SAN ANTONIO — The hours-long hostage situation at a Texas synagogue over the weekend has prompted heightened awareness among the local Jewish community and a call to action.
“Being Jewish, we’re constantly aware of the reality that there are people who just have hate in their veins,” said Nammie Ichilov, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio.
The FBI raided the Congregation Beth Israel Saturday night to free hostages from a gunman who had disrupted prayer services more than 10 hours earlier.
Colleyville Police Chief Michal Miller confirmed all hostages were safe and the gunman was dead.
Ichilov worries about lingering effects from such an incident taking place.
“We’re thankful that the end result was that everybody survived and was in good health, however as terrorists do, their goal is to create terror beyond the actual incident,” Ichilov said.
Acts of Anti-Semitism have been on the rise nationally in recent years, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s southwest regional director Mark Toubin.
“There is certainly a greater comfort for people to express hatred, to express Anti-Semitism. We know throughout history when that happens, there will be violence,” Toubin said.
In October, out-of-state individuals gathered across the street from the San Antonio Jewish Community Center shouting and displaying obscenities.
A locally-owned auto repair shop had anti-Semitic symbols and conspiracy theories illustrated on a massive sign.
Toubin stressed the internet and use of certain messaging apps makes it easier for people to spread hate-filled rhetoric.
“That’s why we’re seeing it happen so quickly and that’s why we’re seeing people radicalize so quickly,” Toubin said.
Toubin noted politicians from both sides of the aisle should come together to address anti-Semitic attacks.
It’s also an issue that Ichilov believes can be tackled with the support of ordinary community members and people from all faiths.
“Jews have been part of the civil rights movement since its inception and it’s important for us to be able to be there for any minority group because Jews are attacked on such a regular and high-profile basis, that we really need to make sure that we have those connections and those relationships.”