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American Jewish Committee Cincinnati responds to Texas hostage standoff

Texas Synagogue hostage
Posted at 5:46 PM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 19:06:28-05

CINCINNATI — Days after several people were held hostage by a gunman at a Texas synagogue, the American Jewish Committee of Cincinnati said it plans to focus on creating local solidarity and training people in tactics the Texas hostages were able to use to escape.

Following the incident, the local FBI team that works with the Jewish community also reassured leaders that agents are prepared to investigate or intercept any threats.

‘There's a lot of stress, but we're a very, very strong community,” said AJC’s spokesperson Naomi Ruben. “Ties go very deep, and we're just thankful that we have each other in these difficult times.”

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who interned and studied in Cincinnati, described the hostages' escape, after he threw a chair at the gunman, who has been identified as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, a British national.

“The fact that I could picture my friend, Charlie, sitting there in this most horrible situation, I can’t even imagine how horrible it was like for his wife and his daughter and his mother,” said Rabbi Laura Baum, head of school at the Rockwern Academy.

Baum was a classmate of Cytron-Walker's at Hebrew Union College in Clifton. She said Cytron-Walker had spent two years in the city at Temple Sholom as an intern and was pivotal in bringing the LGTBQ community together at the congregation.

“So now we express our relief," said Dr. Andrew Rehfeld, president of Hebrew Union College. "We raise up our voices in hope and prayer. And we offer support to yet another community in recovery.”

Cytron-Walker released a statement after the rescue. He said security courses he learned through local police, the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League had helped him cope while being held hostage.

AJC said it’s a reminder for synagogue leaders to review active shooter training and security.

“The Jewish community has been doing that for a very, very long time,” said Ruben.

“So now we express our relief," said Dr. Andrew Rehfeld, president of Hebrew Union College. "We raise up our voices in hope and prayer. And we offer support to yet another community in recovery.”

Monday, local FBI agents sent AJC a notice, opening up discussion on any local concerns.

Now, AJC turns its focus toward creating more solidarity among communities here to protect those most at risk.

“We have to take action. Again, we have to make sure that people are educated, and I think that's the most important thing. When we educate people, when we meet our, you know, Jewish or Muslim or Christian or Sikh neighbor, that’s what’s going to make a difference,” said Ruben.

Later this month, she said AJC will ask Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval to sign on to the Mayors Against Antisemitism Campaign.