was ready to celebrate her centenary.
“I would really like to be 18, but since I am 100 years old, I am grateful that I lived to be 100,” she said.