Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by the Federation on Jan. 17.
Richmond – This weekend, we watched the unfolding situation in horror at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, where Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three other congregants were held hostage while taking part in Shabbat services.
Diverse religious leaders and organizations in the Richmond area join individuals and institutions across the world who have sent prayers, love, and strength to the freed hostages and to the Congregation Beth Israel community.
Once again, we see a horrific example of why members of the Jewish community are too often in fear for their safety when assembling in their places of worship. Sadly, we must face the reality that incidences of hateful and violent Antisemitism are rising at an alarming rate. We are compelled to speak out and take action to combat this scourge in our society.
To that end, Imam Ammar Amonette, Imam of the Islamic Center of Virginia, and Imad Damaj, outreach coordinator at the Islamic Center of Virginia, expressed the following:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Jewish community and all those affected by this appalling act at Beth Israel Synagogue. We will continue to stand against hate in our region and we call on our communities and all people of good will to come together in solidarity. As communities of Faith, we commit to use this tragedy to achieve greater understanding and to work together to combat all forms of hatred, including Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and Ayesha Gilani Taylor, director of Communications at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, added:
“In the wake of the attack at the Beth Israel Congregation in Colleyville, Texas, our hearts are with our Jewish neighbors, families, and friends as they navigate the trauma associated with a religious service on their holy day of Sabbath being interrupted by such horrifying events. No one should ever have to feel afraid for their life in a house of worship, the most sacred of sanctuaries. We remain committed to advocating for the rights of all people to worship safely, and we support legislation to protect targeted communities and stop the escalating violence, be it based on Antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any form of hate. As siblings in faith, we stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.”
Dr. Sabrina E. Dent, president of the Center for Faith, Justice, and Reconciliation, shared:
“We are relieved and grateful to learn that members of Congregation Beth Israel were safely reunited with their families. As they seek answers and healing, we the beloved community will continue to hold them in our thoughts and prayers. Being people of faith and moral conscience, we are committed to protecting religious freedom and advancing justice so that people of all faiths and none can gather without the threat of harm or discrimination.”
Dr. Alexander W. Evans, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Richmond, stated:
“This recent horror at a synagogue in Texas continues a shameful and dangerous trend of hate and violence against our sisters and brothers. As faith communities, as a nation, we must stand together, and stand against such Antisemitism and aggression. God intends light, peace, and prosperity for all and we must pledge to work together toward those ends.”
Rev. Dr. Emanuel C. Harris, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Richmond and Vicinity, commented:
“As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the recent events in Texas show us that much work remains to be done. We join our Jewish brothers in denouncing these senseless acts of hatred and violence. We desire justice to roll like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. Hate is not in this equation at all, only love. Our goal is to spread love everyday of our life.”
Jonathan C. Zur, president & CEO of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, offered:
“The horrific hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel is sadly just the latest public act that instills fear among members of the Jewish community. At VCIC, we remain committed to doing all we can to combat the rise of Antisemitism through education and action.
During a weekend when we observe National Religious Freedom Day on Sunday and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, we are especially mindful of the importance of speaking out against bigotry and violence and affirming solidarity with the Jewish community and all who are targeted by hatred because of who they are.”
In response to these words of support, Daniel Staffenberg, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, and Ellen Renee Adams, president of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, remarked:
“We thank the leaders and institutions of all faiths across our community and the world who have sent us prayers, love, and strength for the freed hostages and the Congregation Beth Israel community – and we thank all those in law enforcement who ensured the safe outcome in Colleyville, Texas.
We also thank Governor Glenn Youngkin for his signing of Executive Order Eight aimed at combating Antisemitism in the Commonwealth.
In 2022, violent Antisemitism is all too real and concern for our safety is too often at the forefront of our minds when entering our houses of worship. Shabbat in the Jewish community is a day of rest and a day of wholeness.
To repeatedly have these sacred days torn asunder and our global community sent into chaos causes a trauma that no community should have to endure.
Especially on this day of remembrance for the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. we combat this hate and divisiveness by standing in solidarity with our community partners in the name of religious freedom and calling for an end to Antisemitism and racism of all kinds.”