New Acquisition: Hostage Crisis Artifacts

If you’re not able to come to the Museum in person, the above video includes the interviews conducted with Rabbi Cytron-Walker and the hostages as they share their firsthand reflections on the harrowing events of January 15, 2022.

Synagogue hostage crisis artifacts come to The Weitzman

Two artifacts that are crucial to the story of the January 15th hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, have been donated to Philadelphia’s Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History (The Weitzman)—the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience.

On that Saturday morning, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker welcomed a British-Pakistani stranger to the suburban synagogue where he was preparing to lead weekly services and made him a cup of tea. Mentioned more than 36 times throughout the Torah, Judaism emphasizes hospitality because “you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus, 23:9). The armed man later took the rabbi and three congregants hostage, holding them for a terrifying 11 hours. With the eyes of the world on the synagogue, Rabbi Cytron-Walker bravely threw a chair at the captor, distracting the hostage-taker and enabling the hostages to escape unharmed.

The teacup and chair are now part of the Weitzman’s artifact collection and will be displayed on the Museum’s ground floor, where all visitors begin their experience when we reopen this spring.

The new exhibit spotlights antisemitism and the increasing danger Jews face in America. Jonathan Sarna, chief historian at The Weitzman and preeminent American Jewish historian, and Dr. Josh Perelman, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Interpretation, interviewed Rabbi Cytron-Walker and three other hostages for a video that accompanies and contextualizes the artifacts. The display will remain on view at The Weitzman for at least one year.

Click here to read more from JTA.

If you cannot come to the Museum in person, you can listen to the interviews we conducted with Rabbi Cytron-Walker and the hostages as they share their firsthand reflections on the harrowing events of that day.

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Synagogue photo courtesy of Congregation Beth Israel

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