Five days ago, Peter Shapiro and I invent a character, a Hit Rabbi, who goes after bad guys and champions the oppressed. That rabbi became – manifest! This is all I’m going to says – at this time!
The hostages made a pact that they would not try to escape individually, leaving the others to deal with the repercussions. They would all make it out alive together.
Instead of kneeling as Akram had ordered them, Cohen, 57, said he defied the attacker’s demand. He stood up and mouthed the word “no,” looking Akram straight in the eyes.
“I was not going to let him assassinate us,” Cohen said. “I was not going to beg for my life and just have him kill us.”‘Being Jewish and alive shouldn’t be a miracle’: World reacts to Texas synagogue attack
Rather than shooting Cohen, Akram backed down. He turned around and put his gun down to pour some soda, Cohen said.
Cytron-Walker, the rabbi, seized on the moment, yelling “run” and throwing a chair at Akram as the three hostages ran out. They had subtly oriented themselves toward the path of an exit throughout the day, waiting for the right time to escape.
Cohen and Cytron-Walker, along with other members of the congregation, had received training on how to manage potential threats — one of the reasons, they say, they came out alive.
Still, Cohen said, “I really thought we’d never use it.”Texas synagogue hostage-taker identified as 44-year-old British man
Their congregation and many others across the country had sought such training amid heightened concerns of antisemitic attacks following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 that left 11 people dead. Their training addressed topics like how to escape a building in an emergency, how to counteract threats, the need to be aware of one’s surroundings, and protocols for letting people into a synagogue.
Beth Israel was more active in preparing for potential security threats than many other congregations, said Cheryl Drazin, the Dallas-based vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s central division. Security was “very much a part of the congregational culture” at Beth Israel, she said, noting that the congregation often opened programs by announcing where the exits were.