Antisemitism did not take a break after the Colleyville hostage crisis. On Saturday, January 15, I rolled over in bed and tuned in to the virtual Shabbat services in Congregation Beth Israel. During the Amidah, I heard an unfamiliar voice shouting – a voice I would come to learn as belonging to terrorist Malik Faisal Akram.
Ranting about Jews and Israel, he held my rabbi and some of his congregants at gunpoint. He spewed every antisemitic trope imaginable until the feed was cut, leaving us paralyzed with fear. For hours I waited, not knowing if the next sound I would hear would be a gunshot. I still grapple with how this could happen in the small synagogue in the town in which I grew up.
The sanctuary where my younger sister and I celebrated our Bat Mitzvahs and where my grandfather’s funeral was held. My rabbi, whose life was threatened, had officiated at some of the happiest and saddest moments of my life. My middle school, Colleyville Middle, where my 8th grade math teacher told us to “line up as if the Nazis were about to shoot us,” is across the street from Congregation Beth Israel.
Just five minutes down the road at Colleyville Heritage High School, my name was smeared when I ran for student council by my classmates who said: “Don’t vote for the Jew” and “Israel is a fake country.” I grew up in this community, experiencing antisemitism from those of various ethnicities, religions, and political ideologies.
That is the thing about antisemitism – it’s not exclusive to the backwaters of Mississippi or the gates of Buchenwald; anyone can harbor anti-Jewish prejudice. Not even a month after the horrific incident at my synagogue, the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at my university proposed a joint resolution to student government to rescind UT’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which had been unanimously adopted only a year earlier. This resolution was the first time the definition had been challenged at a university after being adopted.