President Lohr Reflects on the Colleyville Synagogue Hostage Crisis

January 18, 2022

As we begin a new week after the conclusion of a sacred day, our national holiday honoring the legacy of the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are reminded of the important work ahead to bring racial justice to our country and world. May God give us strength and resolve. On this new day we are also reminded that our Jewish family is again wounded, this time in working through the trauma and senselessness of the Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis.

There is so much to say about this, and I will not be able to say it all. For now, I feel compelled to say a few things. These are my humble reflections. They are not intended to be a statement. Quite simply, this event again reminds me of why HIU exists, and why we do what we do.

First, I am deeply thankful that this horrific crisis ended without the death or physical injury of those taken hostage. Like you, as things unfolded, we as a family prayed that God might intervene to spare innocent lives. We are thankful for divine mercies, and for law enforcement and their bravery in defending the lives of our Jewish friends who simply met to worship. This is so tragic, so wrong. But I am thankful it ended without the loss of their lives.

Second, I came upon this video, and a few things hit me. I was utterly taken in, moved by the fact that not only is Rabbi Cytron-Walker giving interviews, but that he is doing so with such grace, calm, and generosity. He is a remarkable human being, and I was touched by the way he credits his training as a rabbi, a religious professional, in helping him stay calm throughout. Wow. What an affirmation of the work we and other theological graduate schools and seminaries do each day. 

I was also reminded of the importance of our active shooter training at HIU, which we do regularly as staff. We need to do it again. And again. I am saddened that we need to continue with these trainings, but it was interesting to me to hear how much it helped Rabbi Cytron-Walker and his congregants in their moment of crisis. The story he shares in the video is remarkable. It is also an affirmation that these trainings work and are essential. 

Lastly, I was moved by Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s expression of thanks not only to his Jewish community, to “my people” as he says, but to the Muslim Community and the Christian Community. We at HIU know how hard this work is, and I am sure there are many out there who cannot fathom how he is able to exhibit such grace after an incredibly traumatic moment. I am thankful that our local Muslim community has firmly denounced the actions of the perpetrator and stands with our Jewish community. It is common for everyday Muslims to be lumped in with the heinous actions of a deranged individual who claims to represent them. I urge you not to.

To our Jewish community, we stand with you as you wrestle with the trauma and frustration of this senseless event. It should not have been. I am committed at HIU, as president, to work with you to stop hate and bring peace to our world, somehow.

To all of you, I encourage you to watch to the end of the video Rabbi Cytron-Walker (or start at 7:06). It will, I think, give you hope in a dark moment. May God continue to give him, Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, and our larger Jewish family strength and comfort as the trauma of this event continues to unfold.

Joel N. Lohr, Ph.D.
President, Hartford International University for Religion and Peace



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