Texas Synagogue Attack: Troubling Questions

January 18, 2022

Column

Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas

Robert Sarner

By Robert Sarner, FSWC, January 18, 2022

Longstanding Jewish tradition teaches us the value of asking questions. In the aftermath of the latest synagogue attack, this time at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, I’m seized by many disquieting questions, for which the answers may be more unsettling.

Why does it always seem like open season when it comes to attacks on synagogues, not to mention assaults on other Jewish targets?

Why do so many people see such attacks almost as an accepted part of reality, albeit an uncomfortable one?

Why do people seem to consider these kinds of attacks an inevitable inconvenience like earthquakes, snakebites and hemorrhoids? Why does it seem many people accept these violent assaults on Jewish targets as a fait accompli for which there’s no solution; something we just have to live with?

Why is there not more public outrage and solidarity with Jews at the increasingly aggressive, pervasive and too often under-reported antisemitism?

Why should anyone be surprised that in the absence of more concrete action that many Jews see responses of even well-meaning non-Jews as so much handwringing and crocodile tears?

Why do Jews have to worry they may pay with their lives if they attend services at their local synagogue?

Why would the terrorist behind Saturday’s attack target a Jewish institution, and not a US military or government building, if his grievance was the incarceration of Aafia Siddiqui, who was sentenced in a US court to 86 years in prison for the attempted murder of American personnel after she was arrested by American forces in Pakistan?

Why is there so often a tendency by some media and public officials in their response to such situations to downplay if not outright ignore the antisemitic nature of these events?

Why would the FBI special agent involved in the agency’s response to the incident tell a news conference that the gunman was “specifically focused on one issue,” referring to the case of convicted jihadist Aafia Siddiqui, as if his targeting of a synagogue and holding Jews hostage were irrelevant and not antisemitic? Did Jews need to be killed in the attack for it to be more obviously seen as an antisemitic action?

Why would more media not draw the link between Siddiqui’s many well-known vile antisemitic statements and the motivation of the gunman at the Beth Israel synagogue?

Why on Saturday evening would a CNN anchor, in repeatedly referring to the hostage-taker’s “political” statements he made at the synagogue, avoid identifying their antisemitic nature after a congregant had told her during an earlier interview about the specifically anti-Jewish rants he made during the live streaming of the prayer service?

Why do so many people feel compelled to tell Jews what is and is not antisemitism and how they should experience the racism and discriminatory abuse they’re facing? If people really want to understand antisemitism, why don’t they start by listening to Jewish voices and validating their experiences?

Why is it that Jewish houses of worship everywhere are the only ones requiring special security protection, with military, garrison-like measures in place in many countries?

Why is Saturday’s attack not presented against the backdrop of a time-honoured travesty of violent, often murderous, attacks on Jewish institutions?

Why is the list of past attacks on synagogues so sadly and tragically long, from which the following is but a partial listing from just the past 30 years? Halle synagogue (Halle, Germany, 2019); Chabad of Poway (Poway, California, 2019); Tree of Life (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2018), Great Synagogue (Copenhagen, Denmark, 2015); Kehilat Bnei Torah (Jerusalem, 2014); Neve Shalom (Istanbul, Turkey, 2003, 1992, 1986); Great Synagogue (Rome, Italy, 1982); Israelite Temple (Vienna, Austria, 1981); Rue Copernic (Paris, France,1980).

Why does Saturday’s attack trigger so many disturbing questions?

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