Statement after the Incident at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas

This past Shabbat, Jewish communities gathered around the world to celebrate our ancestral story of freedom, singing together from the biblical Song of the Sea “ozi v’zimrat yah, vayahi li lishua,” “God is my strength and God is my deliverance” (Exodus 15:2). And yet, the peace of Shabbat was shattered as four members of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas were taken hostage in their own synagogue, a place of refuge.

The Rutgers Hillel community sends its prayers for comfort as Congregation Beth Israel heals from this dark experience. We are relieved that all four hostages are now free. While we know that antisemitic incidents are a growing trend in the United States, we are proud of our identity, the identities of our students, and we will continue to make sure that our students are safe in expressing their Jewishness on campus. We always work to make Rutgers a Great Place to be Jewish. 

As Shabbat ended on Saturday, we reached out to our partners at both RUPD and our own building security company. Both quickly responded, reassuring us that no threats had been made in our own community and sent us messages of support and safety as we collectively waited for more news. Our Hillel is a safe and supportive space for any who enter its doors. 

In Colleyville, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel is known as a community bridge builder dedicated to welcoming all. Through his example, we know that hate can be combated by community. Our tradition teaches us that even should we not see the fruits of the trees we plant for seventy years, it is still vital that we plant. We plant for our children and their children, not ourselves (Talmud Bavli Taanit 23a). Similarly, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr taught that “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Today, when we commemorate both Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new year for the trees, and Dr. King’s legacy, we learn that we can work together, as a Jewish community and with our non-Jewish partners, to plant the seeds for a world of tolerance, understanding, and love.