(JTA) — Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the United States views the hostage-taking at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, as “an act of terror” and “an anti-Semitic attack. targeting the Jewish community,” according to a Jewish leader who joined a phone call with senior US officials Tuesday morning.
Majorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Chris Wray and other national security officials held a call with major Jewish groups on Tuesday to discuss synagogue security issues in the wake of the hostage crisis. of the week in Texas.
The executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, Nathan Diament, described the discussion at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as a gathering of about 1,200 synagogue leaders, including representatives from the OU as well as the Conference of presidents of major American Jewish organizations. Diament also said representatives of the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism were alerted.
Garland and Mayorkas, both Jewish, spoke of the personal resonance the attack had for them, according to an article in the Forward. Mayorkas said he was unable to plant his annual tree for Tu B’Shvat as he normally does.
Garland described seeing police cruisers outside her own synagogue. Garland and her family are longtime members of Temple Sinai in Bethesda, Maryland.
“It’s not the way it should be in America, but unfortunately it is the way it is,” he said.
During the call, which lasted more than an hour, federal officials reiterated security measures already in place, such as nonprofit security grant program funds available for synagogues, systems email information available for local congregations to register; and online resources for synagogue safety training. .
“The purpose of convening this Zoom following the terrible events in Texas was twofold,” Diament said. “First, we felt it was important for the synagogue community to hear directly from these national leaders a message of comfort, solidarity and commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism. And second, to hear from them about the current threat environment and any additional top-notch practical steps they should be taking in the days or weeks ahead.
Melissa Rogers, executive director of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships at the White House, and other federal undersecretaries also participated in the call.