AJC CEO Ted Deutch
AJC CEO Ted DeutchReuters

With antisemitism continuing to increase in the United States, a new survey from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) has shed light on the mindset of American Jews following the hostage crisis at Beth Israel Reform synagogue in Colleyville, Texas last year.

The report found that over half of American Jews – 54 percent percent – said they heard a lot or some about the Colleyville hostage taking, with 18 percent stating the incident made them feel less safe.

Only 13 percent of those surveyed did not feel the incident made them feel less safe, while 33 percent felt a fair amount less safe, and 36 felt a little less safe, according to the survey.

On January 15, 2022, Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British Pakistani national, held four people hostage with a pistol at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville during a Shabbat service.

“The Colleyville attack clearly reverberated throughout the Jewish community. No Jew should ever feel unsafe anywhere, anytime in America simply because they are Jewish,” said AJC CEO Ted Deutch. “As we have seen on a local and national level, these antisemitic incidents don’t happen in a vacuum. They are rooted in an age-old hatred that cannot go unchecked.”

The AJC survey also found that younger Jews expressed greater concerns about their physical safety than older Jews. Among Jewish adults ages 18 to 29 who heard a lot or some about the Colleyville hostage crisis, 67 percent felt a great deal or a fair amount less safe, compared to 43 percent of those ages 30 to 49, 47 percent of the 50 to 64 cohort, and 50 percent of those age 65 years and older.

The report queried respondents based on religious observances and found that those who were more observant also expressed greater concerns about their physical safety as compared with secular Jews, with 56 percent of Jews affiliated with a denomination describing the incident making them feel less safe as a Jewish American compared to only 41 percent of secular Jews stating the same.

According to the AJC, though the hostage stand-off with law enforcement gathered outside the synagogue building dominated news media coverage throughout the day, the general US adult population was less likely than Jewish adults to have heard about the attack.

The report noted that in December 2022, Deutch applauded the Biden administration for announcing the formation of a task force charged with developing a national action plan to combat antisemitism, for which AJC had advocated immediately following the hostage crisis.

According to a White House statement, “The President has tasked the inter-agency group, as its first order of business, to develop a national strategy to counter antisemitism. This strategy will raise understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, address antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline, seek to prevent antisemitic attacks and incidents, and encourage whole-of-society efforts to counter antisemitism and build a more inclusive nation.”