Michael Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, addresses the Colleyville hostage crisis in a speech delivered from the bimah at Congregation Emanu-El on Jan. 21, 2022. (Screenshot)
Michael Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, addresses the Colleyville hostage crisis in a speech delivered from the bimah at Congregation Emanu-El on Jan. 21, 2022. (Screenshot)

Interfaith leader: Why I stand with Colleyville’s Jews

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The following is adapted from a speech given by Michael Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco during Shabbat services on Jan. 21, six days after an armed man in Colleyville, Texas took four Jewish hostages at a Reform synagogue. Pappas is a member of Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco.


Rabbi Rodich; Cantor Luck; the clergy and the faithful of Congregation Emanu-El; Shabbat Shalom. Thank you for the privilege, and the invitation, to address you this evening.

In response to Saturday’s frightening taking of hostages at the Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, the San Francisco Interfaith Council was in early contact with local Jewish faith and community leaders, extending the prayers and support of our city’s 800 houses of worship and affiliated institutions. 

While relieved that the hostages were released safely, this horrific act of violence and desecration serves as a stark reminder that even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, a time at which measured precautions have been taken to protect the health and safety of congregants, still, worshipping communities are not immune from the dark extremism of those who seek to cultivate religious hatred, division and, in this case, antisemitism. 

Acts of antisemitism force Jews here and everywhere to re-experience the pain of emotional trauma and exist in a society where external forces seek to cultivate and perpetuate a culture of fear. As sisters and brothers professing to be peace-loving children of faith, we stand in allyship and solidarity with the ‘children of Abraham,’ ever reminded that when one member of the community suffers, all suffer.  

As a result of last weekend’s violent action, a drama that rightfully captured the attention of our nation, measures are already underway, here in San Francisco, to reinvigorate the efforts of an interfaith coalition formed to provide practical resources and support to houses of worship and their religious and lay leaders, in the event of such security breaches. 

With vigilance and courage we stand arm-in-arm, lifting our prophetic voices, in the name of righteousness, to extinguish the flames of injustice and hatred in our midst.

Beloved sisters and brothers, in less than a week, we will once again observe International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is my prayer that I should never have to come again to read a statement like this. But until that day comes, please know that our communities of faith, our diverse religious fabric in San Francisco, stands in great solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers here in San Francisco, the Bay Area, the state of California, this nation and the world.

And as was sung so beautifully in the beginning of this service: “may we build this house from love.”

Michael Pappas

Michael Pappas is the executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.