COLLEYVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Texas Senator Ted Cruz praised the four people held hostage earlier this month at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and Jeffrey Cohen. "I will say the heroism they demonstrated was extraordinary."
After meeting with Tarrant County Jewish leaders and Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton at City Hall Friday, Cruz told reporters he had previously spoken with all of the people held hostage. "Just wanted to let them know that we were thinking of them, praying for them, and we had their back and wanted to see did they need anything."
Cruz said the attack on the synagogue was clearly antisemitic and he rejected all forms of antisemitism. "It is wrong, it is evil, it is horrific, it is dangerous, and it has been used to justify some of the most horrific atrocities this planet has ever seen."
He also praised the law enforcement officers who responded to Congregation Beth Israel.
Earlier this week, Cruz and Senator John Cornyn and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent letters to the FBI Director, the Secretary of State, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security asking how the hostage taker, Malik Akram, a British national, was able to enter the U.S.
Authorities say two days before the attack, Akram purchased the gun on the streets of North Texas from Henry Michael Williams, a convicted felon who possessed the weapon illegally.
Williams will appear at a detention hearing in federal court in Dallas Monday morning.
Cruz said, "The American people deserve to know what did we know and how could we have prevented this terrorist coming to America and committing this act of terror."
Senator Cruz said he also wants to increase funding for a federal program, the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps places of worship improve their security.
"A lot of discussion upstairs was about how we could improve that program. One of the things I heard was that many of the synagogues who've applied for this grant program have been turned down, and they don't have clear visibility on why they've been turned down."
He said he wants to find out why, and more specifics about the program's results.
Rabbi Cytron Walker and Cohen have credited the terror response training they received with saving their lives.
Senator Cruz said he encourages all houses of worship to provide such training. "I wish we lived in a world where a house of worship didn't need to worry about an act of violence and an act of terrorism."
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