DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Following the 11-hour long hostage situation Saturday at the Colleyville synagogue Congregation Beth Israel, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are warning faith-based communities they need to remain alert and could be targeted for violence.
Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom in Dallas said, "It's not unfamiliar."
He said he and others in the Jewish community have remained alert even before the hostage situation.
That night, Paley helped console some of the hostages and their families.
Paley welcomes the stepped-up patrols by Dallas Police. "We are just so grateful for the support from the Mayor's office, from our local police."
For years, area synagogues and organizations have spent tens of thousands of dollars increasing their security measures.
Bill Humphrey, the Director of Community Security at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas said there are four main objectives they've taken to help synagogues, schools, and other member agencies: training and security, security site assessment, and emergency communication.
On Saturday, he said the Federation sent out an emergency communication to synagogues, schools, and other Jewish groups notifying them about what was happening and telling them to enact their safety protocols.
Humphrey also said they have also engaged with law enforcement, which paid off Saturday. "It was seamless because the relationships with Dallas area law enforcement, cities and the state of Texas, DPS and our federal partners, Dallas FBI, Dallas ATF all knew each other we visibly know each other communicate with each other. We all knew each other way before this incident."
Rabbi Paley said it's a balancing act between keeping people safe and making sure the synagogue is a welcoming place. "We are always trying to be that welcoming place and we pride ourselves on being that place. Yet we know there is always an element of possibility out there."
Humphrey said antisemitic activity rose 127 percent in 2020 from the year before in the North Texas and Oklahoma region. "It's very much on the forefront, we're very focused on preparing our agencies."
Jeffrey Cohen, one of four people held hostage, told CBS 11 Monday their hostage-taker chose the synagogue because he thought that would help gain the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who's serving an 86-year sentence in a Fort Worth prison for attempting to murder U.S. soldiers.
"He bought into the antisemitic tropes, that Jews control the world, Jews control the media, Jews control the banks. Because he believed this, he genuinely thought that we could call up President Biden, that we could call up President Trump and have them release her because we're Jews, and we have all this power. He said it repeatedly. So we as humans need to oppose these tropes."
Rabbi Paley said, "It's just a reminder there is a lot of work to do, to combat that kind of thinking, that we're not in a redeemed world yet, that there's still a lot of effort that we must undertake to make sure that a world filled with justice and love and peace harmony is the message that we want to promote."
Rabbi Paley said the answer is continuing the efforts that he and many other faith leaders have already made, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron Walker, whose life was threatened at his synagogue. "I think we take a page from Rabbi Charlie's leadership and building bridges across faith communities and people who we wouldn't necessarily ordinarily have a chance to interact with and learn from and build relationships."
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