January 24, 2022
Last weekend, Jews around the world held their breath for hours as the hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, played out. We let out a collective sigh of relief when Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and congregants escaped unharmed.
As I opened my email after Shabbat, I was struck by the diversity of responses from Jewish institutions in my inbox. From prayers offered by local rabbis, to action alerts from national organizations, to services for reflection, educational resources, webinars on security, and more. Across the spectrum of denominations, missions, and perspectives, Jewish institutions rallied to comfort, nurture, and hold our community, while also calling for action against antisemitism and the ever-present threats of violence it brings.
I was inspired by what I read.
As our community reflects on yet another violent attack, the conversation ultimately turns to the same questions we’ve asked ourselves too often over the past few years: “What do we do now? How can we keep our families safe? What do we do about antisemitism?”
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Nor should there be.
The diversity of our Jewish ecosystem is foundational to our resilience and strength. Each institution supports community members in a unique and needed way, and in so doing sustains and nourishes our people. As antisemitism surges around the world, we need diversity in thought leadership to foster collaboration and develop effective ideas for creating safety.
One of the issues that is often presented to us as a binary is Jewish communal security—with much of the organized Jewish community advocating for greater law enforcement presence outside our Jewish institutions, and others reminding us that this does not make all Jews feel safer. On Friday morning, I was inspired by this opinion piece written by Dr. Mijal Bitton and Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein that doesn’t accept this binary and forces us to zoom out and think more creatively about community safety. This was just one of several opinion pieces I read throughout the week offering a fresh perspective that can unify our community.
Let me be clear. I don’t believe antisemitism is a Jewish problem alone or that it is the responsibility of the Jewish people to solve it. We need allies and leadership in the non-Jewish community. However, when we respect viewpoint diversity and foster innovation, whether it’s on antisemitism or on other issues, we can bring people together. We open doors, we say, “Come in, there is a place for you here.” And we are stronger in this place together.
Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s courageous actions in the face of acute danger, his long, caring legacy of serving his congregants, and his work deepening relationships beyond the Jewish community are a testament to the kind of leadership that ensures Jewish continuity and combats antisemitism. Let him be a model for us—that we must live in hope and not let fear control our lives. That the Jewish people are resilient and strong. And that our values, our heritage, our peoplehood, and our respect for diversity will see us through. Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh.
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs