Editor: The Loudoun County Interfaith Clergy & Faith Leaders Group, which is a multi-faith group, joins leaders from across our nation in condemning the horrific attack against Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX during the course of Shabbat services last week.
We rejoice that none of the hostages suffered physical harm during their ordeal, and pray for their full emotional recovery. We also note the rise of violent antisemitic attacks across the country in recent years. We know from these prior attacks against the Jewish community that the outcomes in Colleyville could have been far worse.
We also note with concern the initial unwillingness of many, even in law enforcement, to affirm the antisemitic motivation of this attack. We now know that the target was deliberately a Jewish congregation, in prayer, during the Jewish Shabbat. Thousands of people online heard the antisemitic hatred spewed by the attacker. Thankfully, the FBI has reconsidered their original assessment concerning antisemitism in this attack. We urge that all the law enforcement agencies and departments in Loudoun County similarly acknowledge that the role of antisemitism in this, and other violent attacks, cannot be downplayed or ignored. Similarly, threats of antisemitic violence need to be heard as it is within the Jewish community: real, and a matter of deep concern.
Our diverse faith groups all affirm human dignity as a Divine gift to every person, and revocable by no person. We call on all of our neighbors in Loudoun and beyond to promote respect for all religious traditions, most especially those traditions that are non-Christian and therefore more frequently targets of intolerance, hatred, and violence.
We invite faith communities and individuals to reach out in acts of comfort and support to our local Jewish community. Don’t simply offer “thoughts and prayers” but engage and find out how we all can make a difference against hatred by actively promoting religious understanding in our homes, families, schools, playing fields, workplaces, and even our prayer spaces. As a first step we also call upon Loudoun County residents to encourage the U.S. Senate to pass the bipartisan Pray Safe Act (S.2123), which would establish a federal clearinghouse on security best practices for houses of worship, and to fully fund nonprofit security grants to keep our communities safe.
Rev. Aileen Fitzke, Chair
Loudoun County Interfaith Clergy & Faith Leaders Group