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Congregration Marks Hostage Anniversary

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Beth Israel in Colleyville | Image by FOX 4

Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville held a ceremony this week marking the one-year anniversary of a hostage crisis.

The crisis was reported by The Dallas Express last year. Four people were held hostage on January 15, 2022, by Malik Faisal Akram in an apparent attempt to free Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of attempted murder.

After an 11-hour standoff, the incident was ultimately resolved when police stormed the building and killed Akram.

Rabbi Scott Sperling led some of the service, with prayers partially in Hebrew sung throughout.

Jeff Cohen, one of the hostages and the current president of Congregation Beth Israel, provided reflections on the anniversary.

“It isn’t often that one gets to say thank you for kindness that can never really be repaid,” Cohen said through audible emotion. “There are so many people to thank … and for everything that followed in the weeks, it’s your support that kept us going. … Thank you for being there. Thank you for being here tonight.”

Cohen said he routinely tells those who ask that he is doing well, but healing takes a long time.

“Our sense of security and sense of safety was [sic] ripped away that day, and it’s going to take a long time for those wounds to scar over,” Cohen said. “The good thing is scars do fade with time, but they never go away fully. We are forever changed. But we are strong, we are resilient, and we’ve got great friends.”

He said the attack was committed by a man who believed in “racist tropes” based on “untrue suppositions.”

“He believed these tropes because he heard them over and over again and often enough and loud enough that they became his personal reality,” Cohen continued. “It only takes one. One with a gun, or a knife, or a can of gasoline to cause real damage.”

Cohen said that starting with education can help with combating anti-Semitic stereotypes.

“There’s only one respectable response: ‘I’m sorry, that kind of speech is not allowed here. You need to leave. Now,'” Cohen said.

“Even with the increase in racist attacks, especially anti-Semitic attacks, I remain optimistic,” Cohen added.

“Americans are good people. … When they become more aware, they don’t accept that behavior,” he concluded. “In North Texas, we accept our neighbors.”

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