ITHACA, N.Y.—On Friday afternoon people gathered at the Bernie Milton Pavilion downtown to worship in response to the anti-Semitic hostage incident that occurred during Shabbat last Saturday in a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue where four people were held hostage by Malik Faisal Akram, who was fatally shot by the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. All four hostages were released alive and safe, as announced in a tweet from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Under the sentiment of “hate has no home here,” members of many faiths or with no religious affiliation gathered on the Commons to pray for peace after basic human values were infringed upon during last weekend’s attack of Jewish people.

Leaders of local churches, synagogues, temples and mosques took turns speaking to the gathered crowd sharing messages of hope.

Following a simple opening song of prayer, rabbi Shifrah Tobacman of Ithaca Reform Temple began by saying, “We open with a prayer and an affirmation that the divine source, the divine presence, dwell within us today. Hashem, god by whatever name we may call upon you, in our times of trouble, from whatever tradition we may do so, bring healing to all of us in need of healing, particularly our brothers and sisters of Congregation Beth Israel Colleyville and all those impacted by what happened there just a week ago. We stand before you and in witness to each other together, here in the freezing cold, for the sake of healing and in the name of solidarity.”

Mahmud Burton, president of the Muslim Community of Ithaca, spoke about how the desecration of any house of worship is a strike on all places of worship, and that the unity of this stance will allow for collective support and respect moving forward.

“We all stand together today, this kind of fear, this kind of violence should never happen to anyone,” said Debbie Bennett Reynolds, pastor at Ithaca’s First Baptist Church. “No one should ever have to fear because of their identity, whether it is religious identity, cultural identity, ethnic, racial, gender identity, whatever, whoever we are is no reason we should ever have to be afraid.”

Closing out the gathering, Daniel Kasdan of Cornell University Hillel led a prayer leading into Shabbat.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at