Texas synagogue attack: NJ leaders call it 'disgrace' against 'co-existence'

·2 min read

New Jersey community leaders condemned the attack Saturday on a Jewish house of worship in Texas and said the act reflected growing antisemitism across the nation.

Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British citizen, took hostages at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, on Saturday, according to the FBI and media reports. He appears to have acted alone, according to the bureau.

Akram was killed and none of the four hostages were seriously injured, according to USA TODAY.

Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg — a former Lakewood committeeman and spokesperson for the Lakewood Vaad, a group of Orthodox Jewish business and community leaders — said he was thankful the hostages were rescued by law enforcement. Weisberg said he was concerned the incident was another example of increasing deadly violence in community spaces that were once considered safe.

Law enforcement officials across the nation have increased security around Jewish neighborhoods, schools and houses of worship in response to the attack, he said.

Police respond to a hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16 in Colleyville, Texas.
Police respond to a hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16 in Colleyville, Texas.

"It's so sad and tragic that our country, with its cherished principles of diversity and tolerance, should again be subjected to the murderous fanaticism of extremist haters," Weisberg said. "This disgrace is further aggravated by the location and activities of the attack — a house of worship during prayer services, and the well known reputation of this temple and its rabbi being role models of co-existence and mutual respect in their community. We can only pray that the survivors heal from this ordeal and trauma."

The synagogue's Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker was among the hostages, according to USA TODAY.

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U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R- N.J., co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, said Saturday's hostage situation was a reminder of increasing acts of antisemitism and violence against the Jewish community.

"We must condemn hatred of Jews wherever it occurs and from whatever quarter, and Congress must continue to provide robust funding for protecting synagogues and other houses of worship," he said in a statement on Sunday.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said he was devastated by the attack on the Texas synagogue.

"My thoughts are with the Jewish community in Colleyville," he said in a Twitter post. "This tragic incident shows why we need to address rising antisemitism in the U.S. Thankfully, all the hostages are now safe and free."

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, on Twitter, said he prayed for the safety of the hostages.

"Members of the Jewish community must be able to practice their faith without fear," he said.

The FBI's investigation had expanded to Great Britain and Israel, according to USA TODAY.

Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the environment. She has worked for the Press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, aoglesby@gannettnj.com or 732-557-5701.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Texas synagogue attack condemned by NJ leaders

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