January 16, 2022
Dear Kerem Shalom Hevre (friends),
We were all horrified to hear the news from Colleyville, TX, a suburban community near Fort Worth, where the nightmare of a hostage incident unfolded throughout the day on Shabbat this past Saturday. We are relieved and grateful that this nightmare has ended and that all those held hostage were safely rescued even as we know the trauma of being held captive will persist for all those directly involved.
Our hearts are breaking as we are disturbed by this incident, one of several anti-Semitic attacks over the past few years. As Americans observing and honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, we continue to act towards and pray for an end to senseless violence and hate.
We stand in solidarity with Congregation Beth Israel, and klal yisrael, the whole Jewish community. We send our prayers for healing for Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and the other hostages, their families, and all the members of Congregation Beth Israel, which, like Kerem Shalom, is a relatively young and relatively small, suburban synagogue.
Today, many Jewish communities have been quoting from our morning blessings, “Barukh atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech HaOlam matir asurim. Blessed are you Adonai, who releases the captive.” Of course, this powerful blessing belies the tension many of us are likely feeling today, that while we are grateful that the hostages have been freed unharmed, we are deeply troubled that they were taken hostage in the first place. Many of us are fearful that such a thing might happen again and that as in Pittsburgh and Poway, once again Jews have become the target of violence simply by being Jewish and attending Jewish communal worship.
As we move forward from this troubling moment, I want you to know that Concord Chief of Police Joseph O’Connor and I were in touch today and together we will continue to seek out the best security practices possible, sadly made necessary by incidents such as this. Chief O’Connor assures us at Kerem Shalom that the Concord Police Department remains vigilant on our behalf, frequently patrolling our synagogue grounds and regularly helping us assess our security needs.
We know that attending only to our own security is insufficient. In the coming months, we will continue to look for opportunities to pray with our feet, to stand in solidarity against violence, anti-Semitism, and racism. For, as Rabbi Cytron-Walker of Beth Israel himself said after the horrific Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shootings in 2018, “When it comes to hatred and violence, we all must stand together.”
Today we can only begin to process what has happened and seek ways to respond with awareness, justice, courage, resolve, and with love. As always, we are in this together.
Kindness and Shalom,
Rabbi Darby Leigh