In the aftermath of the Colleyville synaguge hostage crisis last Saturday, the Jewish community in Houston, Texas is voicing concern over recent data showing that antisemitic incidents are projected to increase.
The growing threat of attacks against the Jewish community – brought home by the Colleyville incident – has alarmed leaders of the Houston Jewish community who have had to spend large sums of money on security infrastructure in recent years.
"I felt a great deal of fear, anxiety, and concern for my friend, Rabbi Cytron-Walker in Colleyville over the weekend, the people he serves, and the members of that congregation," Rabbi Oren Hayon of Congregation Emanu El told ABC13. "But none of us were taken by surprise by the fact that someone wanted to do us harm."
Rabbi David Lyon of Congregation Beth Israel told the news outlet that when he began as a rabbi three decades ago, “the door of a large synagogue was wide open. Anybody could enter and come down the hall and make a request and get some support.”
“Today, we live behind closed doors and gates with security guards and cameras,” he said. “It is not the way we want to be.”
Rabbi Lyon added that besides investing in security to keep staff, volunteers and synagogue members safe, they also take lessons with the Houston Police Department and have offered to have police use their building for tactical training.
"I would admit that I think they know my building better than I do. But we all have places to go if the button is pushed or the alarm is sounded,” he said.
According to the ADL’s Southwest chapter – stretching from West Texas to East Texas and the area to the south – there were 11 incidents of antisemitism reported in the region in 2021. Already, in 2022, there have been six reports.
"The last three years, we are seeing numbers that are as high as any that we've seen in this country, unfortunately,” ADL Southwest regional director Mark Toubin told ABC13. “It's something we think even this year, we will probably see an even higher number if the rates continue. Our polls and data show that the anxiety amongst the Jewish community is at an all-time high."
Rabbi Lyon stressed that while antisemitism is a growing problem, he doesn’t want the members of his synagogue to be so afraid that they disguise the fact that they are Jewish when in public.
"This is a country and a community that wants to look out for the safety and well-being of religion, ethnic, and racial minorities. I want us to not lose sight of the fact that to be a Jew in America, is an enormous privilege," he said. "Relatively speaking, it is an incredibly secure time and place to be a Jew in America. It's not a century ago. It is not the second World War. It's not the Crusades or the Inquisition."
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)