Open Letter Regarding Congregation Beth Israel Hostage Standoff

January 19, 2022

Dear Honors College Community and College of Arts & Letters,

This weekend’s hostage standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas was frightening and traumatic to members of our community. Each instance of violence that appears to target a specific community can send shockwaves that are felt by many — particularly those who identify with the victims closest to the tragedy.

This particular event unfolded in a climate in which antisemitism and antisemitic attacks have been on the rise for the last several years. In this case, the targeting of Jews hit particularly close to home: Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the four hostages, grew up in East Lansing and was a member of Congregation Shaarey Zedek, where his mother is still a member. This made the tragic events especially difficult for some members of our MSU community who have personal connections to those involved.

We express our sympathy and solidarity with those in our community impacted by these events. It serves as a reminder to redouble our efforts to provide a safe climate throughout CAL, in the Honors College, and across MSU.

We also acknowledge that words are not enough; our actions as a college must move beyond the performative, and support the transformative, inclusive climate we seek to advance. To that end, we are actively discussing opportunities within CAL that will promote learning, understanding and inclusiveness relating to freedom and diversity of religion, including about historic and current forms of antisemitism.

The Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel engages in the interdisciplinary study of the history, cultures, language(s), identities, and religion of the Jewish people. For more information, contact Professor and Director of the Serling Institute Yael Aronoff. Additionally, MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers a variety of mental health resources.

These are some important resources on campus for education on antisemitism and for support for students who experience antisemitism:

And finally, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, oie@msu.edu, may be a valuable source as we seek ways to eradicate acts of violence and discrimination that target individuals based on race, religion and ethnicity.

In solidarity,

Yael Aronoff
Director of The Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel
Professor in James Madison College

Christopher P. Long
Dean of the College of Arts & Letters
Dean of the Honors College